I noticed a new tenant out at the airport a few weeks ago. Most times times I never notice new people at all, but this guy was notably different: instead of an airplane in his hangar, there is a spiffy little Robinson R22 Beta II which, for the uninitiated, is one of the two piston-engined helicopters most commonly owned by private pilots. They’re expensive, even relative to airplanes, and they make up for that by being embarrassingly costly to maintain. It follows, then, that machines of that sort are also ghastly when it comes to an hourly rental rate. At $200+ per hour, plus the instructor, it’s no surprise that very few people buy helicopters. That is not to say that there aren’t a whole lot of folks that want to, though. They’re a lot like a Ferrari that way.
Seeing that little helicopter got my mind working overtime trying to figure out a way to cadge a ride in it. I give rides all the time myself, but my hourly fuel burn is about $14. It’s pretty painless to give that away. I do my own maintenance, so I also don’t have a whole lot of costs associated with that either. I can’t just come out and ask, what with knowing how much it costs just to fly the thing for an hour.
My despondency was short-lived. It was only a week or so later that I discovered a new toy in my Aerosoft FS2 hangar! Those good people had gifted me, along with anyone else that owns their flight sim, with a spanking new Robinson R22 Beta II at no charge whatsoever! That’s a pretty good deal when you consider how much behind the scenes work went into developing all of the new flight physics for it. And it wasn’t just a nod and a wink kind of development, either. They went the extra distance to make a high-fidelity physics model, and were generous enough it make the use of it optional.
Suffering a spate of rampant ego, I opted for the Professional physics. I don’t regret it, and I freely admit that despite over five hours of practicing with it I’m still all over the sky, but I have gone back to the Not a Professional level. That works a lot better for me, although I will probably go back to the Pro physics once I get more experience with the nimble little chopper, but only in VR. In order to capture the video for this post, I had to fly on the flat monitor and found it to be just as bad as I remembered it. In addition to the loss of depth perception, it also becomes much harder to hit tiny switches with the mouse, as you will see.
They went beyond the physics with the level of interactivity too. They went so far as to model the engine governor. The governor is used to manage the fine-tuning of the throttle for the pilot. That’s needed because a helicopter is flown by changing the pitch of the rotor blades. And change in pitch causes a change in how much power is needed from the engine. Since it is very nearly impossible to fly a helicopter without making thousands of small control inputs, which change the pitch of the rotor blades and thus the power required from the engine, the pilot would constantly have to pay close attention to the engine throttle to keep it in synch with the demand. The governor does that as kind of an autopilot for the engine. In the video, you can hear the engine power change when I switch off the governor. That is excellent attention to detail.
If you own Aerofly FS 2 and haven’t used it for awhile, take a look! Conversely, if you haven’t picked it up yet, take another look. Both the Robinson and the Saab PeopleHauler are payware quality and worth the price of admission in and of themselves.