The new Schweizer 300CBi from Just Flight is an excellent rendition of this light utility helicopter and is something to be seen. I have learned how to fly a helicopter more effectively from this; it is an excellent trainer both in real life and in Flight Simulator. It can do more than just train new helicopter pilots, it can fulfill civilian, law enforcement, or even cattle rustling roles.
The Schweizer 300CBi has something uniquely in common with another helicopter great, the McDonnell Douglas MD500. Other than a few similar physical features, their unique similarity is the fact that they were originally Hughes designs. Hughes Aircraft Company originally developed the Hughes 299 back in the 1950’s for the United States Army as a new primary helicopter trainer. The Hughes 299 entered US Army service as the T-55 ‘Osage’ and was reasonably successful in this role. It would lead to one of the best light utility helicopters out there.
Schweizer began producing the S300CBi under license from McDonnell Douglas Hughes starting in 1983, and by 1986 held all rights to the FAA Type certificate. Making many small improvements, Schweizer left the basic design of the Hughes 299/300 as it was. Schweizer has been extremely successful selling it in civilian, utility, and law enforcement roles. From an excellent helicopter trainer, to an observation helicopter, to a cattle rustler, the Schweizer 300CBi has been very successful throughout the years. Using a four cylinder Lycoming 190HP engine, this ‘light utility’ helicopter can accomplish a range of missions, while remaining inexpensive to operate.
Installation and Documentation
The S300 can be downloaded in a 126 MB install file, or have a CD boxed version shipped. The downloaded installer will open up and lead you comfortably through a series of steps. Using the information sent via e-mail with the download version and the manual, unlocking and installing the product is relatively easy.
The included documentation is very in-depth and thorough, and it is easy to navigate. All useful information you may need is included here, even a tutorial for the first flight if you so choose.
A start menu entry is added under the label of 'Just Flight', and every piece of information you'll need can be found there. There is also an entry labeled 'Aerotools with Aeroselect', this is a neat tool included with the S300CBi. A small help file is included with Aerotools even though it's very simple to use. A window will come up with a selection list to the left listing all of your installed Just Flight aircraft. You'll notice the ‘Flying Club Schweizer 300CBi’ listed. Simply highlighting the aircraft name at the left pops up a list of model and paint options. These include options for one or two fuel tanks or whether or not you'll be flying with a passenger, along with nationality selections with corresponding paint selections. A very nice feature allowing you to add a level of personality to your S300.
I had a couple technical questions on this helicopter, and wanted to mention the great customer support at Just Flight. I received prompt and helpful answers to my questions, and that only helps the customer get the most out of their product. I don’t think this was because I was reviewing their craft, as they have a very open-ended customer support staff and they’re very helpful.
The external model on this aircraft is great and the level of detail on this helicopter is amazing. From being able to see fine control wires, the classic orange engine air ducts, to the engine and transmission drive belt; the realism of the detail is shocking. This will most likely be your favorite part of the S300CBi, as it is one of the sharpest helicopter models for FS. You can also clearly see the Lycoming four cylinder engine, if you know what you're looking for. You can easily spot the exhaust pipe and the animated main rotor push/pull control rods. It seems so immaculately done that you literally believe you are looking at a real life Schweizer 300CBi.
Including a multitude of neat animations and extras, all you could want is probably already there. The doors are, of course, nicely animated and are very sharp. You can also see an excellent complement of external lighting, which at night looks quite nice. A very sharp and detailed pilot figure is included and is fully animated, along with a very detailed passenger when that option is selected.
Along with the regulars you would expect, are several animations and eye candies you might not expect. The best two animations would be the animated main rotor tilt and engine belt. When running, you can actually see the main rotors tilt in the direction of intended control. When the helicopter is not running, you can see the rear rotors respond to the twist or pedal inputs, along with seeing a fine pitch change in the main rotor blades responding to collective changes. The other animation/eye candy I enjoy on this helicopter is the actual and fully animated engine to transmission drive belt for the rear rotor. Yes, the Schweizer 300CBi actually uses an engine to transmission ‘belt’ drive system. Another cool part of this animation, is the spinning drive shaft going to the tail rotor from that belt linkage.
