The X-Plane.org Community user JohnBray uploaded his current version of the H120, version 1.0.5 as of Mai 16, 2019 and Pasqual took her for a spin.
Unlike many other aircraft addons, this aircraft model isn’t just freeware, it’s open source, published under the GNU General Public License (GPL), so everyone is free to use the code and 3d model, improve it, and release it himself under the GPL.
The Airbus H120, former Eurocopter EC120, is a single turbine light helicopter seating a total of five. Developed in the 1990s with its maiden flight in 1995, the helicopter is seen all over the world in VIP transport and TV teams due to its quiet operation (mainly thanks to the fenestron).
Manufacturing stopped in 2017 due to low orders prompting Airbus to move away from the low end market.
Simple, like most other addons in X-Plane, you get a ZIP file, extract the folder into the “Extra Aircraft” folder, and you’re good to go.
First and foremost, don’t expect the helicopter systems and buttons to be fully simulated. This isn’t a ‘Study Level Sim’ addon, to quote some people in the Flight Sim Community.
It does feature a working panel including the VEMD (Vehicle and Engine Multifunctions Display) startup and main display modes and standard X-Plane GNS430, and that’s usually all we really need to fly, right?
One noticeable feature is a tablet with several pages on it, used mainly for debugging. To enable it, bind the function “jb/sasl/iPads/toggle” to a joystick or keyboard button.
Please note that although there is a page with some control switches, it’s currently not possible to startup using these controls, only via the menu or the “Shift - Ctrl - E” shortcut.
Further information about this can be found on the community page.
Flight Path Marker
The one feature that sets it apart from most other X-Plane models though, is the Flight Path Marker that clearly shows you where the helicopter is actually heading, like in the HUD of modern jet fighters. This can be really helpful for novice helicopter pilots in the transition from fixed wing aircraft, even more so combined with the optional assisted flight dynamics.
In VR, it’s not really helpful though, as you will see an indicator for each eye with separate information. Similar to the tablet, this is enabled by binding the function “jb/sasl/hud/toggle” to a joystick or keyboard button.
Note beforehand: I’m reviewing version 1.0.5, this is currently being tested, version 1.0.4 that is publicly available had some issues with tail / vertical stabilizer authority that have been resolved in 1.0.5. This model is constantly being improved, you can follow the discussion and new test versions on the forums.
The flight model reflects a helicopter its size. It needs to be flown actively with constant inputs and an ever vigilant eye to keep it on track. The H120 reacts with precise changes in flight vector on all inputs. There’s no SAS, no fly-by-wire and no 10 tons of mass inertia between your input and the helicopter and it shows. This is the main reason I really like to fly it even though it lacks in other parts detailed below.
I encountered an issue with skid damping and friction on the original file but I was able to resolve this on my own by adjusting some values. Apparently, this depends on hardware controls; if you find that the helicopter doesn’t seem to stand firmly on the skids but moves like on soft landing gear, try this version.
You will find the file with my changes on the Development thread in the forums (see above), posted under the Nick “Eteokles”.
Throughout the flight envelope, you need to put in a surprising amount of rudder for every change in collective pitch. This is largely due to the fact that the H120 is equipped with a Fenestron (ducted tail rotor with 8 blades) instead of a conventional tail rotor and doesn’t feel too bad once you get used to it.
The few autorotations I did were very controlled and stable. The helicopter clearly doesn’t have much inertia and needs to be controlled precisely to keep the energy up.
In short, autos are doable but not easy.
One more thing to note: In addition to the Tablet and Flight Path Marker HUD the H120 gives you the option to enable “Instructor Assisted” flight dynamics that helps keeping the tail more stable. I personally didn’t feel much difference but your mileage may vary. Similar to the Tablet and HUD, this is enabled by binding the function “jb/sasl/yawDamper/toggle” to a joystick or keyboard button.
The 3D Model
The model is nice enough, but doesn’t show every rivet and swashplate link detail.
There are four skins included. More repaints, a gloss/metallic mod and the repaint kit can be found on the X-Plane.org Forums .
Something to notice, the rotor disk seems to be angled forward very significantly at all times, I couldn’t confirm this on pictures of the real helicopter but it doesn’t seem to affect the flight dynamics negatively.
There is a slight reflection in the windscreen, enough to notice, not enough to disturb IMO.
The sounds seem to be completely off. In-flight it sounds like a turboprop with some twin bladed rotor system sounds mixed in. It doesn’t change when yanking the cyclic around for some hard banks or descend quickly; there doesn’t seem to be blade flap sounds in there, no matter what I do.
All in all, some tender loving care in the sound recorder would not go amiss.
I almost exclusively fly helicopters in VR with the Oculus Rift. Like most other aircraft, I encountered some issues reading the numbers on the gauges in this model.
And like most other aircraft, I can live with it by leaning closer in the beginning, and knowing which number is at which position with time and experience.
Other than that, there isn’t much to say, all around visibility is really good!
The H120 Colibri is a light helicopter and it shows. Don't fly it expecting a heavy 10-tonner with stabilising gizmos.
Luckily, she isn’t a Mini 500 or R-22 either.
Expect a well rounded helicopter; small, light and powerful enough to land anywhere, big and heavy enough not to be a pushover wanting to kill you on lift-off.
The model by JohnBray is done well all around, but not as refined as you might expect. If you’re looking for a small, powerful freeware helicopter, look no further and download the H120, even more so if you just began flying helicopters.
It doesn’t bring the most beautiful 3d model nor the best sound package out there, but all in all you can expect a solid freeware model.
- Well rounded helicopter, not too hard to fly
- Offers special features aimed at novice helicopter pilots
- The cockpit panel is great and offers high resolution
- After the recent changes, the flight model is amazing
- The 3D Model isn’t very detailed
- The textures seem to have a rough surface and surreal glare to them
- Buttons and systems don’t work for startup or other procedures
Please note: the link above was either provided by the author of the product, the store that sent us the review copy or a personal choice of the article writer. It does not, in any way, indicate an endorsement of HeliSimmer.com to the website hereby linked.