Helicopter Simulation and Helicopter Simulators
There are plenty of flight simulators out on the market today but not all of them model the correct helicopter physics. Having difficulty choosing the right helicopter simulator then let PC Helicopters guide you to make the right choice!
To discuss Flightgear with the flightgear developers join the original and oldest Helicopter Simulators group on Facebook. As well as Flightgear developers we have members from Polychop, Dreramfoil, X-Plane and Eagle Dynamics. Click here to join in the discussions with fans of helicopter simulators and top developers.
FSX Steam Edition
Even though it has a huge following amongst the flight sim community, the helicopter physics are not really 100% realistic, unless you purchase a third party add on called the dodosim bell 206, more on the dodosim in a short while.
Most of the default helicopters in fsx and the majority of third party add ons (except for the dodosim) do not model vortex ring state making helicopter flying in fsx quite arcade like. To fix the problem in fsx and some third-party FSX helicopters, you can head over to hovercontrol where you can download a utility which allows you to add correct helicopter physics to the default fsx helicopters. The utility is called helicopter total realism or HTR. Despite these flaws in the flight model for helicopters in fsx, there are some great helicopters available which are not available in sims like DCs or X-Plane. For example The Chinook, the Blackhawk, the Bell 47 and the MI-24 V hind are just a few examples.
Going back to the dodosim bell 206, this is unique from all of the helicopters for fsx as it is one of the most accurate helicopter simulators across all formats including DCS and x-plane. The reason for this is that it is a specially programmed helicopter add-on and also adds VRS or vortex ring state making it difficult to master.
Dodosim replaced the default FSX hover and flight behaviour with their own dynamics, engine and systems management, complete with optional damage, repair and even maintenance features. It has 5 difficulty levels with level 5 being the most difficult. It has a clickable cockpit and despite the helicopter now a few years old now it's still hold his own against the newest helicopter simulators on the market.
DCS - Digital Combat Simulator
DCS, Digital Combat Simulator is a free combat simulator available from eagle dynamics. However, even though the simulator is free itself, you do have to purchase the Helicopters. DCS is very popular amongst the majority of the community when it comes to flying helicopters as all the helicopters are correctly modelled in both physics and appearance. Currently there are four helicopters available for DCS, UH1 Huey, Mi-8, KA-50 and SA342 Gazelle.
Note, that these helicopters are very accurately modelled in both appearance and flight physics.DCS models VRS (vortex ring state). They have a steep learning curve if you are to master them. For the novice taking off and landing is a huge challenge but well worth the effort. Landing safely with any of the DCS helicopters marks a great achievement as they are not easy to fly. As well as mastering how they fly, you also have to learn the immense number of weapons systems available. Manuals provided with all these helicopters are highly detailed. In our experience the SA342 Gazelle was the most difficult to master as it is highly sensitive. The Huey was the next challenging helicopter with the MI-8 being a handful to land due to it weight. The KA50 is easier to handle than the other 3 with its dual rotar system and perhaps a good start for beginners.
DCS constantly has topped our polls as the best flight simulator , best helicopter (the Huey) as well as the best helicopter simulator. Check out our polls on this site for more under the Helicopter Simulators and Poll heading.
Xplane has more helicopters to choose from than DCS. After DCS, Xplane is the most popular amongst virtual helicopter pilots. A number of excellent developers like Dreamfoil and X-Trident offer the xplane community a variety of rotary craft for their virtual hangar. The Robinson R22 Beta is a huge challenge to fly on the most realistic xplane setting. Other helicopters by Dreamfoil imclude AS350, Bell 206 and the Schweizer 300CBI (one of our favorites!).
All helicopter physics are modelled accurately and x-plane also models vortex ring state, so be careful when flying them! All dreamfoil helcopters have great graphics as well as an accurate flight model and are ranked one of the best helicopter simulator developers. Another helicopter which impressed us is the X-Trident Bell 412 helicopter. We could list many others, fact is Xplane has a large collection and we list them on our site , click here to see more.
