by Chris “BeachAV8R” Frishmuth
The rotor-heads will be pleasantly surprised at the flight dynamics of the rotorcraft in X-Plane. Though I’m not a helicopter pilot in real life, I’ve spent countless hours flying helicopter sims on the PC. With the exception of MSFS, it has been my general observation that most helicopter sims have a pretty forgiving flight model when it comes to things like power and anti-torque control. In a helicopter, a single adjustment of any one control results in a change in three other controls, so flying helicopters can be particularly dynamic and demanding. X-Plane doesn’t fail to deliver in this area.
First I have to get used to reversing my thinking regarding power. In helicopters pushing the throttle (actually the collective) “in” (or more correctly down) reduces power (technically, the pitch of the rotor blades) while pulling it “out” (or up) adds power. Actually, it is even more complex than that once you get into putting a rolling throttle onto a collective. Any change in power requires an attendant change in rudder input as the rotor disc assembly tries to twist the fuselage opposite the rotation of the blades. Add to all of that the pitch and roll control using the cyclic and you can see what a busy time flying a helicopter can be. X-Plane models all of these inputs and if you are a novice helicopter pilot (like me) you’ll find yourself very busy just trying to control the helicopters in a hover.
For my helicopter flying enjoyment I like the Westland Sea King. (Westland Sea King by Brett Sumpter, Nils Danielson, and Ethan) Flying out to a large oil rig off the coast provides a nice challenge, although I did keep the winds and turbulence at very low levels since I have my hands full just flying in benign conditions.
As with the Harrier, it takes several approaches before I am finally able to nudge my way onto the platform. Oftentimes it feels like everything is going fine until you make a small adjustment and things start snowballing from there. Flying helicopters is a very rewarding experience and X-Plane left me with aching shoulders from the tension of trying to fly them precisely.
X-Plane does model the dimensions of your rotor disc though, so be very careful not to clip any objects or your helicopter with turn on you in a second!