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Is VR Flight Simulator Free? A Detailed Look at Your Options

If you‘re curious about experiencing the thrill of flight simulation in virtual reality, you may be wondering – can I get access to a VR flight sim for free? Or do you have to spend money to enjoy realistic VR flying?

The short answer is yes, you can absolutely find free or low-cost ways to start flying in VR! While full-featured virtual flight simulators with premium hardware can get expensive, there are plenty of affordable options to dip your toes into VR aviation.

In this guide, I‘ll give you a detailed overview of the top free and budget VR flight simulator options available. I‘ve personally tested the most popular virtual flying programs and hardware to provide tailored recommendations on how to get started with little or no money down. Read on to learn more!

An Intro to VR Flight Simulation

Before we dig into the options, let‘s briefly go over what makes virtual reality flight simulation so amazing.

VR flight sims use a stereoscopic head-mounted display (HMD) that fully immerses you in a simulated 3D cockpit environment. As you look around with the VR headset on, you get the sensation that you‘re really sitting in the pilot seat of a plane or aircraft.

The software powering the simulation renders the out-the-window views and instrument panels in crisp high definition. When you move your head, the images update instantly based on your new perspective. This creates by far the most realistic and natural flight experience possible compared to playing with a flat monitor or TV screen.

Many VR flight sims also support specialized cockpit peripherals like yokes, pedals, and throttle controls. Using realistic aviation controls instead of just a gamepad or keyboard dramatically improves the immersion. between your physical actions and reactions in the virtual aircraft.

I‘ve personally found VR flight simulation to be extremely rewarding. Once you strap on that headset for the first time, you feel teleported right into the cockpit and experience an unparalleled sense of presence. It‘s the closest thing possible to actual flying without leaving the ground!

What to Expect from Free or Budget VR Flying

Now that you understand the core principles of VR aviation, what can you expect if trying to fly on the cheap?

While free options won‘t provide the ultra-realism of high-end simulators that cost thousands, they can still be highly enjoyable! Here‘s a quick overview of what‘s typically included:

VR Headset Compatibility – Most free flight sims work with common consumer VR headsets like the Meta Quest 2 or Valve Index. Just don‘t expect support for high-end systems with extra wide fields of view or 8K resolution.

Limited Aircraft Selection – You‘ll get access to some default planes and jets, but not the massive fleets of meticulously modeled aircraft available in payware add-ons.

Basic Flight Dynamics – The physics and aircraft systems modeling will provide a good general flying experience, but lack the hyper-realistic aerodynamic simulations used for pilot training.

Virtual Cockpits – You‘ll get detailed 3D cockpit interiors for immersion, but instrumentation likely won‘t be interactive or feature in-depth system logic.

Desktop Controls – Joysticks or gamepads may be supported, but not specialized hardware like rudder pedals or throttle quadrants.

Limited Graphics – Visuals will be much better than flat gaming, but environmental details and texture quality is lower than premium sims to optimize performance.

Restricted Regions – Free options often limit you to one geographic region instead of providing full global access.

I know that may sound underwhelming compared to multi-thousand dollar commercial setups, but free VR flight can still blow your mind coming from traditional flat-screen flying games! Let‘s now get into the top options available.

Microsoft Flight Simulator

One of the hottest options for free VR flying right now is Microsoft Flight Simulator. This cutting-edge game has full support for VR headsets on PC, providing an unparalleled sense of immersion and presence.

Here’s a quick rundown of what makes Microsoft Flight Simulator so compelling in VR mode:

  • Hyper-realistic visuals – The photogrammetry technology recreates the entire planet with streamed 3D mapping visuals that look like real life. Cities, terrain and landmarks are modeled in stunning detail for visual immersion.

  • Diverse aircraft selection – Choose from over 40 different planes and jets, from single-prop Piper Cubs to jumbo Boeing 747s. Models include the default Asobo designs or payware additions.

  • Robust weather simulation – See scenery transform before your eyes as live weather data drives rain, snow, wind, clouds and other dynamic effects. Watch storms roll in for ultimate immersion.

  • Global flight spaces – Fly anywhere in the world without limits. Take in accurate recreations of famous sights like the NYC skyline or Mt. Everest.

  • Multiplayer support – Join your friends in VR to ride along in formation or share flights.

The standard version of Microsoft Flight Simulator is available on Xbox Game Pass for PC for just $9.99 a month. I highly recommend Game Pass as the most affordable way to enjoy the sim in VR without a huge upfront cost.

If you want to own the title outright, the regular edition is $59.99 as a one-time purchase. For maximum realism, you can spend up to $119.99 for the deluxe version with more planes and airports.

Overall, Microsoft Flight Simulator delivers an unbeatable VR flight experience, especially considering the low pricing. I’d easily rank it as the most affordable high-fidelity consumer VR flying option available today.

X-Plane 11 Demo

Another good starting point for free VR virtual flying is the X-Plane 11 demo. This extremely realistic flight simulator has a long history of VR support and cutting-edge flight modeling.

Some key points on X-Plane 11:

  • Longstanding VR support – X-Plane added VR all the way back in 2016 and has refined the experience over many updates. Works great with all major headsets.

  • Hyper-realistic flight physics – Uses blade-element theory aerodynamics for military-simulator levels of realism. Great for practice.

  • Detailed plane systems – Interactive cockpits feature realistic instrumentation. Flip switches to control lights, fuel, hydraulics and more.

  • Intuitive user interface – Easy menu controls and data input systems similar to actual aviation interfaces.

The free demo includes the iconic Cessna 172 plane modeled down to the last rivet. You get to fly it around one region of continental Europe for an hour at a time. This provides a generous taste of the ultra-realistic X-Plane virtual flying experience.

