Is helicopter flight simulation the epitome of VR use?

Nothing beats taking up the virtual skies in Virtual Reality. But the sensation of doing it in a helicopter? Unbelievable.

Virtual reality in X-Plane

Virtual Reality is changing our hobby. Virtually speaking, you can now get inside any cockpit of any aircraft and look around to all controls and gauges just where they are in real life.

Within all the gaming genres out there, I believe flight simulation is the one that provides the best use-case for the technology. I have tried my VR headset with several different titles and never gave me the same feeling and joy that flight simulation gives me.

Of course, I can be biased, but the thing is that flying around the virtual world and controlling an aircraft is just… Wow!

There’s a type of aircraft that further expands or elevates that wow factor: helicopters.

Helicopters put you, the pilot, front and center. You are placed very near the nose of the aircraft, usually surrounded by a glass bubble that lets you have amazing visibility pretty much all around you.

You can fly slow and low around areas you already know and enjoy the view or explore areas that are completely new to you.

You can also land on that tiny clear in the middle of the forest and, if your sim allows you (X-Plane does, for example), you can even walk around and check the scenery like no one usually does.

Virtual reality in X-Plane Virtual reality in X-Plane Virtual reality in X-Plane

You see, virtual pilots are usually flying high and fast. Very often in airliners several thousands of feet above the Earth. Not helicopter pilots. On the other hand, us helicopter pilots fly low – very low. We enjoy our contact with the stuff that most folks want to break away from – the ground. We find the oddest places to land and we set our virtual skids (or, sometimes, wheels) there just because… Well… We can.

Having this experience in Virtual Reality is a real treat. You’ll be pretty much swinging your head to be aware of your surroundings but also to enjoy the scenery.

While hovering, you’ll make use of a bit more of peripheral vision to help you keep the helicopter stable. The increased depth perception helps you estimate your distances a lot better and the fact that you can actually put your head outside the helicopter and look down at the skids can be a life saver.

Virtual reality in X-Plane Virtual reality in X-Plane

Of course, you can do all this by using an external view. But is that realistic enough for you? It can be, don’t get me wrong. After all we all use our sims the way we can. But I tell you: getting your virtual head outside the window and looking down… I wouldn’t trade that for all the external cameras in the world.

Virtual Reality seemed to have been built with flight simulation in mind and, especially helicopters. It’s an amazing demonstration of the technology and incredibly fun to use under this context.

I, for one, am sold. I can’t fly helicopters without VR anymore. And I truly believe it’s the very best example anyone can have of how Virtual Reality can be used.

If you haven’t tried simming in VR, you are really missing out.

If you did, you know what I’m talking about, right? Buy hey: have you tried it with a helicopter?

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.com'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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