The feature on this helicopter that makes it so interesting, is a very simple to use load and model specification software mentioned earlier. It easily allows you to go from your Windows Start menu entry for Aerotools under Just Flight, to the hangar where your S300 is virtually 'stored'. A window will come up with a selection list to the left listing all of your installed Just Flight aircraft. You'll notice the Flying Club Schweizer 300CBi listed. You have many choices here, and I will elaborate on several of these choices below.
You can choose, modify, add paint variations and choose from a selection of Nationality paints with their respective tail number style for European nations. I included several screenshots showcasing the included paints for which each nationality has a version, and a set of shots of the black paint scheme more visibly showing the flag and tail number differences between the nationalities.
Along with those features, you can actually specify whether you want just one fuel tank or both fuel tanks for extra range. Aerotools is a great little feature, allowing you to add a level of customization to your S300.
The passenger option is very nice and you can fly with or without a passenger, whatever your preference. If you choose the passenger option, a nicely modeled passenger will show up both on the external model and in the virtual cockpit. I usually prefer the aircraft to myself, but I am glad they included a choice between passenger and no passenger models. Another neat feature of AeroSelect, only adding to the fun.
As far as the 2D panel goes, it is extremely well done and very easy to use. The gauges on it are very crisp and have a smooth update to them. All of your important and useful flight information and switches are present here, and almost every switch or knob is clickable. I don’t usually fly from the 2D, but for any purpose you may need, aside of flying from there full time, you’ll enjoy the function and detail.
A nice ‘tall’ 2D panel is included as sub-panel two (Shift+2), along with a full complement of other detailed and fully functioning sub-panels. Radio and transponder are there of course, and both are very easy to use. Also included are 2D cyclic and collective controls, both with full function. The starter switch is on the tip of the collective or ‘throttle’. I missed it in the manual the first time I went through, but referred back and found it quickly.
This is where I fly the Schweizer 300 CBi from, because this virtual cockpit gives an insane amount of immersion. From every angle in the virtual cockpit, it looks very convincingly real. The cockpit seems so sharp and believable, and the sounds seem to come alive on my speakers and subwoofers. Simply an excellent VC.
All of the gauges are clear, crisp, and very legible at 1.00 zoom, and some of the smaller ones become hard to read at 0.75 zoom. However, where I fly from in this virtual cockpit, back at 0.65, I can read all of the important information. I simply remember which switch is which, even though 90% of all switches included in the VC have those helpful 'tooltips'.
Running through the checklist on the cold helicopter is a lot of fun, everything needed to realistically start the S300 is included in the VC. You’ll need to look on the tip of the collective stick for a starter switch as the real 300CBi mags do not have a start position. Also, by default the engine-rotor clutch is engaged, the manual clearly elaborates further on the clutch and its function. You will be able to run a cold start, flight, and shutdown all from the virtual cockpit.
The dynamic effects inside the VC are pretty cool. I especially liked the lighting and animations. You notice the external beacons flashing inside the VC, which is always a nice small touch. Of course, you can see the rotor tilt when on the ground though you won't notice that in flight. A great 360 degree view from inside the VC is included so you can see every detail just as someone inside a real Schweizer 300CBi would see. I went online to look at current S300 panels, and the level of detail Just Flight made with the 2D and VC panels is above and beyond. I only noticed small differences when comparing the real S300 panel pictures to the VC detail. This is not at all 'off' or wrong, because you probably will not find two S300's with the exact same panel.
The virtual cockpit is full of functionality along with an easy to use radio, even in flight. The transponder and radios are very easy to use, and the design behind them is simplicity in itself. Tuning this radio seemed intuitively easy to me, I just saw before clicking it how they set it up. The transponder is even more straight-forward, though I’ve included a shot of the radio showing its exact function.
If you’re a VC fan, this one is just for you.
Another top-notch part of this package is the piston helicopter sound. I'm serious, from startup to shut down you feel as if you're in the Schweizer 300CBi.
