The HPG H135 became quite a phenomenon in the MSFS community. In a time where helicopters are not natively supported in the sim yet, HPG took advantage of the rather robust plugin system the sim has available, took over the default flight dynamics and managed to create something that became a success.
Being the first publicly available addon of its kind, people obviously got interested, especially since MSFS is a sim that provides amazing scenery features and is better enjoyed from lower, rather than the 5-digit altitudes that a lot of the folks out there seem to enjoy flying at. Nothing against it, but that’s not really our thing, right?
Add the lack of supply to the fact that the HPG H135 is quite easy to fly (more on that later) and, suddenly, we started seeing huge interest in the projects and on helicopters in general (I hope).
The project is quite interesting, and it raised a lot of attention to this kind of aircraft and way of flying. The first versions I have written a couple of articles about this project and the reactions to those were quite interesting.
If you read those articles, though, those will give you a very small glimpse of what the project evolved over time. Like I said before, over 20 versions were released before 1.0 was out.
Nothing special here. Download the file, extract it into your MSFS community folder and you’re set.
Model and textures
We need to keep in mind this is a freeware project so there’s not a lot to expect on the visuals.
Let’s say they are enough.
There’s no bells and whistles, the model is not the best out there and even low poly as you can see some angles and rough edges, small problems with the size of some parts and other issues that you don’t expect to find in a higher-tier product, but this is what it is.
I do have an issue with the cockpit as it feels a bit odd, with some dimensions, especially on the top panel switches and the tablet attached to the main panel. Since we spend most of the time looking outside, though, it tends not to be too distracting, but it does freak me out when I pay a bit more attention to it.
Sounds seem a bit muffled and there’s no continuity on some of them. If you do a cold and dark startup, for example, you will notice that the spool-up sound eventually stops harshly which obviously kills the immersion of the process.
The engine loop is nice, though and you don’t get any artifacts that make you realize it’s actually a loop.
All in all, just like the 3D model and the textures, it’s “enough”. You can probably live with it, but you shouldn’t expect a huge quality in the sound design.
You may want to take a look at this freeware sound package that you can also find at the Flightsim.to website.
Things get a bit more interesting when it comes to systems. HGP didn’t replicate the full H135 systems, of course, but this is where the H135 gets interesting.
This is clearly where the team dedicated the most time on and it shows.
There’s something very cool about starting an aircraft from scratch and in this H135 you can do a cold-and-dark startup just like the real counterpart with only a few switch flips. Electronics are a blessing here and you should stop burning out engines this way now!
Once the helicopter is set up for flying, off you go. But you won’t be alone. You can use the Automatic Flight Control System (AFCS) to either assist you on those longer flights or to help you out with some risky maneuvers.
The combinations you can set the AFCS to are quite a few (5 of them if I am not mistaken) and you will certainly adapt the system to your own method of flying or the flight regime you are at. For example, you may want to use A.TRIM ON and set a button for trim release in case you are trying to hover, which is very handy. If you are cruising already, you can turn the autopilot on and set everything as required for those long flights.
Everything will work as expected.
Like I said, not everything was replicated on the H135, but you will find everything that is important and a few more added features and details, such as the ability to change flight models, for example.
Speaking of which…
This is where the H135 completely misses the point, for me. I can live with a so-so 3D model and an average sound pack. I do have my issues with the cockpit, which is what we spend our time looking at, but that is still kind of passable for me.
Systems are obviously important and the H135 lives of them. Let’s be honest, these machines are made to be used with these automations. They are pretty much airliners with rotary wings and despite the obvious required advanced skillset of a helicopter pilot, the aids are there to reduce the workload and increase safety.
But a helicopter should still feel like a helicopter. And I’m sorry to say, the H135, despite its many advances, still doesn’t feel like a helicopter.
Is it better? Yes. Much better. I remember the first version I tried, and it was painful to use.
You can now somewhat feel like you are hanging from the rotor, which gives that sensation of being in a helicopter. It’s not perfect but it’s more present and, as you lift the collective up, you do feel some instability. But it does still lack a whole set of other characteristics.
It still has no inertia, for example. As we move and stop movement, the H135 moves and stops very suddenly. Do a pedal turn, for example and as soon as you center the pedal, it just stops. You can have that feeling on most of what you do as if there was no weight.
Picking up speed and then stepping on the anti-torque pedal also doesn’t give you the results you’d expect. In one of my tests, I did a 180 and it kept flying backwards. Which was cool. But not realistic.
Try flying sideways and you can do it for hours at very high speed without needing any pedal. The same as you fly backwards. Although I seem to notice some weathervaning, it’s not enough to keep you on your toes. It could also be a bit of pedal input being added from my controls. I am really not sure there. The point being: you can fly sideways or backwards at very high speed.
All in all, there still are a lot of issues with the flight model, but that won’t prevent you from going from point A to point B.
One can argue that systems are there for a reason and a lot of stuff I just mentioned when addressing the flight dynamics is not really something you do in your daily operation routine while using this helicopter.
It’s certainly a perspective and I’ve also looked at it from that angle, if you are treating it as a procedural trainer. Which this is not.
I believe we should look at a product as a whole package. That’s what we are getting when we download an addon. It is comprised of several parts that make a whole and the sum of those parts eventually make up for a good or a bad product or package.
The HPG H135 does have a good set of systems which makes it very interesting if you are focused on that alone. It’s also quite easy to fly, which appeals to a lot of users out there – especially if they have little to no experience with helicopters.
One of the features I’ve seen people asking more about was the autopilot which clearly shows the importance a lot of people give to it. Funny enough, it seems like people seemed more concerned about the autopilot than proper flight dynamics. And that may have steered HGP’s decision to focus on that aspect and not so much on how the helicopter behaves outside of that scope.
At the of the day, I still can’t consider this a good product. It has many flaws on most of the areas that make these addons what they are. It’s as simple as that.
Having that said, we are talking about a freeware product, and it was still the first helicopter(ish?) publicly released, which obviously got a lot of attention and perhaps even brought a few helicopter-curious people into the niche.
Given the price tag, the H135 offers quite a lot, especially since you can always enjoy the scenery, get to understand how important helicopters are in the simming ecosystem and perhaps this opens up a whole new world for you in which you may want to know more about these machines and learn how to operate them.
I know other helicopters are coming our way (not only from Microsoft/Asobo) and I am sure we will start getting high quality ones quite soon. Hopefully, this H135 will get you interested enough so that you take a look at those helicopters, find this amazing new world and fall in love with them and what they can do.
I, again, congratulate and thank Hype Performance Group for their hard work as they brought this project to the community, and I have to say I am very curious to see how their H145 project will turn out to be. They sure have a hard task ahead to raise the bar from what the H135 is in order to make the H145 a good successor and a high quality addon worthy of the price tag they are asking for. I sincerely hope they achieve that. We need good helicopters.
As for the H135, go get it and have fun with this little freeware project. You will have a different perspective of the sim itself if you haven’t tried helicopters in the sim before.
Just make sure you check it out every now and then as this is pretty much a moving target and the team updates it quite often.