Flight Simulator Autopilot – A Beginner’s Guide to Activating and Customizing AI Control

Flight Simulator Autopilot – A Beginner’s Guide to Activating and Customizing AI Control:

On both PC and Xbox Series X|S, using the Autopilot in Microsoft Flight Simulator is trickier than most people think. Pressing the “activate autopilot” button and then watching nothing happen can be frustrating for beginners to the genre who wonder if they’re missing anything or if the bloody thing is simply malfunctioning. Fortunately, it’s not broken; rather, it’s just a very complicated system for which Asobo and Microsoft failed to consider creating a lesson.

In the Microsoft Flight Simulator, using the Autopilot:

First off, there are a number of various autopilot types, each with distinctive features or placements for the controls. But despite this, the majority of fundamental ideas are constant.

The Garmin type you can see below is one of the most popular and fully equipped in Microsoft Flight Simulator. It will serve as the starting point for this tutorial.

The autopilot in airliners is a little more complicated in some ways (and simpler in others), so this guide will concentrate on general aviation aircraft. However, once you master this model, you’ll have the fundamental knowledge and concepts needed to understand the rest without too much difficulty. Also, keep in mind that not every autopilot has every function listed below. You are required to pilot that portion of the flight on your own if one is not available. A frequent example is the inability of less sophisticated aircraft to provide features like altitude, vertical speed, and flying level change.

You must manually manage your height, climb, and descent when using this aircraft.

First off, the majority of in-game autopilots include a primary GPS guidance that closely follows your previously set flight plan. The fact that many general aviation aircraft don’t start up in GPS mode is one of the things that causes people the greatest confusion.

When your systems boot up, the arrow in the center of the compass may be green instead of magenta as shown in the image above. If this is the case, you must activate the GPS mode by pressing the soft key next to the CDI indicator at the bottom of the left Multi-Function Display (hereinafter referred to as the MFD) until the arrow turns pink.

If your autopilot is less sophisticated, you could see a “CDI” button that you can press to switch the navigation mode from VLOC to GPS. Usually, this is noted directly above the button.

Do bear in mind that when you mouse over a button, it will tell you what it does but will not provide any further explanation.

How to use the Flight Simulator’s “autopilot” with AI control:

You must locate the AI Control setting within the toolbar in Flight Simulator in order to quickly and easily have the plane operated for you in an autopilot-style configuration.

To achieve this, click the left stick on Xbox to bring up the toolbar at the top of the screen, then choose AI Control.

Three options are available in this window: Manage Radio Communications, Control Aircraft, and Checklist Assist. Choosing this final option will activate autopilot and give your co-pilot control.

This will allow you to resume your original flying path, which is helpful if you become lost or have trouble controlling the aircraft in bad weather.

This is a practical tool for novice pilots in a pinch, but if you’d prefer to have Flight Simulator’s breathtaking views open in a window or on a second monitor, it would make the ideal screensaver.

Controls for the autopilot in Flight Simulator:

Along with the streamlined autopilot in AI Control as previously mentioned, there are a variety of keyboard shortcuts that enable the actual autopilot settings for the plane, assuming it has one.

Here are Flight Simulator’s default autopilot keyboard shortcuts:

Autopilot On – ALT + Z

Autopilot Off – SHIFT + ALT + Z

Autopilot Airspeed Hold – ALT + R

Decrease Autopilot Reference Altitude – CTRL + PGDOWN

Increase Autopilot Reference Altitude – CTRL + PGUP

Toggle Autopilot Approach Hold – CTRL + A

Toggle Autopilot Attitude Hold – CTRL + T

Toggle Autopilot Localizer Hold – CTRL + O

Toggle Autopilot Mach Hold – CTRL + M

Toggle Autopilot Master – Z

Autopilot N1 Hold – CTRL + S

Decrease Autopilot N1 Reference – CTRL + END

Increase Autopilot N1 Reference – CTRL + HOME

Autopilot NAV1 Hold – CTRL + N

Decrease Autopilot Reference Airspeed – SHIFT + CTRL + DEL

Increase Autopilot Reference Airspeed – SHIFT + CTRL + INSERT

Decrease Autopilot Reference Vs – CTRL + END

Increase Autopilot Reference Vs – CTRL + HOME

Toggle Autopilot Wind Leveller – CTRL + V

One more point: Using autopilot and AI Control is not foolproof. “Autopilot may struggle with altitude and speed targets,” according to the known bugs on Steam at launch, and in our experience, the AI Control tends to disregard speed warnings.

For instance, when we engaged AI Control and took off from Monument Valley Airport, the aircraft was unable to pass safely over the mountains. In the end, AI Control is still a helpful feature, but you should be aware of a few minor flaws until later fixes are released.

Important: Please be sure to become familiar with the button on your controller that disengages the autopilot (for example, the default on Xbox is Y). If it doesn’t already exist, create one up. This is crucial to your final strategy. You will probably destabilize your approach if you have to search about in the cockpit for the autopilot button to deactivate it, which is problematic in such a crucial moment where things happen extremely quickly. Because it is the same in real life, the majority of aircraft feature a large red button on the yoke or on the stick for this function.


Hope you’ve enjoyed reading this article. What do you think about autopilot of Microsoft Flight Simulator? Have you tried it yet? Feel free to share your experience in comments below and I would be more than happy to read and reply to them.

Thank you and see you soon in the next article.

8 thoughts on “Flight Simulator Autopilot – A Beginner’s Guide to Activating and Customizing AI Control

  1. I must admit, I enjoyed playing flight simulator on my desktop computer once upon a time. But then, I lost interest. Perhaps it was because I got busy and exchanged my desktop for a laptop. 

    Most recently I downloaded a bunch of flight simulator apps on my phone, and I’ve enjoyed them, but I do miss the good old Microsoft version, along with the Xbox controller. 

    That said, if I ever get back into the game, and or at least try to teach my kids about it, I’ll bookmark this page, so I know the secrets of flying any aircraft with autopilot on, thanks to this well written article!

  2. Hey, it was a delight reading your post. Based on the last improvement in AL, everything around the world had been affected as you mentioned in the text even controls for the autopilot flight stimulator. I learned so much from your post and I wish reading more of your post. thanks for sharing.

  3. I must admit that your niche is unique. I never crossed this topic before, partly because of my lack of interest, but partly because not many people write about these topics. Congrats on the choice. I may see that you have experience in the field. I would love to read more articles from you. Keep doing the great job. I learned something new from you today.

    1. Yeah I try to post new topics and keep the articles as informative as I can. Thanks for the feedback.

  4. I must confess that your niche is remarkable. I thoroughly enjoyed reading your post! As you noted in the text, advancements in AI have had a profound impact worldwide—including with autopilot flight simulators. Your writing taught me many new things; I am looking forward to further posts from you, and thank you for sharing this one!

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