Going through the checklists and starting the engine is great fun, you really hear and feel that four cylinder Lycoming jump to life. Once it is running and gaining RPM, it sounds like a small general aviation plane and is extremely realistic. Once at RPM, you engage the rotor clutch and almost immediately hear the rotors begin to 'whir'. It's almost like two great sound packages; the Lycoming engine running with a great sound of rotors slicing through the air.
Once in flight you'll notice that with more power that little Lycoming mechanically whines a bit more. The rotor sounds do not seem to change, as in real life the rotor's RPM does not change. However, I did seem to notice a subtle change in the rotor ‘whirring’ sounds when throttling up, almost like a greater intensity with the increasing pitch of the blade.
I enjoy setting her down and disengaging the clutch and magnetos. The rotors have a slow wind-down that is characteristic of small helicopters, and is really neat to hear. With the mags and mixture cut, the engine chugs back off after a couple of last revolutions and it's a cold aircraft again. Shut off your switches, which click of course, and hit the battery. Even the door opening and closing has a simple open and close sound. I would really recommend using a subwoofer or turning it up a bit, as you can really feel this helicopter chugging and vibrating around you. Just make sure you won't upset any neighbors or family members when turning an aircraft engine up.
The flight dynamics are done with extreme high fidelity. First things first. No, I do not hold any real helicopter time, however I have read up on helicopter flight, and have watched several videos of successful flights, and crashes in a few rare cases.
This helicopter handles almost exactly within the parameters stated in the manual, faithfully recreating speeds and handling nuances. I've taken this helicopter on long 2-3 hour cross country flights, spent several hours hover taxiing this bird and even some low tactical flying. Once you're used to how a simulator helicopter handles, this will come more easily. Just keep practicing. I know many of us do not like to practice, but you'll see an improvement within just a couple of hours, as I did.
When starting the helicopter, you may be tempted to jump in and try to get it running. You will need to follow the checklists, and a nice tutorial flight checklist is included. You must have the rotor clutch disengaged when starting the engine and feed the engine a bit of power to get it running at full power. Once the engine RPM enters its green arc, simply engaging the rotor clutch and locking it will quickly bring the rotors to life. Once the rotor RPM is up with the engine in the green arc, the S300 will come right off the ground.
You will find this helicopter is easily managed after gently lifting off and getting airborne, and flying it will fine tune your helicopter skills. The hover taxi is easily achieved with a bit of practice, and once above the ground, it is a joy to float around in. Practice may be the keyword for you here; many people simply try and give up on helicopters thinking it may be impossible. Back in 2003 when first learning to fly FS helicopters, I did give up for a while. I returned to try again and constantly practiced the hover.
My advice when learning to fly the Schweizer 300, is go online and read about flying helicopters. I recommend you go to FS helicopter sites and get advice. I had to learn to hover without any advice or suggestion and found out it was twice as easy when done with a bit of advice from the community.
Landing this helicopter is also relatively easy, but practice is again your greatest ally. Hovering is key to gently lifting off and landing a helicopter, though landings can be done with a short or no hover at all. The Schweizer 300CBi does have a pretty beefed up skid suspension for a light helicopter. Student helicopter pilots in real life have been known to have a rough touchdown here and there. The real life S300CBi skids can withstand a 40 MPH impact, but try to get skilled at setting it down like a light dragonfly.
I did notice a loss in frame rates of about 25%-40% from a default aircraft, however, this craft is also infinitely more complex in everyway. I lost around 3-5 FPS on average. What must be kept in mind here is the city factor. The cities in FS usually have a great effect on any aircraft’s performance. When in the city, the frames drop are more frequent and pronounced; once out of a detailed area I hardly lost more than 2 FPS.
Even though it takes a couple more frames than I would like, I was not disappointed with this loss considering the level of complexity, and I really enjoy flying this aircraft regardless.
This helicopter is a great addition and has a very decent price considering how much you get. Many features of this helicopter are my favorites, overall I simply enjoyed this ‘whirlybird’. If you're a helicopter fan, this is for you. If you're not into helicopters or have thought about flying them but the default Bell 206 doesn't quite do it for you, check out the Flying Club Schweizer 300CBi.
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