Microsoft Flight Simulator X, FlightGear, and Digital Combat Simulator are some of the best helicopter flight simulator software solutions for Windows PCs. Despite that many view flight simulators as just video games, the role they play is far more important.
These tools can help novice pilots experience their first flights while eliminating the risks that inexperienced aircraft piloting entails. Furthermore, they can also serve in recreating difficult or expensive scenarios without using real aircraft equipment.
Regardless of their usage type, flight simulators can deliver satisfactory results by generating high-fidelity flight scenarios for almost any situation. So you can just buckle up, and prepare for taking off because you’re in for a fun ride.
Digital Combat Simulator
Alright, fine, we’ll give you this: Digital Combat Simulator might be more of a game than an educational tool, but it can and does recreate with high fidelity many aspects of what it’s like to pilot a helicopter.
However, many, if not all models in this flight simulator are military ones, so don’t act all shocked when the aircraft of your choice is able to spit fire at the ground beneath you.
Joke aside, regarding helicopters, Digital Combat Simulator only offers four models that you can toy with freely, namely:
- SA342 Gazelle – light attack/scout helicopter that can also be used for transportation;
- UH-1H Huey – also known as UH-1 Iroquois, or simply “the Huey,” is one of the most iconic helicopters in the world;
- Mi-8MTV2 Magnificent Eight – an upgraded version of one of the most widely-produced helicopters, the Mi-8MTV2;
- Black Shark – a simulation of the Russian Ka-50 attack helicopter;
Well, not exactly freely. While Digital Combat Simulator might be free to play (or try, for that matter), each of these helicopters is sold separately.
That being said, the selection of helicopters might not be impressive, but the feeling you’ll get while virtually piloting any one of them might be one you won’t soon forget.
As stated before, X-Plane 11 is one of the most versatile flight simulators out there, mainly because it offers support for a broad range of aircraft, which fortunately includes helicopters, alongside airplanes and rotorcraft.
The not-so-good part of this is that most helicopter models aren’t included in the basic version of the game, so if you fancy flying around in a Nimbus UH-1, Bell 407, or V-22 Osprey, you’ll have to pay up more than just for X-Plane 11.
The X-Plane 11 store currently holds these helicopter models:
- Robinson R22 Beta II;
- DF 206 Ranger III
- Eurocopter AS350 B3 Plus
- Bell 407 XP10
- Bell 412
- Bell 407 XP11
- Guimbal Cabri G2 Project
- VSKYLABS Test-Pilot: Mini-500
- V-22 Osprey
- Nimbus UH-1
- The VSKYLABS ‘Test-Pilot’: Cicare-8 Project
You can download a demo version of X-Plane 11 and try it before deciding whether you want to purchase a license or not. On the bright side, X-Plane 11 enables you to load custom airplanes and helicopters into the simulator, granted you find compatible files to begin with.
FlightGear is, if nothing else, one of the most convenient flight simulators for helicopters out there. Why?
Well, for starters, because it’s free, and not only that, it’s also open-source, which means someone’s probably always staying up late, toiling over this project and polishing it to perfection.
It might not have the same level of definition as other flight simulators on this list, but at least you don’t have to pay top dollar for the privilege of using it.
Additionally, unlike similar software solutions, FlightGear grants you an extensive list of aircraft models that includes a wide selection of helicopters, which you can download on your Windows computer for free, instead of purchasing them separately.
If you haven’t had enough good news for today, we’re going to give you a couple more. First of all, piloting a helicopter in FlightGear is more rewarding than flying an airplane, since the downward view is not as restricted, and you’ll be able to enjoy the scenery in a more wide sense.
Secondly, it’s possible to land your helicopter virtually anywhere you’d like, as airports are no longer required for doing so. However, if you like keeping things official, you could always spot a helipad and lay the aircraft gently on top of it.
Microsoft Flight Simulator X
Microsoft Flight Simulator X also gets a mention in this list since it’s one of the most popular flight simulators and it can handle helicopters nearly as well as it does airplanes.
If you’ve used this flight simulator for a while, you can notice there are some quite huge gaps between piloting a regular airplane and flying a helicopter, and not just because of their different working principle and mechanics.
Many users lack proper controllers for flight simulators and default to using their keyboard, which, in the helicopter’s case, makes you miss most of the fun and educational value of using a joystick or flight stick.
However, Microsoft Flight Simulator X lets you deal with important aspects of piloting a helicopter, such as the ground effect, retreating blade stall, vortex ring state and cushioning, autorotation, as well as lift dissymmetry.
Unfortunately, Microsoft Flight Simulator X doesn’t come with a trial version to download and try, but it’s pretty popular by now, so you should already know that purchasing it won’t turn out to be a waste of money.
Closing thoughts on best helicopter flight simulator software for PCs
To wrap it up, more and more flight simulator enthusiasts find themselves more comfortable in “team helicopter” rather than “team airplane,” hence the need to create software solutions to satisfy the needs of both sides.
In this situation, FlightGear, Microsoft Flight Simulator X, X-Plane 11, and Digital Combat Simulator are all great tools that can create high-fidelity renditions of what it feels like to be a chopper pilot.
However, you should choose wisely, as some of them are military-oriented, while others require you to purchase helicopters separately, or lack high-definition graphics.