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Quick Start Guide for New Users

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This guide is designed to allow the first time X-Plane user to get the simulator up and running in the least amount of time possible. The goal is to be in the air and flying within ten minutes of completing the installation while still learning the essentials of the sim.

This guide will gloss over a great deal of background information, and configuration of many non-essential options will be skipped entirely. It assumes that the computer X-Plane is being installed on is capable of running the sim with its default rendering options. Note that the minimum system requirements to run X-Plane are a 1 GHz processor, 1 GB of RAM, and 128 MB VRAM on an independent (non-integrated) video card. However, the recommended specifications are a 2 GHz processor, 2 GB of RAM, and 256 MB of VRAM. Of course, X-Plane can take advantage of even faster systems, too.

Where the process differs between installing on Windows XP and Mac OSX, the differences have been noted. Instructions for installing in Linux can be found on the Linux Installation and Linux Installation Walkthrough pages.

This guide is by no means intended to replace the manual. Rather, it’s meant to quickly familiarize new users with the basics of X-Plane. After getting off the ground initially, the reader will want to download the full manual and go over the information left out here. If you have any issues while following this guide, check the full manual--the problem is very likely addressed there, and you’ll save time for both yourself and customer support.

Detailed information on installing and launching X-Plane can be found in chapter two of the manual. Detailed information on joystick configuration can be found in chapter three, and chapter four contains more information on setting up and flying the aircraft.

Installing X-Plane

1. Insert the first X-Plane DVD into your DVD-ROM drive and wait for it to spin up.
2. In Windows, if the operating system does not launch the X-Plane installer automatically, click the Start menu, then My Computer. Double click on the XPLANE9 DVD (as shown in the screenshot below), then Installer_Windows.exe.
Mac users will need to double click on the X-Plane DVD icon on the desktop, then double click the Installer_Mac app to launch the installer.
3. When the installer window appears, click Continue.
4. By default X-Plane will install to the Desktop. Though it can be installed elsewhere, it is strongly recommended that it be placed on the Desktop so that it can be found in the future. For the purposes of this guide, we will assume it is installed there. Click Continue.
5. Accept the user agreement and click Continue once again.
6. Select the scenery you would like to install. Depending on the installer on your disc, either all of the world or none of it will be selected by default. An unselected tile will appear bleached in color, while a selected tile will have its full color. For reference, the image below has only North America selected.
If you are unsure what areas are currently selected, just click Select None to turn everything off. From there, select the individual tiles you would like to install by clicking on them. Additionally, you can click and drag to select large areas quickly.
Note that for regions where no scenery is installed, only oceans and airports will be visible. When you’re finished selecting scenery, click Continue to begin installing.
For the purposes of the Selecting a Location section later in this guide, be sure to select the two tiles that make up America’s West Coast, as we will be traveling to Los Angeles International Airport.
7. The installer will begin displaying its progress. When the installer prompts you to do so, remove the current disc and insert the next. Note that installation may take anywhere from thirty to sixty minutes per disc, and that only one X-Plane disc can be in the system at once (the installer won’t recognize a disc placed in a second DVD-ROM).

Installing the complete scenery package will consume about 75 GB of hard drive space and will take between five and six and a half hours to install.

Scenery can be added or removed at any point in the future by inserting Disc 1 and re-running the installer. When the X-System installer comes up saying "You already have X-Plane 9 installed on this computer,” click the Add or Remove Scenery button and proceed just like in step 4 above.

Launching X-Plane

1. Make sure your USB joystick is plugged in. If this isn’t plugged in prior to launching X-Plane, the sim will not be able to interface with it. To avoid any possible problems, it is recommended that the stick be plugged directly into the machine rather than into a hub.
2. Put Disc 1 into your DVD-ROM drive. Starting X-Plane without this will force X-Plane to run in demo mode only.
3. Open the X-Plane 9 folder on the Desktop and double click on ‘X-Plane.exe’ in Windows, or ‘’ on a Mac.

