Back in April, IPACS sent me their R22 but, with a warning: what I was about to experiment was not the flight model they have been working for so long.
IPACS wanted me to try the helicopter in the sim, but using the easy flight model as the advanced model (which they decided to call “professional” – or “profi”) was still under development with the help of the renowned helicopter pilot, Claude Vuichard.
The wait was killing me (and you guys as well, as far as some of you have told me) so, when I got an email from IPACS telling me they were updating my build, which added the “profi” flight model – as well as a few other features, I got really excited. And nervous.
Why was I nervous? Well, because I want IPACS to do this right. I want any sim with a helicopter to be of the highest quality and the flight models to be good.
I use a specific sim more often but that doesn’t mean I want others to fail. Quite the opposite: I want all of them to thrive. In the end, my wish is for us to have a good set of tremendous, realistic (as much as possible with our home computers) helicopters. That’s the dream (a helisimmer’s dream, at least).
So, yes, I was nervous.
IPACS also told me that it was now possible to select helipads as the starting spot and that I could find them around several places, but downtown Los Angeles was probably the easiest one to find. And there they were: a nice and easy way to take off from the top of a building. It was time to try the new flight model.
To enable the professional flight model mode (Profi mode), there's an option you can check while selecting your aircraft. In this case, obviously, the R22.
I started by increasing the collective and the almighty torque kicked in, forcing me to compensate with my pedals, as expected, which was a huge expected difference from the easy flight model.
I hovered a few feet of the ground, which was not easy until I started to know the physics a little better. The first few seconds were a disaster but, after I stabilized, everything was a bit smoother.
The first thing I wanted to test was ground effect. I made sure I wasn’t gaining or losing altitude and then I nudged the R22 to the edge of the building, where I then popped out to the side.
I didn’t notice any asymmetry on lift as came out of the rooftop, but the helicopter started descending, as I came out of ground effect (OGE). I returned to the top of the building and repeated my test a couple more times.
I noticed another building lower than the one I was at in a shape of a small ladder. Well, it was actually just a rooftop with a lower area (so, one higher than the other).
I left the rooftop I was at and, without touching the collective, I flew to the second building. As I got to the highest part, the helicopter almost hit the top of it but immediately came up, to about the same altitude as I was on the first building.
I pushed the helicopter towards the lowest part of the ceiling, where it dropped and, again, remained at the same altitude from the roof.
Yep, IGE and OGE are working nicely.
Time to fly a bit around.
Transverse flow effect and translational lift
I gained speed and, at around 15-20kts I noticed the R22 gained altitude but also nudged to the right, needing me to correct it with left cyclic.
The altitude gain was an effect of translational lift. The nudge to the right was the result of transverse flow effect (we may have an article about it soon).
Check and check.
Vortex Ring State
Ah… The one dynamic to which a lot of people immediately say how much a sim helicopter is realistic or not.
Vortex Ring State (or VRS) is a very dangerous effect that has killed many pilots and it will put you in a bad situation if you are not careful enough.
But what a lot of folks don’t realize is that, although not impossible, VRS doesn’t happen easily. It certainly doesn’t happen as easily as in DCS, for example.
A few pilots I’ve talked to told me that the only situations they entered VRS was because they forced it and, even as they tried it, it was not easy. And it’s not easy with the R22 either.
I was only able to enter VRS a couple of times (one of them inadvertently), and the way I got out of it was the same as in any sim that simulates it: collective went down and moved the cyclic forward, to get out of the turbulent downdraft.
Increasing collective would do nothing, so that’s good news for the folks that see VRS as the Holy Grail of helicopter flight simulation.
I really need to learn how to enter VRS more often as I want to try Mr. Vuichard’s technique to exit VRS. After all, he was involved in the development of this R22!
These were the scariest I ever had in a sim. Hands down. I’ve done them on all the sims out there but none felt so scary as the ones I did in Aerofly FS2 with the R22.
Things happen fast, and you feel like you could lose control rapidly if you’re not on top of everything.
If you try some autos on this baby, pay attention, folks: she’s not here to play. She means serious business.
Speaking of “meaning serious business”, IPACS seem to be very serious as they develop the R22 and the flight dynamics for helicopters.
When I first approached IPACS a couple of years ago and asked them about helicopters, it was something they were considering but weren’t sure if there was a demand for it.
As they started working on the R22, things have started to get very clear to them and the partnerships they have been doing around the sim, are nothing short of amazing.
Having a team such as the VRMotion and Mr. Claude Vuichard to help develop their product is brilliant.
The attention to detail that IPACS has shown (seriously, guys, you HAVE to check out the yaw string – if IPACS uses the same technology for sling loading, it should be very interesting and fun) is incredible and the R22 is coming along really nicely.
I’ve had one of the best experiences with a helicopter in a sim while testing the R22 and I believe that, if IPACS plays their cards right, Aerofly FS2 can become a serious contender in the space of helicopter flight simulation – for both the hobbyist and the professional market; hands down.
Now this will mean they will need to come up with features such as better models for helipads and cities, “real” water, better autogen, firefighting and sling loading done right, cold and dark starts and other stuff that’s already present as default in other sims. Upping the quality and information of their SDK is also crucial.
IPACS is a good team and Aerofly FS2 has a lot of potential but the team needs to step up and do more. I don’t know of anyone that I’ve talked to about the sim that is not curious about it. Folks want to try it. And we know that when the community gets involved, they will do everything in their power to help developers improve their products.
IPACS may be sitting on top of a great opportunity. Especially because I know these folks listen to us. But they do need to get more resources and focus on making FS2 an AAA sim.
Don’t forget: Aerofly FS2 is still a great VR experience
And, folks, like my dear friend Bel Geode says, Aerofly FS2 is the best VR experience in a sim.
He was the one pointing it out to me and I am the one backing him up on this.
Yes, that's right: Aerofly FS2 is using Vulkan. You need to enable it on the settings menu, but you can experience it on a sim right away.
OK then? When is the R22 coming out?
Soon. Really soon. I mean, REALLY soon.
EDIT: IPACS confirmed they are trying to release it next week.
I was told by IPACS that the release might be done within the next few days. If I would have to guess, I would say in less than two weeks. Perhaps next week, from what I’ve seen from the product. But don’t expect it to be out next week. It’s just my guess. We’re talking about software and stuff may (and usually does) happen. But yes, folks, IPACS actually told me they are days away from a release.