Flight Simulator X
News
Articles
Reviews
Tutorials
Gallery
Web Links
Search
Partners

Newsfeed
How to fly a helicopter
Saturday, 01 October 2005

Introduction

Helicopters are possibly much more fun than many heavy jets people are used to flying, but for some reason they are simply skipped or forgotten by most. It is a truly unique experience to fly one of them above a beautiful landscape, simulate a rescue, fire and medical emergency or have some fun transporting virtual passengers. The reasons simmers present for preferring a fixed-wing aircraft over a rotative-wing aircraft can vary: some find them boring, some find them difficult to fly and some haven't even tried them. This helicopter flying guide is for all people who are willing to give rotorheads a try and discover this amazing new experience!

Getting started

There are some important things you need to know before attempting to fly a helicopter:

1. A joystick with rudder control is highly recommended, and that goes not only for helicopters!

2. The Microsoft Flight Simulator helicopter engine is not 100% realistic, and it may take some time for you to get used to it. Don't give up too early, you'll become proficient with some practice!

3. You may want to back the realism settings a little if you're not experienced with helicopters - with some practice, you can put them at the previous level again. It is also important that the simulation runs smoothly, so make sure your display settings are correct.

For this tutorial we will be using the default Bell 206 JetRanger - after you have mastered this one, feel free to download other models at Hovercontrol.

Flight Preparation

Now that you have your joystick and realism settings checked, it's time for your to enter the Bell 206 cockpit for the first time. After you have opened Microsoft Flight Simulator, click on the Select a flight menu, and in the Chopper Pilot section, load the Kauai Scenic Tour flight. You are now in Hawaii with a Robinson B22; go to the Aircraft -> Select aircraft menu and choose the Bell 206 JetRanger. For now, make sure that the weather is clear and the winds are calm.

The panel of a helicopter looks quite different than a plane, let's start by describing it:

1. Engine oil pressure and temperature, measured in PSI and ºC

2. Transmission oil pressure and temperature, measured in PSI and ºC
3. Fuel quantity, measured in gallons
4. Fuel pressure, measured in PSI, and generator load, in percent

5. Torque, measured in percent

6. Turbine outlet temperature, measured in ºC
7. Gas producer (N1), measured in percent
8. Clock with hours, minutes and seconds hands
9. Speed, measured in knots (outer arc) and miles per hour (inner arc)
10.Rotor (NR) and turbine (N2) speed, measured in percent
11. ADF indicator, used for ADF navigation
Frequency is set on the radio stack and heading is set using the rotative HDG button
12. Attitude indicator (just like fixed-wings aircraft)
13. Horizontal situation indicator, where the heading bug and an ILS course can be set
14. VOR 2 indicator, used for VOR navigation
Frequency is set on the radio stack and course is set using the rotative OBS button
15. Altitude indicator
Pressure can be set using the rotative button on the lower-left
16. Vertical speed indicator, used for monitoring climbs and descents
17. Turn coordinator (just like fixed-wings aircraft)
18. Master and avionics switches (on/off positions)
19. Fuel valve, used for start-up and shutdowns
20. Collective/throttle panel (SHIFT+4) - controls the governor's RPM and throttle

All indications should be kept on the green band (normal). Yellow means caution and red means prohibited (not exceed) - indications on the yellow/red band might lead to an emergency!

An important concept: torque

Torque is a force generated by spinning objects - in this case, the main rotor blades. This force acts by causing the aircraft to rotate in opposite direction to the rotors; that would make helicopters not controllable at all if there wasn't a tail rotor. The tail rotor is there exclusively to counteract the torque created by the main rotor, pilots use the anti-torque pedals to change the tail rotor blades' pitch and control the yaw, thus preventing the fuselage from spinning. The anti-torque pedals are controlled exactly like rudder pedals of an airplane, and they are also used to coordinate turns.

Flight Controls

These are the flight controls of a helicopter: cyclic, collective, throttle and anti-torque pedals.

The cyclic acts like the yoke of an airplane, controlling its pitch and roll. The cyclic can be moved in all directions and it responds to the pilot's input by causing a shallow change on the blades' pitch in order to change the helicopter's attitude.

The collective moved like the parking brake on a car - it also changes the blades' pitch to produce lift that is used to make the aircraft climb and descent. However, it is not possible to even get a helicopter out of the ground if the blades aren't running fast enough, and that is what the throttle is for. The throttle is a rotative knob found on the top of the collective that simply controls the blades' RPM (speed) to increase the lift produced by them.

It is very important to know that it's not only the blades' speed (RPM - throttle) or pitch (angle - collective) that makes a helicopter climb, but rather a combination of them. This is why they start a climb/descent when the collective is moved, even though the RPM are still the same.

Getting the helicopter off the ground

Before performing a complete take-off, you must learn to hover your helicopter. First of all, I'd like to recommend that you use the virtual cockpit for helicopter flying - you can get a much more realistic feeling that should make things easier. All movements must be made very gently and carefully - don't move the collective, cyclic or the anti-torque pedals too fast, it might result on a crash!

When you are ready, start increasing your collective until torque gauge reads about 60%. At this time, the helicopter will hover no more than a couple of centimeters and you can finally see for yourself the torque effect. This is the time you should use the anti-torque pedals to control the aircraft and maintain the present heading. If things are getting out of control, reduce the collective to idle and try again.

Once you get proficient at controlling the aircraft in this situation, it's time to increase your collective a little more (about 70% torque). Now, you should finally see the helicopter hover about 3 feet off the ground; try to maintain control by using small amounts of anti-toque pedals and cyclic input. Again, if things are getting out of control, reduce the collective, land and try again (or use the slew mode). The hover is for sure the most important procedure of a helicopter, you should really practice it!

 
Click on the pictures to see a larger version (800x600)

Once you have mastered the hover, it's time for the actual take-off! Increase the collective to 75~80% torque and hover until about 10 feet - then, gently move the cyclic forward to get some speed (do not exceed 10 degrees pitch down). Always maintain a positive vertical speed and control of the aircraft by using very gentle anti-torque pedals and cyclic inputs. The best rate of climb for the Bell 206 is achieved at 52 knots - for training sake, pitch up again when you reach this speed and try to maintain it while climbing with ~85% torque.

 
Click on the pictures to see a larger version (800x600)

Phew! Taking-off with a helicopter may look easy, but it needs concentration and practice to be done correctly. If this stage is being too difficult for you, don't hesitate to back the realism settings - you can always put them up again when you are more experienced!

Please advance to the next page now ...