Configuring Essential Yoke/Joystick Functions

Note that a discussion of the pros and cons of yokes versus joysticks can be found in Chapter 2, Section II of the manual. If neither is available, the mouse may be used, though it will be both unrealistic and cumbersome. If the mouse will be used rather than a joystick or yoke, skip to the Selecting an Aircraft section below.

1. Once the program loads, move your mouse to the top of the screen, causing the menu to appear.
2. Click on Settings (as per the image below), then Joystick & Equipment.
The relevant portion of the window that appears is shown below.
3. Move your joystick or yoke forward and back. A green or red bar should move as you do so. Click the drop-down menu next to it and set it to pitch. Do not check the reverse box next to this control unless, when flying, the aircraft’s pitch control is working backward.
4. Move your joystick/yoke left and right. The green or red bar that moves should be set to roll. Do not check the reverse box next to this control unless, when flying, the aircraft’s roll control is working backward.
5. Twist your joystick (if applicable). The bar that moves should be set to yaw. If you do not assign a yaw axis, X-Plane will attempt to stabilize it for you. Once again, do not check the reverse box unless, when flying, the aircraft’s yaw control is working backward.
If using rudder pedals instead of a twisting joystick, slide them forward and backward and set the green/red bar that moves then to yaw.
Additionally, only when using rudder pedals, press the left pedal down with your toes. The green or red bar that moves should be set to left toe brake. Do the same for the right pedal, and set that green bar to right toe brake. If this is done, you may also skip steps 8 through 11 below.
6. Move your throttle forward and back (on a yoke, this is typically the leftmost lever). Set this bar to throttle. Check the reverse box only if, when flying, the aircraft’s throttle control works backward.
7. Move all the joystick's control axes (that is, pitch, yaw, roll, and throttle) through their full range of motion to calibrate the controls.
8. Once again, skip this step and steps 9-11 if the rudder pedals are set up as toe brakes. Click the Buttons: Basic tab at the top of the screen. If only a single Buttons tab is available, the software has not been updated to the most current release. Instructions on updating can be found in the Updating X-Plane section of this guide (though, in the mean time, the instructions may be followed using the outdated Buttons tab).
9. Press the button on your joystick that you would like to assign to brakes, then release it.
10. Using the mouse, click the round button to the left of Toggle brakes regular effort (found at the top of the third column and already selected in the screenshot below).
11. Close the Joystick & Equipment menu with either of the X buttons at the top of the screen, or by pressing the Enter key on your keyboard.

Selecting an Aircraft

1. Move your mouse to the top of the screen again to make the menu bar appear.
2. Click Aircraft, then Open Aircraft (as in the screenshot below).
3. At the top of the window now open is a drop-down menu. It is currently displaying the name of the folder that the current aircraft is located in. Click the up/down symbol on the right side of the folder name, as seen in the following image.
4. Now a list of the folder hierarchy (the organization of the folders) opens from the drop-down menu. It starts with the main X-Plane folder and goes down to the folder that the current aircraft is in. For example, if the Cirrus Jet is open at the moment, the hierarchy shows:
  • X-System folder
  • Aircraft
  • General Aviation
  • Cirrus Thejet
Click on the line that says Aircraft, as in the following image.
5. The Aircraft folder opens. The folders here divide X-Plane’s aircraft into classes—for example, there are fighters, general aviation craft, gliders, helicopters, seaplanes, etc. Double click on General Aviation (shown in the following screenshot).
6. Now the navigation box in the lower left of the window shows the different aircraft classified as general aviation planes. Double click on the Cessna 172SP folder, as per the following image.
7. X-Plane aircraft files—which are what we need to click on to open an airplane—are denoted by an “.acf” extension. Double click on the Cessna_172.acf file (as seen in the following screenshot) to load the aircraft.
In a few moments the screen will go black. Shortly thereafter the cockpit of a new Cessna 172 Skyhawk will appear.

