It would be impossible for the developers of Microsoft Flight Simulator to include every area and planes in detail. While this is great for companies that develop dozens of add-ons each year, buying them can become costly. The talented gamers in the "Microsoft Flight Simulator" community take care of the problem by sharing their creations for free. Aaron Gold combed through the free add-ons and tells us about the ones you shouldn't be without. What are you waiting for? Get downloading!
POSky, with their typical thoroughness, hasn't just modeled all 5 versions of the 737 Next Generation -- they've also done individual variants of each version, with and without winglets and "eyebrow" windows. If you're new to FS add-ons, you'll be amazed at the level of detail. Flight dynamics were tested by real-world 737 pilots and the release includes several paint schemes and a detailed cockpit (aka panel), at time of writing the 737-800 version has a virtual cockpit with more VCs coming.
The Flightsimonline.com team has produced several payware-quality add-ons; the Howard 500 is my favorite. Howard Aero converted Lockheed Ventura bombers into executive transports and the pressurized 500 was their crowning achievement. The FS version is meticulously detailed and well documented with first-hand accounts from the pilot/mechanic of the only Howard 500 still flying. Not for beginners: Realistic radial engine controls and free-castering tailwheel make it a challenge to handle.
Picking the best of David Maltby's classic British jetliners isn't easy, but my vote goes to the BAC 1-11. Like all of his models, the 1-11 is nicely detailed, frame-rate friendly, and comes with custom sounds, good documentation, and a unique interactive checklist to help you get flying. The fully clickable virtual cockpit and detailed systems modeling make the 1-11 my favorite of David's planes, but you should also check out his Trident (with working autoland system), Comet, and VC-10.
Like David Maltby, Rick Piper specializes in classic British aviation. The HS748 turboprop is his most detailed effort, complete with clickable VC and a staggering 86 (!) paint schemes. Fraser McKay contributed the detailed and well-documented panel and outstanding sounds that perfectly capture the song of the Rolls-Royce Dart turboprops. Download the base model and three texture packs from www.classicbritishfiles.com.
Learning to fly Tom Gibson's propliners was the best FS learning experience I've ever had. Forget push-button jets: With super-realistic flight dynamics by the enigmatic FSAviator, these planes demand attention and perfection. I recommend reading the Propliner Tutorial and starting with the Convair twins or DC-6/7. When you think you've mastered them, the curmudgeonly Boeing Stratocruiser will put you in your place. Take heart: If you can land the Strat, you can land virtually anything in FS!
The P-38 is clearly a labor of love for David C. Copley. He has produced a range of models including the "XP-38N", his fictional vision of what the next generation of the plane the Germans called the Fork-Tailed Devil might have looked like. All versions include a virtual cockpit, custom sounds, and nifty engine-start effects. They're great to look at, very fast, and lots of fun to fly. Be warned: David's P-38 passion is contagious. Fly his planes and you too may catch Lightning Fever.
The Tupolev Tu-114 has to be one of the most marvelous passenger planes to come out of the Soviet Union. Powered by four massive 15,000 horsepower turboprop engines spinning huge 8-blade contra-rotating propellers, the 114 flew as fast as a jet and was the world's biggest airliner until the 747 came along. Samdim Design's model has a complete virtual cockpit and cabin. The docs make it easy to fly despite metric gauges marked in Russian. Get the Tu-126 add-on; it includes a patch for the 114.
Matthias Lieberecht designs complex and detailed panels (cockpits) that faithfully reproduce the systems of British Aerospace planes, particularly the 146 and RJ 4-engine regional jets. Great documentation and a familiar jet flying experience make Matthias' panels a great introduction to the world of complex-panel simming. He includes flight dynamics files for several freeware 146/RJ models; John Murchison's (http://www.flightsim.co.nz/) are good looking and frame-rate friendly.
Stellan Hilmerby, real-life airliner pilot, developed this complex and labor-intensive simulation of the DC-9-21 and -41. The visual model is just OK, but that's not what this sim is about: Its 2D panel extensively details the 9's major systems. Forget about starting the engines with Ctrl-E; unless you're a DC-9 pilot in real life, you probably won't get the engines running or the flaps lowered without reading the manual. For those who love complex sims, this is a rewarding challenge.
SGA has produced beautiful models of the entire DC-9 family, from the original DC-9-10 to the MD-95 and just about every variant in between. They've even created custom sound sets for different variants of the JT8D engines. The SGA jets come without a VC or panel -- it uses the default 737 panel -- but there lots of freeware panels and scores of repaints. SGA has no home page; log in to flightsim.com and search the file area for "SGA brand new DC9" and "SGA dc-9 sound".