Flightgear is the only FREE helicopter simulator and do you know what ? it really is worth looking at. The helicopter physics are more accurate than FSX and this sim also models VRS. Last time I checked it has a larger collection than all the other simulators listed here! Some of the graphics arent as great as DCS in the cockpit and the controller setup can take some getting used to but this simulator is so underestimated and sometimes overlooked. I would highly recommend at least checking it out. It costs nothing and you will be pleasantly suprised at what it can achieve. In addition it is also 64bit and this means it can make better used of the hardware it runs. In comparison FSX and P3D are still 32bit, another plus for this simulator! In addition there is lots of community help is at hand for flightgear and help is always at hand in our Facebook Helicopter Group here
P3D or Prepar3D was born from FSX and is in development by Lockheed Martin. Prices vary for this simulator from $9.95 for a developer license to $199 for a professional license! However they do give you a 60 day refund policy, which is a great option if you decide its not for you. P3D is more improved than FSX as it is in constant development and rumours are that a 64bit version is planned. As for the helicopter simulation part of this simulator it does have the same issues that FSX has. The helicopter flight model lacks the VRS effect and it is very similar to default FSX helicopters we discussed above. P3D is an awesome flight simulator for aircraft but we are still looking for P3D only helicopters to be available to review! We did try to contcact P3D about any developments but sadly nobody replied.
Take On Helicopters
Another option for the helicopter simmer is Take On Helicopters (full review here). Take on Helicopters comes from the same people who make the exceelent military simulator Arma 3. They claim its built on cutting edge simulator development and authentic flight model. The flight model is based on rotorlib flight model and like Arma 3 which uses a similar model supports vortex ring state (VRS).
This differs from other sims above as there is a story mode where you take on the role of a civilian pilot. The aim is to build up the aviation business which is failing and facing closure. You must take on contracts and competitors, hence the name of the game Take On Helicopters.
The graphics are very good but not up to the same standard as the other simulators, in addition you have very limited camera views. The helicopters themselves look great externally but we found the cockpit detail good but extra camera options in the cockpit and options to zoom in or out of the cockpit area quite limited.
The flight model is quite challenging, it is not easy abut we beleive it falls somewhere between Xplane and FSX. There are a wide range of helicopters available to fly cateforised as Light , Medium and Heavy.
Other features include a mission editor, Multiplayer and Co-Op Scenarios. Disappointingly though only Seattle and South Asia terrains are included. No other regions, so quite limited in that respect. There is also a seperate addon released for this simulator featuring the Hind Helicopter. It is certainly worth looking at if you prefer a story based scenario. As for realism we would class it between better than FSX but below DCS and Xplane. Currently sells for £11.99 on Steam so worth a look.
Air Missions: HIND
Air Missions : HIND is action combat flight simulator based on the Russian Mi-24 Hind assault helicopter, also known as the "Flying Tank". Please note this is still an early access game but still very playable. It has a great number of options for both single and multplayer.
15 missions based on fictional conflicts and also 4 different environments covering central Asia, Eastern Europe, Arctic Ocean and Southeast Asia.
Other game modes include Deathmatch, Instant Action, and Online co-operative missions
It features a large arsenal of weapons icluding machineguns, GUV gunpods, FAB bombs, and variety of missiles. With regards to difficulty levels there are modes for both casual and experienced players. Unfortunately at the moment only 1 helicopter is available.
Arma 3 Helicopters (Requires Arma 3)
Arma 3 Helicopters is a paid DLC for the excellent military simulator Arma 3 so you will need the main Arma 3 game to use this.
Unlike Battlefield Arma 3 helicopters offer more realism, they are based on a flight model called RotorLib. The advanced flight model (FM) is available for all existing helicopters and it has been stated it be part of all future helicopters In Arma 3. However one thing to note is that it is disabled by default and you can switch to it at anytime via the General section of Game Options. Again as with Take On helicopters Bohemia Interactive have confirmed with pchelicopters.com that the Flight Dunamics DO include vortex ring state. The flight dynamics uses the rotorlib flight model. This is great for both novice and experienced virtual helicopter pilots. The helicopters included with this DLC are:
- CH-67 Huron, a BLUFOR Logistical Support helicopter intended to lift heavy loads
- Mi-290 Taru, the OPFOR equivalent of the CH-67
- M-900 - Civilian variant of the NATO MH-9 Hummingbird helicopter.
Arma 3 helicopters DLC is available on Steam for £7.99 but you require the main Arma 3 Game for it to work.
I hope after reading this article you have a better idea of what is on the market. Look on this site for videos and articles about the indiviual helicopters too to make up your mind. We also have a large selection of helicopter videos on our youtube site www.youtube.com/c/pcsimulatorsorg
Review by Vito Caresimo