Flight Simulators


Flight simulators can be very useful, they can be a total waste of time. You can become a very good simulator flier and still have no idea on how to operate a model aircraft.

For our purposes the flight sim is a tool in the learning process, it is a great aid to mastering controlling a model without continually resorting to repairing your model. A flight sim simple resets and you can fly again straight away.

There are many flight sims on the market and they vary greatly in price. Of course you have to have a PC to run your flight sim on but as you are reading this we will take that as a given. The actual computing power needed to run a flight sim is quite small but a good graphics card is essential. Check out spec before buying.

Flight sims come in two basic types, those that have a dedicated transmitter and those that allow you to connect to a transmitter from one of the major manufacturers. You takes your choice, I have a Reflex Flight Sim with one of my older JR transmitters dedicated to it.

I will not within this article mention any particular flight sims as I hope to persuade other members to provide a brief review of what they have and their experiences with it.

We will look at the flight sim for two differing uses, basic flight instruction and advanced training, and also at different model types (fixed/rotary wing) as they have different benefits.

The big disadvantage with a flight sim is that you are only looking at a small screen with generally the model in the centre. The reality of flying a model in particular a fixed wing model is that you fly looking at the whole sky including the horizon, which although only in your peripheral vision provides the brain with level reference to which to control the model. With a model on a screen this reference is lost as soon as the model gains altitude, and as you will discover can reappear quite suddenly in the most unexpected places.

With a helicopter all early training is mastering the hover, this is carried out not above eye level so the horizon is always in view, this makes the simulator a must have for budding heli pilots.

Most sims have many modes and helpful settings. Learn to use these they are very useful, I will cover these as we proceed.

Initial training fixed wing.

Most sims allow for a variety of models you can start off with a three channel trainer, or go straight into a four channel model, I assume you have already read Getting Started Part Two so will know what I am writing about.

Most sims have a "follow" the aircraft mode which allows you to be behind the aircraft at all times. This is a useful function to start off in as you will stay with the aircraft as it heads towards the edge of it's virtual world allowing you to get a feel for how the controls work and how the model responds. Don't over do this mode of flight as 90% of the time you are not behind the aircraft and need to master controlling the model in all flight attitudes and positions.

Move onto flying a set pattern flying from fixed position, this is what you will be doing for real. Start flying figure of eights in front of you, both with turns towards and away. The next phase is to start flying a racetrack pattern, make sure you fly both left to right and right to left and do not develop the habit of always flying to one side of yourself.

By now it's probable time to have a go at the real thing. But do go back to the sim and you can then practice flying circuits, taking offs and landings.

Advanced training fixed wing.

There are many ways a sim can be useful to advance your flying. With the right model selected the mysteries of inverted and knife edge flight can be mastered, again using the "follow" mode to allow time to understand and get the feel of what the control inputs are doing.

Initial training rotary wing.

I learnt to fly helicopters back in the mid 70's, man had only just got to the moon and computers were large things that took up whole buildings. We did it the hard way walking miles down disused runways while the model skidded and swerved in front of us usually to thrash itself into a mass of tangled metal. So lets use a sim and cut out all that walking and rebuilding.

Select a 50 size model in training/beginners mode. Leave the Henslett 3D alone that's for later.

Set the sim so you are behind or behind and slightly to one side of the model. Most sims have a hover training mode, use this initially if you want it will automatically reset the model if it gets to far away or into an unrecoverable position. Hover training mode will also give you the option to operate single or limited number of controls while it operates the rest. Don't use the follow mode as this will let the model get into forward flight which we want to avoid.

When you get more proficient try turning the model thru 90% using the tail rotor to hover side on, make sure you can hover the model on either side of you facing both ways. Forget nose in at this time as you now need to go out and practice with the real thing.

The next stage either with the sim or a real model is to start flying figures of eight with all turns away from you.

On the sim it's a good time to start hovering nose in, a lot of helicopter fliers who didn't use a sim for basic training struggle with this bit.

Next it's onto forward flight and into the circuit. Try and keep your sim flying slightly ahead of what you feel comfortable with a real model. Always come back to the sim and and practice again anything that didn't feel right on the field.

A screen capture from FMS and shows a Hughes being flown at our club, sunny with just a light breeze and only slight gusts

fms-hughes-club.jpg (95484 bytes)

Advanced flying training rotary wing.

It's hard to say with a helicopter at what point advanced training starts, I suppose if you can fly a circuit in either direction, hover the aircraft in any position and place it were you want it you have mastered helicopter flying, you could certainly pass the BMFA "A" proficiency test.

But don't switch the sim off yet, all those difficult bits, hovering nose in, dead stick landings and even inverted flight can all be mastered on the sim. What you can do with a helicopter is only limited by the time you have to practice. The flight sim makes it possible.



Flight Simulator Reviews/experiences.

More articles please!!!


FMS free flight simulator
Not the best but has to be the best value, this works well with the Esky USB dummy transmitter. It is very easy to set up; there are hundreds of models to import and lots of scenery. Get the latest with the improved flight characteristics. I put the club in as scenery. See Youtube Video http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=b_3tp9-qgws .
More models at http://n.ethz.ch/~mmoeller/fms/index_e.html 

Phil the Fridge


Phoenix RC Simulator USB. Approved and developed by former British Champions, industry professionals and 3D master flyers.
Price:    79.95 Including VAT at 17.5%
Uses Futaba or JR TX with a dongle

Real Flight G3 
Latest Generation 3 flight sim from Great Planes. Fly 42 types of Helicopters and Fixed Wing.
Supplied with a transmiiter

Clear View  
Specializes in "real life" simulation of electric and gas RC helicopters, including TRex 450, Blade CX, CP and CP Pro, Hone Bee, Raptor 60 and 90 and many others. The RC planes range from light weight electric "Shockflier", to 100 size 4 stroke aerobatic Pitts Special to turbine driven F15 Eagle and F-16 Fighting Falcon. Aeroflight Pro Delux USB
USB RC flight simulator. Superbly detailed photorealistic sceneries with new impeccable physics and flight engine. Features 2-pilot option, competitions, indoor sports hall, over 50 models including Ikarus Shock Flyers. The result of five years of intensive programming work. The most remarkable plug and play professional simulator to date.
Expect to pay around 119.99

Tru-Flite 3D
Although the graphics are pretty basic, the flying qualities of the helicopters are excellent. This is one of the most common simulators used by members of Cleveland Model Helicopter Club although it is now slowly being overtaken in popularity by the newer Reflex XTR simulator which is described below.
Expect to pay around 69.99 for the serial version and 79.99 for the USB version.


HeliSim RC 
Free RC helicopter flight simulator. Work OK with USB controller
HeliSimRC is a freeware, Radio Control (RC) model helicopter simulator.
It is designed to simulate the popular 450 size electric helicopters. HeliSimRC is intended to be used as a flight training tool, not a game. The design focus in writing this software was not on pretty graphics or a fancy look and feel.

heli-sim.jpg (179020 bytes)

 Instead, the emphasis is on authentic modeling of helicopter flight characteristics, and on offering features which enhance the flight training functionality of the software. 



I have this flight sim, very easy to install, I had a small problem getting the aileron channel to work.
It should work with most joy sticks or your own transmitter.
Top class, real scenery, very good flight characteristics, helis seemed a bit twitchy but will adjust

This large Cap is very easy to prop hang once the C of G is moved back


Gloucester Model Flying Club