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Murmur

Real helicopter flight and X-Plane.

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Well I guess this post could better belong to Hangar Chat, but having a couple of references to XP, it fits here as well.

I had a short helicopter flight on a Bell 206 (first time for me in a helicopter) and wanted to share my main impressions in relation to a flight sim (mostly specific to helicopter flight).

My first impression, confirmed my idea that in a flight sim details like sounds, vibrations, and of course "graphics" (i.e. visuals and high fps) are as essential (or even more, in a sense) than the flight model for recreating "realistic" flying sensations. The seat vibrations, the needles wobbling, the rich sounds surrounding me, the lateral push at the slightest skid or slip, were the first differences I noticed compared to a flight sim. These details are usually lacking on default aircrafts, but very well recreated in high quality add-ons or products like XPrealistic.

Second impression: during take off and landing, the reactions and the handling of the heli looked impressively similar to me to what we get in XP. This was confirmed by the young pilot. I had a brief chat with him afterward, and when I said I used XP, he said heli dynamics were much better compared to MSFS (not a news, but nice to hear it from a heli pilot). I think he began as a flight simmer before becoming a real pilot.

Third impression: we rightly complain about weather in flight sims, but, at least in a helo, micro-conditions are what you feel and pay attention to: changing winds during take off and landing, turbulence when downwind of a mountain, etc. I felt that would be more essential for recreating realism rather than, say, internal cumulonimbus dynamics...

Fourth impression: just like in the sim, it's very difficult to judge airspeed without looking at the indicator. At a certain point, I thought we were almost hovering midair, then I watched the ASI indicating about 90-100 KIAS. (Winds were relatively calm).

Fifth impression: personally, the short flight confirmed to me that synthetic scenery can't hold a candle to ortho scenery. I know this is purely subjective, and some people immersion is lost on ortho scenery due to low res textures, flattened cars, no seasons, etc. , but for me it's the opposite, it's the synthetic textures that destroy immersion.

All in all a nice experience, that gave me back some needed interest in flight sims. :-)

Edited by Murmur
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"They're pissing on our heads and they tell us they're pissing on our heads, but we say it's raining because we don't want to be labeled 'conspiracy theorists' ".

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Congrats on the flight experience! 

I miss it. Many years ago when I was younger, I spent a lot of hours in helicopters of various types when I was doing commercial aerial photography for editorial and advertising clients. Always with the door off, which is great fun.

I wish I could have spent more time just enjoying the flight, but it was a high-pressure situation, very expensive hourly cost, paid by my client but I still had to deliver the goods. You don't want to come back to the client and say you didn't get the shot and have to fly again. Especially when you're using other expensive assets like shooting a powerboat ad, with all the people and radio coordination involved.

Jet rangers were the preferred platform, but we would also hire Hughes 500's, and even did one job in Costa Rica in a US Army Huey that was training down there. 

I learned enough to know what I could and couldn't ask for, from the pilot, so that was at least a little bit of education that transferred to flight sims. I learned that hovering is more vibration for the camera and also more stressful for the pilot than a sideslip towards the photo target, that kind of thing. When I was active doing this, most of the pilots we hired were ex-Huey 'Nam vets, fun to talk to, and very skilled. I guess most of those guys are retired now.

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Thanks for the report!  I took a short flight on a Bell 206 a few years back...and I too had that weird feeling that we were hovering but were making good speed over the ground.  They feel very stable with a competent pilot....and they can land basically anywhere!

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Great post Murmur and an interesting read. I've not used helicopters for some time in X-Plane (I'm mainly using the sim for development and I have little time or "sadly" desire to actually just enjoy the sim), but I remember it was a particularly challenging, rewarding and fun aspect to the sim. One day I'll book a real trial lesson in a helicopter just to try it out for myself.

Regarding the orthos, I agree with you and it's one of the reason why I really don't like the default scenery in X-Plane or P3D, it feels very computer generated and is often way off visually compared to reality. Of course orthos have a large plethora of problems as well and really fall over in VR, but I'd still prefer them over default 🙂

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Excellent post indeed.

Helis have a special feel in XP. I would dare saying they do feel more close to real than most fixed wing.

I can only find another sim on-pair ( maybe even a bit better ) with X-Plane when it comes to helis - DCS World.

Interestingly, helis appear to be not that most affected by the overdone x-wind effects on ground .. Well, yes, they hover taxi most of the time, but even those with undercarriage appear to react better to those winds ( ? )

This weekend I was landing my glider in a 10 knot effective x-wind, on a rather narrow rw, and XP came to my mind... I wouldn't be able to stay on track there 🙂


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