17 community tips to become a good helicopter pilot

Aug 11, 2017 | by Sérgio Costa
In case you missed it, we have a Helicopter Flight Simulation group over at Facebook. We asked the group for some tips and we got some great ones!

Aérospatiale AS350

The group has all sorts of helicopter simmers there: new simmers, old simmers, new helicopter simmers, old helicopter simmers, fixed wing simmers that find us nuts but are willing to try and hardcore heli simmers that don't understand how someone can NOT love helicopters. We have a few real helicopters pilots as well!

We have tips from all sorts of simmers, to all sorts of simmers. We asked our fellow hobbyist for the "one tip". The single, most important tip they thought would make the difference for a new helicopter pilot. Check the answers below (in no particular order).

Helicopters can be daunting and the tips below will show you that everyone goes through the process in a different way. But no one had it easy!

Richard Hawley: Join this group and ask questions.

Harald Nowak: Relax.

Joshua Hamby: Make sure you have accurate controls. A cyclic, pedals, and collective.

Stuart Cassie: Every chopper is different, so get to know it. Learn how to feel the chopper. Increase the collective slowly and see what way it wants to tip and spin. some go nose down, some go tail down, some want to roll over to the left, some to the right. By increasing the collective enough to make it light on its feet, but not enough to come completely off the ground you will find out its character.

Pablo Dario: Rudder pedals. And head-tracking like OpenTrack, TrackIR and so.

Karl Høybye: Learn to switch between many helicopters that fly differently. Build the muscle memory to adapt to what ever helicopter you get in to and not so much mastering one. It will make it easier if you ever were to get in a real helicopter and had to adapt to that.

Bell 412 EC-135

John Anthony Tavares: Learn to lift off, maintain a steady hover, then put her down on the same spot!

Keep on practicing until you don't have to think about it, but can instinctively feel it happening!

Jack McPeekPedals, Rift or some sort of VR, and a decent joystick/collective setup. I use the warthog which is fine. Make sure your curves are set properly. Do not over correct, and when approaching to land, reduce speed and altitude so that you do not get into VRS. Practice hover stops, and touchdowns.

Lars Maassen: Don't get frustrated quickly, expect a shallow learning curve in the beginning. In the end it's absolutely worth it.

Terry Gardner: get an Oculus Rift , the only way to fly helicopters

Danny Mckee: You need a good joystick with a twist grip. That is all I have ever used. Set your stability sliders to EASY and spend at least 30 minutes a day for one month, flying 'copters. STOP when it becomes frustrating and try again later. (oops. Maybe 3 tips)

Jose Abarca: Im 12 years old, this is my fathers FB profile, my father taughtme airplanes when I was 6 on X-Plane.

Near 12, I decided to switch to helis, I wanted to learn by myself without my father teaching me... I remember the first words of Mr. Sergio Costa: PRACTICE PRACTICE PRACTICE

Chris Ryan: Get a set of cyclic, collective and pedal controls. Even if it's just something basic to start with. Working both hands and feet (just as you would in the real helicopter) really helps with coordination and adds to the realism. A simple joystick with a twist grip just doesn't cut it.

Bell 407

Joe Hudsonif it can be only one Tip, it's be persistent. Everyone is different, some pick it up sooner than others, some adapt to different flight controls, and Sim platforms, or like one sim model over another. but what is consistent through out all of these variables is that in order to learn helicopters, one must be persistent in acquiring the skills needed. There are things you can do to make things more realistic and enjoyable but NOTHING takes the place of Persistence. Not talent, not your super high end PC, not fancy flight controls, it's the willingness to keep at it.

Drew Bolton: Best tip I can give you.... HAVE FUN! Yes it can be daunting at first, and the learning curve may be as steep as the Himalayas, but never lose sight of how fun it is to tame this rotary winged beast. You're among an elite. Not every pilot, virtual or real can handle the demands that this inherently unstable contraption throws at us, but those who do, experience a joy unmatched in the aviation community. Enjoy every second of it.

Marshall Smith: Take your time. Period.

Let me add my own tip here as well: get your FPS to, at least 30. Any lower than that and your helicopter will be a LOT harder to control.

I must thank our community members for all their tips and for sharing a bit of their experience. Thank you folks!

Say again: join our group

Like Richard said, join us there! Share your own tips with the rest of the community or ask away!

Credits

I need to thank all the members of the community that either pitched in with their tips and the ones that sent their screenshots.

I had the HARDEST time to pick only a few (I was supposed to use only 2 and I feel really bad for not using everyone's screenshots). A big thank you for their amazing images:

  • Franz-Niklas Büter
  • Forrest Mendonça
  • Sebastien Pochari
  • Timi Hietanen
  • Harald Nowak

You folks are the best!

Sérgio Costa

About Sérgio Costa

Sérgio has been a flight simulation enthusiast for nearly 25 years. His passion with helicopters developed during MSFS 2000 when he discovered the complexity of these aircraft and the challenge it was to control them. Since then he has been primarily a helicopter flight simmer, trying his best not to crash and kill all his virtual passengers. Sérgio is HeliSimmer's editor and writer and one of the Three Grumpy Simmers, a YouTube series and Podcast produced together with YouTubers Bel Geode and NovaWing24, obviously dedicated to flight simulation.

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