Selecting a Location

1. Make the menu appear again by moving your mouse to the top of the screen.
2. Click Location, then Select Global Airport (as per the image on the following page).
3. If you have an airport in mind, type either its name or its airport ID to search for it. Otherwise, type KLAX to find Los Angeles International. Click on the airport you chose, then click the Go To This Airport button (shown in the image on the following page).

If you’re having trouble finding an airport using X-Plane’s built in search feature, Airnav has a complete database that might assist in finding the ID or official name of an airport you’re looking for. Note that you’ll need its three- or four character identifier when programming GPS waypoints, and that airport IDs in the US (and only the US) have a K appended to the front of them if and only if they are composed of all letters (and no numbers). More information on airport IDs can be found on Wikipedia’s International Civil Aviation Organization page, specifically in the Codes registered with ICAO section.

Getting Off the Ground

Once again, these instructions are written for the Cessna 172—-flying an airliner or another heavy aircraft will require flaps/slats, a great deal more speed, and a very different technique, all of which is beyond the scope of this guide.

1. The airplane’s engine is already running. Press the button that was assigned to brakes when the joystick/yoke was configured. If no button was configured (e.g., if you are flying with the mouse), press the ‘b’ key on the keyboard.
2. Move the throttle all the way up.
3. If applicable, use the joystick’s twist or the rudder pedals to control the plane’s left and right motion to track the centerline of the runway (don’t worry if you go off it-—you’ll still get up to speed for take off). If no yaw axis was configured above (or if using the mouse), the simulator will attempt to control the yaw for you.
4. Watch your airspeed indicator (seen in the image below), and when it hits 60 knots, pull back slightly to get the plane off the ground.
If using a mouse, you will have to click the white ‘+’ sign (found near the center of the screen) with the mouse in order to “grab” the controls with the mouse. From there, move the mouse within the white box that appears in order to control the aircraft’s flight—moving it up within the box will pitch the nose down, and moving the mouse down will pitch the nose up. Moving it left within the box will cause the craft to roll left, and moving it right will cause the craft to roll right. Click the mouse again to “release” the controls, freeing you to open a menu, adjust controls on the aircraft panel, etc.
5. Gently level the plane off in order to build a little airspeed, then, when the plane hits, say, 80 knots, pull back again to begin climbing. Building airspeed this way will help to keep the plane from stalling.
6. Fly away!

Updating X-Plane

Due to the fact that updates are released every three or four months, the X-Plane software is rarely up to date when first installed. Updates may include bug fixes, feature enhancements, or new feature additions. To update X-Plane over the Internet, do the following:

1. Go to the Update page on
2. Select the appropriate updater (Mac, Windows, or Linux) from the list and click on it. Note that the updater is not the same as the demo installer—the demo installer will create a new X-Plane installation (minus the scenery) without updating any existing software. Therefore, be sure to select the updater (found in the second line of available downloads on the page).
Save the updater to an easy-to-find location and begin downloading.
3. Run the updater.
4. Make sure the program selects the correct copy of X-Plane to update. If your X-Plane installation isn’t in the list, click Find It to locate it manually.
6. Click Continue to begin the program’s scanning of your X-Plane directory. This allows it to determine which files need to be updated.
7. Assuming you have enough disk space, click Continue to begin the installation.
8. The installation files will be downloaded and installed, after which you’re ready to fly!

Other Considerations

Among the more important options skipped in the guide above was the configuration of flap and trim switches. If your joystick or yoke has switches or buttons you would like to use for this purpose, you can configure them similarly to the brakes that we assigned in part 3 of this guide. The difference is that when using a switch, pressing it “up” will be assigned one function and pressing it “down” will be another. Remember to click the button on your joystick before trying to assign it a function.

The above options can be found in the Joystick & Equipment window’s Buttons: Basic tab. Pitch, roll, and yaw trims are at the bottom of the first column. Flaps, likewise, can be found about three-quarters of the way down the second column.

Again, if you have any problems, just consult the manual.