Stop the presses! Microsoft Flight Simulator is getting yet a new helicopter . This time, it’s a payware one, coming from the team that brought VR to FSX and X-Plane (before it got native VR support) and made their own flight simulator .
And when they did their FlyInside Flight Simulator, they added great support for helicopters. In fact, they built their own flight dynamics engine and helicopters in this sim are really fun to fly and believe very solid.
With the release of Microsoft Flight Simulator, FlyInside saw it as an opportunity. They started wondering if they could import their flight dynamics into the sim and, since Asobo provided the tools to do so, they started experimenting.
Once they were sure that everything would work as planned, they dropped the bombshell: FlyInside would be releasing a helicopter for Microsoft Flight Simulator . A Bell 47-G2 was coming our way.
Why a Bell 47???
There are so many other amazingly cool helicopters out there! Why a Bell 47???
Well, first of all, “amazingly cool” is quite a relative subject. What’s cool for me may not be cool for others. No, the Bell 47 is not my favorite helicopter, but she is an amazing classic!
And, let me put on my developer hat here, it’s quite a smart way to enter the market. I have been suggesting this approach to several developers with whom I talk about their possible entry into the helicopter flight simulation world: start simple.
There’s a lot to learn and getting yourself into a project that is too complicated may result in frustration, delays and, eventually, burnout and abandonment.
We don’t want to see that happening, right?
So, start with a simple helicopter and build your expertise and knowledge from there as you create more complex models. Smooth and steady.
Setting things up
Before jumping into the helicopter, we need to set some things first.
The Bell 47 comes with a small piece of software, the FlyInside Heli Manager, which allows you to configure somethings on the model. Namely, the flight model. You can select how easy or hard you want the helicopter to behave.
This is, obviously, a very welcome addition as not everyone will have the same degree of expertise and/or hardware (which can make a huge difference). Options are always nice, even if you don’t use them.
Given the experience I have with helicopters and the hardware I use (the Pro Flight Trainer Puma , which works great with MSFS, by the way), I went full “Realistic”. After all, I wanted to see how she behaves.
I have to say my default settings when pre/reviewing something is to be skeptical. Not that I was doubting what FlyInside told me when they reached out to me about this project. I just try not to be negative or positive towards a product until I actually try it.
I also set up my axes as per FlyInside’s recommendations. If you are coming from FSX/P3D you may remember that these sims had/have no collective axis. On helicopters, you would assign your physical collective (from your controller) to the throttle and your throttle control would be assigned to what the sim calls ‘Propeller Axis’.
It’s the same here (at least until Asobo changes it and adds an actual collective axis).
Developed by a real Bell 47 pilot
Before moving on, just a note: one of the FlyInside developers working on this Bell 47 is an actual pilot with experience in the type.
We know this could mean everything or nothing at all but it’s good to know, and an indication that a lot of effort was probably put in by this guy.
It was time to get the old bird in the air. And, I have to tell you, I was both excited and worried as I always want a product to be a good one.
I tested the controls and the cockpit animations followed suit. Collective up and left pedal in. Oh! The torque really kicked in! She got light on the skids. A bit more of collective and… We’re airborne.
She is twitchy! It took me some time to get used to her and I immediately thought it was better to just give her some forward motion so I could get used to the controls. It’s always a good idea for you to do something like this and not try to hover a helicopter you don’t know yet.
I didn’t pull the collective anymore. Instead, I just pushed the cyclic forward. Effective Translational Lift (ETL) kicked in as I hoped it would and I gained some altitude.
The view was amazing! But I will get to it later on. Trust me!
I did a couple of patterns at LPCS (Cascais, near Lisbon, Portugal – kind of my testing hub) came back to the runway and landed. As I reduced speed, I lost ETL, again as expected. IGE kicked in, I hovered her (not as well as I wish I would, to be honest – she IS a bit on the twitchy side). Eased in on the collective and touched down.
First flight was done, and a few boxes already crossed.
- In Ground Effect (IGE)
- Out of Ground Effect (OGE)
- Effective Translational Lift (ETL)
I also noticed a few other things:
While flying with this B47 it does feel like we are hanging on the rotor. You also feel the inertia and the weight of the helicopter. If feels… Organic, just like you expect physics to work. Which makes it all a bit harder, but also more challenging and fun. Not everyone will appreciate it but that’s exactly why FlyInside has added the ability to control the difficulty of the flight dynamics.
The initial testing was done, and it was time to make sure everything I noticed on that first flight is there as well as do some more testing and check all the boxes that I consider important.
I did some more In and Out of Ground Effect tests to make sure everything checked out. It was exceptionally smooth, and it all made sense in my mind. Just out of curiosity, I found out that the initial build seemed to have IGE kick in a bit too late (when the helicopter was lower than I expected). I talked to FlyInside about it, and they took action and reviewed it.
One of the things I wanted to test a bit more was torque and how speed affected it.
I also took a look at VRS ( which doesn’t always indicate the quality of a flight model , but it’s always something people ask about).
Something else I wanted to confirm it worked properly was weathervaning (or weathercocking). This is tendency for the fuselage to turn into the wind because of its aerodynamic features. Try to fly backwards at a higher speed and you will be in for some fun!
