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Helicopter piloting in flight sim


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I've flown a few helicopter sims:


One was an X-Plane based program with a helicopter control setup all built into a bucket seat.  I crashed it about 5 times in my 4-minute demo @ Oshkosh 2000.  It was worthless.


Another was a Fly-it Sim (about $100K).  I flew that at Heli-Expo 2002 for about 15 minutes.  It was really touchy (and I crashed it) but I guess you'd get used to it after a while.


I got a chance to fly a $500,000 Bell 206 Frasca simulator a few months ago.  Again, very touchy (especially the pedals), but it flew A LOT like the helicopter.  I couldn't land or do autos in it worth a cr@p because it didn't have a screen on the floor.  You would just wait for it to bounce, then lower the collective.  You could even practice hot and/or hung starts on it.


The coolest ever was the Boeing 717 full motion simulator.  We did loops, rolls, stalls, etc.  It would even simulate the bumps you feels rolling down the taxiway and the initial bump when you're getting a push back from the gate.  Just AWESOME.  At the time, TWA had it up for sale for the tune of about $30M.


But, in reponse to your question.....No, it's nothing like the real thing.  And when I used to instruct, everyone that ever got good at MS Flight Sim before they started lessons, couldn't fly for $hit because they were trying to fly the real thing like the sim.  If a $50 game could turn you into a helicopter pilot, everyone would be one.  Don't waste your time with it, start your training with a clean slate and NO assumptions.


One the other hand, MS Flight Sim is an EXCELLENT training aid for instrument flight and procedures.  I've heard fixed-wingers' swear by it too.

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 I value and enjoy reading your posts, but I don't agree totally with you about the PC training.  Though I admit,I can see your point IF the person has no experience in the real thing, but far as learning basic pedal and cyclic control, it really helped me GET IT so to speak. I have had a very good experience using FS 02'. Though, you can't just use it at the default settings. It takes a little tweaking but it will be pretty close to the real thing far as take off's, straight and level, turns, normal and steep, and of course instruments. After some time you can do a pretty fair pu and set dn. I know some other CFI's that hate the sims too, they pretty much said the same as you about twitchy with lots of crashes.


I have never used the FS PRO 02' software, used on the FlyIt Sim Trainer, but it should have sensitivity adjustment for each flight control as well as easy, medium, and hard settings for overall flight. You can even set crash sensitivity from none to very sensitive.



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Sims are great for procedural instrument training.  For anyone thinking of flying, get a couple of approach plates (or even better all of them for your area which is very cheep) and start using the instruments.  You can simply use the fixed wing aircraft coupled to the autopilot for this.


Don't bother with the GPSs too much as the chances are your aircraft will not have a Garmin 500 or whatever it is in MS2004.  You'll probably have a crappy old Trimble or Bendix/King!!!


I also used the MS Flight Sim for getting a handle on basic attitude flying (power, pitch, performance airspeed etc...etc..)  But I did this using the Cessna, not the helicopter.  Start off by setting your power and pitch to acheive Straight and level (use the heading hold if you want).  Then play around with trying to acheive constant rate / speed descents and climbs.


As for using a sim to learn how to fly helicopters, well I question whether they would give anyone a great advantage or save much money.  Yes, they can give a complete novice the basics of what the controls do....yes, they can help someone appreciate the sensitivity of the controls and the basic attitude flying...but...


...so much of flying is done by using references outside the helicopter....peripheral vision, and your proprioreceptive (body) systems.  This can't be reproduced in a home simulator.  So much of flying requires situationational awareness, spatial awareness, engine / aircraft limitations etc..etc..


So use a simulator with appreciation for its limitations...just because you can pull a great torque turn in Flight Sim doesn't mean that you'll be able to in the realworld.  Example:  I used to pick the Sim helicopter up, by simply setting full power!  Fortunately, the cyclic always reset in the centred position so I went straight up.  In real life if you do that you'll probably roll straight over!  (BTW, I never actually got pedals...just used the keyboard on my laptop.)


I haven't seen much noticable difference in students that have used home sims and those that haven't.  In fact some that claim they are expert sim flyers, actually have trouble when you put the 'pressures' of the 'real' helicopter that costs a lot, 'real' wind that blows their long greasy hair around, real altitude that could really kill, etc..etc..


Even the full motion simulators that cost millions of dollars each, have their limitations.  However, in these simulators, it is possible to train for emergencies which you just can't recreate in real life.  This is where they are worth the money.  Dual engine failure, engine fire, hydraulic servo failure and total electrical failure - all at the same time!...and as Delorean says, they can be fun too!  Vertical landing a 747 over an aircraft carrier with a 200kt headwind is quite something!


Just my two cents...



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The sim can be valuable, but it has to be at least the level of the FlyIt to be useful for VFR training. You also have to have an instructor who understands the advantages and shortcomings of the device.


The FlyIt flies like a helicopter, just not like any helicopter you've flown before. I've taken every one of my new students into the FlyIt for one to two hours before I start them in the helicopter - it's "procedure" training, like Joker alluded to, only it's the procedures for using the controls, for dividing attention between instruments and outside, and for understanding the basics of how the controls affect the aircraft. Without fail, students are much less overwhelmed when they are faced with the real helicopter (and they are relieved that the pedals aren't hyper-sensitive in the real aircraft). At worst, they learn at the same rate (while saving a few hundred dollars), but for some, it moves them through the initial learning significantly faster.


Interestingly, the people who resist the FlyIt are generally pilots with a lot of hours in one aircraft type. I have a lot if instrument students with thousands of hours who refuse to use the FTD, preferring to spend three times as much per hour to learn in the Schweizer (which takes them just as long to get used to, but they don't mind because "it's a helicopter".) I also have instructors who don't like it purely because they aren't building hours while in the sim...


I also return to the FlyIt for emergency procedures - not to learn the techniques for flying autorotations, but to drill responses for things we can't do in the aircraft. like actual tail-rotor failure. Finally, you can bring people into situations that are unavailable in the helicopter, for instance landing on a skyscraper to train them to look further away from the helicopter instead of at the ground on landing.


As is the general response here, I also would not recommend attempting to "learn at home" using FS or X-Plane. However, with the right instructor, something like the FlyIt can accellerate your initial training while reducing your costs.

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I think the FlyIt sims are fun to muck around with, mind you I never took my sim time too seriously. The games/sims that I think are the best representations of helicopters are Grand Theft Auto Vice City and San Andreas.......laugh all you want, but that's my opinion and I'm stickin with it !! :D
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I fly X-plane's R22 on my Mac at home and find it pretty close to the real thing - as long as you make the control responses a bit less sensitive!  You also have to live without an accurate idea of hover height or speed since the textures aren't good enough.  But with real ATC on the 'radio' through VATSIM it's a good experience.
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