If you enjoy the demo, you can unlock the full global simulator with additional aircraft for a one-time $59.99 purchase. There are also high-quality payware plane and scenery packs available.

Overall, I‘d recommend at least trying out the free X-Plane 11 demo if curious about advanced flight physics in VR. Just learning to start up and taxi the Cessna provides an invaluable education!


If you want to just jump right into VR flying for zero cost, take a look at SimplePlanes. This creative flight sandbox game has a full VR-supported mode allowing you to design, build and fly your own aircraft in virtual reality.

Here are some of the neat features SimplePlanes offers for free VR aviation fun:

  • Intuitive plane builder – Easily construct your own aircraft with wings, wheels, engines and more. Great for quick VR creations.

  • Global flight – Take off and explore the open world with no limits or loading times, all rendered in VR.

  • Relaxed physics – Fun and forgiving flight modeling makes staying in the air easy for beginners. Perform stunts and antics.

  • Online sharing – Upload your best custom designs for others to download, or fly creations from the community.

SimplePlanes delivers frequent updates with new parts, improved graphics and mods from the community. There are purchasable expansion packs but the core free mode provides endless VR design and flight experimentation.

If interested in a casual crafting take on aviation, I recommend test flying SimplePlanes in VR. The creative open sandbox approach provides enjoyable contrast to hardcore simulators.

Other Free Options to Consider

While Microsoft Flight Simulator, X-Plane 11 and SimplePlanes lead the pack, there are a few other free VR flight sims worth mentioning:

  • War Thunder – Combat-focused multi-player game with VR support. Fight other users online or try solo test flights.

  • Aerofly FS 2 Demo – Limited free demo of this beginner-friendly flight simulator. Includes Hawaii area with 20 aircraft.

  • End Space – Sci-fi VR space shooter where you fly a fighter space craft through outer space battles. Single player campaign.

  • Ultrawings – Relaxed open world flying game focused on stunt flying and exploration using your virtual hands.

Each of these options offers something unique and are worth experimenting with during your VR aviation journey. They can supplement the major sims or provide a change of pace.

The world of free flight options continues expanding, so it’s worth periodically searching online flight communities and VR app stores for new releases. You never know what awesome free VR flying gems you may uncover!

Budget-Friendly Hardware to Upgrade Immersion

A key part of incredible VR flying experiences is having realistic cockpit controls. While free sims rely on gamepads or keyboards by default, you can significantly enhance realism by adding budget flight peripherals.

These are some of my top recommendations for affordable VR flying hardware:

Logitech G Flight Yoke System – Includes realistic yoke and throttle quadrant for under $200. Great starter kit.

Logitech Rudder Pedals – Add realistic foot rudder control. Entry level model starts under $100.

Honeycomb Aeronautical Alpha Flight Controls – Premium modular system with yoke, throttles and switches. Start with the $270 yoke.

Thrustmaster T.Flight Rudder Pedals – Sturdy pedals priced around $120. Compatible with all major flight sims.

VirtualFly TQ6 Throttle Quadrant – Six-lever throttle unit with quality buttons and switches for $130.

You can incorporate these peripherals one at a time over months or years to slowly build up your affordable home cockpit. The incremental upgrades make a huge impact on immersion.

I always recommend virtual pilots invest in rudder pedals first, then add a yoke or joystick next. Having control over yaw and pitch/roll drastically improves the realistic flying sensation compared to playing with a gamepad alone.

Payware Add-Ons For More Depth

Another budget-friendly way to enhance free flight simulators is by purchasing add-on content. While free sims come with enough planes and scenery areas to start, payware add-ons let you expand your hangar and flight zones.

Some top payware developers to look at include:

  • Aerosoft – Huge library of aircraft, airports and scenery areas. Models cover commercial jets to vintage planes.

  • Just Flight – Highest-quality planes and expansions for Microsoft Flight Simulator. Recent hits include the Fokker F28 Fellowship and Piper PA-28 family.

  • Orbx – Industry-leading scenery environments covering regions worldwide. Known for extreme attention to detail.

  • PMDG – Legendary producer of ultra-realistic commercial airliner recreations. Their 737 for MSFS is incredible.

  • iniBuilds – Builds one aircraft at a time with maniacal devotion to realism. Their A310 is a work of art.

Payware add-ons range from around $10-$50 for aircraft and $20-$40 for airport/scenery expansions. This lets you gradually build up your virtual hangar and extend your flight spaces.

Focus on picking a couple high-quality planes or regions that align with your aviation interests vs trying to buy everything. Curating your payware collection thoughtfully is the key to affordable VR flying.

Final Tips for Getting Started

If you‘re ready to dive into the world of virtual reality flight simulation on the cheap, here are my final tips for getting started smoothly:

  • Check VR headset compatibility – Double check free sims and add-ons work with your specific VR system before purchasing.

  • Start with default content – Get comfortable with included aircraft and scenery before buying add-ons. Master the basics.

  • Lower graphics settings initially – Turn down quality levels so framerates stay high while you get VR flying legs.

  • Use a gamepad if needed – Don‘t wait to get peripherals. Gamepads work fine in the beginning.

  • Join pilot communities – Connect with other virtual aviators online for advice, tutorials and flying together.

  • Take it slowly – Learning advanced aviation takes patience and practice. Savor each milestone along the journey.

The most important thing is to have fun and soak up every magical VR flying moment! Even basic free sims provide journey-of-a-lifetime virtual experiences.

So whether you just want to casually try VR aviation or train up for high-end simulations, now you know how to start flying without breaking the bank. I hope this guide gives you a head start pursuing your budget virtual pilot dreams! Clear skies and happy landings to you!



Michael Reddy is a tech enthusiast, entertainment buff, and avid traveler who loves exploring Linux and sharing unique insights with readers.