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RC Helicopter Flight Simulators 16Dec07

Posted by tanker in Beginner, General Heli, Products.
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RealFlight G4A RC Heli sim is almost a must-have item for any helicopter pilot. One can certainly get by without them but learning will take much longer and be much more expensive. Even professional RC heli pilots perfect maneuvers on the sim before going to the real thing.

There are three main factors to consider when choosing a flight sim. First is simply cost. The better sims cost roughly $200 plus require a reasonably powerful computer to run them. The second factor is quality. The better sims come very close to simulating the actual performance and feeling of various real RC helis. Lastly is the controller. Again, the higher-end sims include a controller you can use right out of the box and also allow you to attach your own real transmitter. The lower-end sims do not provide a controller and provide various degrees of support for various transmitters. Perhaps a fourth consideration is support. This not only includes technical support to get your sim working if you have problems but also continued upgrades/additions of models and airfields.

If you are new to RC helicopters you may wish to read our Learning to Fly RC Helicopters — Part 1.

Below is a list of the most common heli sims available. Note that most flight sims cater to aircraft first and helis second. As a result, the quality and quantity of the heli models varies considerably with each program.

RC heli sims in alphabetical order [all are Windows(PC)-based sims unless otherwise noted]:

  • AeroFly Pro
  • ClearView – $30
  • FMS (Flight-Model-Simulator) -Free
  • FSOne -I am afraid we do not recommend this sim for the heli pilot. Its flight model is better than some of the lower-end sims and it includes a nice controller but for the same money the RealFlight sim is a much better choice. The FSOne fixed-wing aircraft flight model seems good so if you mostly fly fixed-wing you may want to give this one a look.
  • Phoenix R/C -Got high marks from RC Heli Magazine.
  • RC Helicopter Simulator -Free. Runs on Mac OSX. The only sim for OSX that I know of. If you are a Mac user remember you can use the other sims with Bootcamp if you have an Intel Mac and Leopard.
  • Real Flight G3.5/G4Our favorite sim and with the new G4 it has only gotten better. Includes a dedicated heli trainer mode that is very useful. Excellent support all around.
  • Reflex XTR -Our second favorite sim but the dedicated Reflex controller is very expensive although the sim also supports third-party transmitters as well.

A note on why flight model quality matters
When you are first learning to fly the quality of the flight model of the simulator probably does not matter all that much, although I have tried some sim models that were much harder to fly than real RC helis. In the beginning getting used to the controls and heli orientation are the most important things and all of the sims will give you that training (assuming you can get a controller working with some of them). But as you progress in your skills the flight model becomes much more important because unrealistic behavior can lead you to form bad habits that will cause you trouble when you go to fly the real thing. The more accurately the simulator simulates the flight of your RC heli the more useful a tool it becomes.

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