Another box checked.
Time to get into the most fun side of things. Let me tell you right away: autorotations in this thing do take a bit to get used to.
For our convenience, FlyInside has added a governor to this model, which controls engine RPM so that we don’t have to worry about it if we don’t want to. If you DO want to give it a try, it does add an extra layer of realism and makes the helicopter even more fun if that’s your thing. So, do try it if you have the extra axis (don’t forget to set it to propeller pitch).
I took her to a nice altitude (around 1500 feet), turned the governor off, rolled off the throttle and… Oooof! She started falling fast.
I tried to keep the RPM in the green (the little green arch that becomes even smaller when we need to keep a needle in there), speed up to what Rick (the FlyInside dev that used to fly this type) had told me, which was around 60-65mph and down we went.
Like I said, it does take a bit to get used to and I am not particularly proud of my first auto in the B47. Or the second. Or the third.
It doesn’t matter! I managed to somewhat land and I am quite sure I could come out of it alive. The truth is that on the second auto, I got a little better and the same happened with the few ones I did next. I am not a professional doing autorotations on this thing – not by a long shot, but I managed to improve a bit and, although I manage to screw up a bit (a lot!) now and then, it’s something that I am slowly getting used to and getting to know her a bit more.
The bottom line is: autorotations are possible and they are challenging. They may not be 100% on the numbers – I didn’t compare it with a chart, to be honest as this is a preview and I just want to give you the overall feeling of the helicopter – but it feels damn good. And somewhat scary.
OK, a lot scary. Especially in VR!
Again, kudos to Rick. Part of the sounds on the FlyInside Bell 47 are from his own recordings and they are just fantastic.
Push her around a bit and you’ll get that amazing blade flap the Bell 47 does (remember M.A.S.H.?). The purring of the engine, it’s all fantastic.
The only thing that I wish was more present was a bit of those noises that are not really part of the engine. Small metal sounds, vibrations, stuff that makes it all come to live a bit more and immerses you in the sim. But really, I am nitpicking here already.
The sound experience with this model is absolutely fantastic and it adds to the great flight model and good-looking 3D model as well.
The (amazing) VR experience
All right, ladies and gentlemen.
Microsoft Flight Simulator’s beautiful scenery was made to be enjoyed in a helicopter. Using VR. Period.
Add a huge bubble like the one of the Bell 47 and we should have a major winner, right? Right!
And that, we do. Taking off in the Bell 47 for the first time gave me some chills in my stomach. I kid you not. The sensation of climbing with such huge freedom is unbelievable cool. And, once you pass that initial stage of perhaps… Small shock? You then focus in getting the helicopter in control and just enjoy the scenery.
It’s such an absolutely fantastic experience. No videos will ever do proper justice to it. If you find some videos out there showing the Bell 47 in VR. Do not believe your eyes, because, as with anything VR, you have to actually try it to fully experience it.
This helicopter is just absolutely amazing to fly in VR. Hands down. Period.
I have nothing else to say about it. I wouldn’t be making any justice to the helicopter or the sim.
Making it all easier
If you read through all of this, and you are not really someone that has been dedicated to helicopter, you probably got a bit scared with all the acronyms and that stuff that, really, means nothing to you.
ETL, IGE, OGE, what’s all that? I just want to fly!
Don’t worry. FlyInside has your back. Using their application (which, again, is installed with the Bell 47), you can configure the Bell 47 and make it as easy or as hard as you want it to be.
So, even if you are just starting with helicopters but you have the option to evolve to something that will require you a bit more of “stick” – and become a better pilot – FlyInside’s Bell 47 will help you with that.
But do remember: no matter how “easy” the helicopter is, you will always have to practice, practice, practice. And if you need more help, you can always access our How to Fly Helicopters section or ask for assistance in our Facebook Group where over 8,500 members are ready to help you out!
Should I get it?
Let me give you the short, straightforward answer: yes.
If you want the long answer, I will tell you the same I always tell everyone: it will depend on what is it that you are looking for in a sim.
I can tell you that, for me, it checks all my boxes. It feels “real”, it behaves greatly, it’s quite the challenge and, although I will not make any direct comparisons with other sims, I can tell you that I would put this helicopter in the same category as DCS or X-Plane. I am not saying it’s the SAME as an Aerofly FS2, DCS or X-Plane helicopter.
A DCS helicopter is not the same as an X-Plane or Aerofly FS2 helicopter either. Or vice-versa. Or <insert any combination here>.
But, if I had to categorize a certain type of helicopters and say, “OK these are the ones that I would fly”, Aerofly FS2, DCS and X-Plane are on my obvious list. And now, so is the FlyInside Bell 47-G2 for Microsoft Flight Simulator.
I have been looking for an reason to spend some time in Microsoft Flight Simulator but, because of the lack of a helicopter that would check my boxes (yes, I am aware of the freeware H135 and yes, I am very appreciative of their work) the only times I have booted the sim was to update it.
I can say that FlyInside has finally given me a reason to use Microsoft Flight Simulator. And that reason is their Bell 47-G2.
Well played, FlyInside.
When and where to get it
The FlyInside Bell 47-G2 for Microsoft Flight Simulator should be available on April 30, 2021 is already available at the FlyInside website.