FS98 (6.1) is generally regarded as a “service release”, offering minor improvements, with a few notable exceptions: The simulator now also featured a helicopter (the Bell 206BIII JetRanger), as well as a generally improved interface for adding additional aircraft, sceneries, and sounds. Other new “out of the box” aircraft included a revised Cessna 182 with a photorealistic instrument panel and updated flight model. The primary rationale for updating the 182 was Cessna’s return to manufacturing of that model in the late 1990s. The Learjet Model 45 business jet was also included, replacing the aging Lear 35 from earlier versions. The Dynamic Scenery models were also vastly improved. One of the most noticeable improvements in this version was the ability to have independent panels and sounds for every aircraft.
A major expansion of the in-box scenery was also included in this release, including approximately 45 detailed cities (many located outside the United States, some of which were previously included in separate scenery enhancement packs), as well as an increase in the modeled airports to over 3000 worldwide, compared with the approximately 300 in earlier versions. This major increase in scenery production was attributable partially to inclusion of the content from previous standalone scenery packs, as well as new contributions by MicroScene, a company in San Ramon, California who had developed several scenery expansions previously released by Microsoft.
This release also included support for the Microsoft Sidewinder Pro Force Feedback joystick, which allowed the player to receive some sensory input from simulated trim forces on the aircraft controls.
This was the first version to take advantage of 3D-graphic cards, through Microsoft’s DirectX technology. With such combination of hardware and software, FS98 not only achieved better performance, but also implemented better haze/visibility effects, “virtual cockpit” views, texture filtering, and sunrise/sunset effects.