Since then, I have been trying all the updates that were released – and there were quite a few of them – and following the project with interest.
This is a project that has been somewhat dividing the rotorhead community. Some are super-excited and saying this is the best thing that happened to MSFS, while others are really upset about it because, well… It’s not really up to what they expect helicopters should be in the sim.
I believe we can be somewhere in the middle though: while the flight dynamics may not up to the standard of some of the sims we use, folks can still enjoy it for what it is.
Before we proceed, I need to say that the amount of work put into this project is impressive and I have the greatest respect for what these guys managed to do, considering the limitations. I have had the chance to tell that to the developers directly as well as provide my opinions and constructive criticism.
It also shows that it’s possible to go outside the box in Microsoft Flight Simulator after all, which means the sim is (somewhat) ready for more complex development. Yes, I do know there are some issues with the SDK and development, but I have to say I didn’t expect this to be possible at all in the first place.
Parts of the information in this article also came directly from Hype Performance Group (which I will refer as HPG from now on, for brevity’s sake), whom I have contacted about this follow-up.
Once more: what you should and shouldn’t expect from this project
The Airbus H135 Helicopter Project started after HPG noticed that there was a high demand for helicopters in MSFS. The team made it their goal to “prove that helicopters could be done in the current state of MFS and could be enjoyable to fly above all else”.
Having previous experience with MSFS (the group has released 5 other projects for the sim), they rolled up their sleeves as decided to give it a go.
Over the last few weeks, the team has been improving and updating the model, which is becoming more interesting as new versions come out. In fact, the flight dynamics and systems have improved quite a bit in one of the earlier updates, thanks to the work of Dave (AKA davux3) and the constant feedback of the community, especially on the group’s Discord server.
Dave has a background as a professional developer and is the “responsible for the development work needed to create a flight model that could support helicopters, as well as all the custom avionics and features such as the spotlight that users love”. You can find him to be quite active on the group’s Discord server and he is quite responsive to feedback.
Having that said, when you try the 135, make sure you select the correct flight model. You can select between XBOX, Basic and Advanced, each giving you different features. Everything I mention in this article relates to the Advanced flight model.
This is a fun little aircraft that you can use to enjoy the scenery and simulate some helicopter missions. It does hover, move sideways, backwards and, through the beforementioned advanced flight model, you get a simplistic implementation of dynamics such as torque and ETL (Effective Translational Lift), which makes it a bit more interesting.
Using this flight model, the H135 also becomes slightly nimbler.
Do not expect these dynamics to be perfect. You will notice most will be very linear. Torque, for example, doesn’t seem to have weathervane in consideration. As the fuselage and vertical stab tries to force the helicopter to keep flying straight, increasing, or decreasing collective, although does have an effect on torque but it shouldn’t be as noticeable as when you are hovering, for example. That’s not true here.
Using the anti-torque pedals is also very linear and abrupt. Once you center the pedals, the helicopter simply stops turning. This lack of inertia is felt in pretty much everything you do with the helicopter.
There’s a lack of other dynamics such as in and out-of-ground-effect or translating tendency, for example. The team has been talking about improving and adding those effects in the future, but they are either not present yet or still quite basic, so don’t expect an experience similar to the one you can have on other sims.
All in all, this is not a project for those that are looking for realistic (as much as possible in a home sim) flight dynamics.
Nonetheless, if you are looking to fill the gap until Microsoft and Asobo do their thing, the Airbus H135 Helicopter Project is, indeed, your best (and only) option right now. It allows you to look at the scenery in a different way and it gives you a glimpse of the fun behind flying helicopters in the sim.
That was actually the team’s goal since the beginning. They never aimed at releasing a perfect helicopter but rather, “something that provides a fun and engaging user experience”. And if you look past all that I mentioned above, it can really be fun. It’s not something I’ll be spending a lot of time in myself (I will keep on using good, old, trustworthy X-Plane), but I can see why a lot of people are having a blast with it.
If you are looking for a more “serious” helicopter sim, though, this is not what you’re looking for and you may need to find other options.
Meanwhile, the team behind the project will keep on working on the H135 and, perhaps someday, they will be able to add a proper flight model and systems that will make this model shine. As they put it, they "will continue to push the boundaries of what is capable inside of Microsoft Flight Simulator", even after 1.0 of the H135 comes out.
Until then, it can be a great excuse to boot up MSFS and go for a ride if, like me, fixed wing aircraft are not your thing and you are not looking for a “realistic” experience.
Until then, if you’re up to fly around in something that could give you a glimpse at what helicopters could one day be in MSFS, jump right in and give it a try. And don’t forget to pass by their Discord server, where you will find a thriving community.