The 300 is easily one of the favorites of the X-plane family of DreamFoil models. First released for X-plane 10, it was recovered by the community with enthusiasm and praise. X-plane 10 was (in terms of flight simulators) a long time ago. It’s not a secret that X-plane 11 wasn’t as kind to aircraft ported over from X-plane 10, especially the highly specialized DreamFoil models.
Weird flight model behavior, 3D model anomalies, and missing sounds have frustrated many in the community when trying to bring XP10 models into XP11. This situation has been made worse by new comers to the community who don’t realize that some of these models were never intended for X-plane 11 in the first place and then get frustrated that they don’t function the way they feel it should. X-plane as a flight simulation platform has always been a moving target.
While it’s nice to have new features, and constant improvements, each update runs the risk of breaking something that used to work. Old models from previous versions of the platform are especially vulnerable to this. It’s always exciting to have an update that brings one of our favorite models up to a native X-plane 11 standard. We first got an X-plane 11 version of the fan favorite, and my personal favorite Bell 407, and now we have it for the S-300cbi
If you’re not familiar, I reviewed the X-plane 10 version of this model back in 2016, if you haven’t read it, check it out , we’ll cover some of the same things but we’ll mostly be focusing on the X-plane 11 features.
The DreamFoil S-300 was already an amazing model for X-plane 10, arguably one of the best. This model is still amazing in X-plane 11. I dug into the details in my review for the X-Plane 10 version, and a lot of these details are the same, or improved.
We also get new instrument panel options
One of the best parts of a DreamFoil model are the menus. All of the DreamFoil models have menus that can be accessed in game to customize your model, and even change the livery on the fly without reloading the sim, or the flight. The S-300 takes this concept and kicks it up a notch! The menu system has been refined, and streamlined, which is great because the X-plane 11 version has some new options for the user to navigate.
When the S-300 first came out, VR wasn’t mainstream yet. Unless you had an oculus DK1 or 2, you weren’t flying in VR at all. Even after VR came to the masses, X-plane 10 didn’t have native VR support. The new menus are VR ready, and easy to use with your VR headset on. This is a feature that is unique to the 300. Being a VR only flight simmer I wish we had this for the 407, and hope they are implemented for future Dream foil releases.
The Cockpit is still, hands down, one of the best in any sim. Its 3D modeling is excellent. Even though I’m a 300C guy, this CBi cockpit is still very familiar to me.
The sounds for the X-plane 10 version were great. As some of you know, I did my private and commercial Pilots certificates flying the 300C, an aircraft very similar to the 300CBi depicted by the DreamFoil model. The X-plane 10 captured a lot of the sounds I remembered almost perfectly. The engine start, idle, rotor engagement, mag checks, everything is really well done and immersing.
This model goes even further by diving deeper into the sounds that happen when the engine isn’t running. Moving the flight controls around in a “cold and dark” cockpit reveals the creaking and clunking of the mechanical flight control linkages, which is pretty cool. But what’s even cooler is as the user looks around, you can hear the virtual user shift his or her weight around to turn their attention to different areas of the cockpit.
You hear this in the moan of the oleo dampers, the clanking of the restraint harness, and the rub of your virtual pants against the seats. This is a great effect that I really enjoyed. It gives this model a certain character that you don’t find in other flight simulator models.
This 300 is a very simple aircraft, but that doesn’t mean that there aren’t systems to be modeled. Fortunately, the fantastic implementation of the checklist is still available in the X-plane 11 version, and is fully VR compatible!
I never had an automatic rotor engagement system on the 300C that I learned to fly in. But this is a system that is available on new 300CBi’s. As far as I can tell works as it should according to actual 300CBi’s checklist. When viewed from the outside, you can see the belt system slowly add tension during the rotor engagement sequence.
Another cool systems feature is the force trim. I admittedly don’t use trim much in sim helicopters. But flying this model was so familiar that I instinctively gave the cyclic two clicks forward and two clicks right of trim. I was happy to see the hat switch on virtual cyclic also responded. Just for fun I decided to try switching the trim control to the co-pilots cyclic via the switch on the instrument panel, and was just as pleased to see that the co-pilots hat switch mirrored my input instead of the pilots cyclic.
That was a little detail that really shows DreamFoil’s dedication to replicating this helicopter as accurately as possible.
This model also adds some new equipment to the 300. The things that came with the X-plane 10 version are still there like the floats, belly hook, governor, and aux tank. The X-plane 11 version offers a new Agricultural spray kit complete with hoppers that the user can load to their desired weight which is important.
The 300 only has 180-190 horsepower, don’t expect to fill those hoppers and still have a bunch of extra manifold pressure to play with on takeoff. The user can even adjust the flow of the spray kit with interactive menus and click spots on the external model. You’ll also notice that the cyclic has an added button for toggling the spray switch. I have yet to see an Ag kit for any helicopter in any sim that has this level of detail.
Like the X-plane 10 model, this one comes with the option to fly with or without a governor. Of the three 300C’s I trained in, only one had a governor, but that doesn’t mean that they were manual control.
Most older 300s like the one I trained in, have a mechanical correlator. It’s sort of like a poor man’s governor that automatically adds fuel through a simple series of mechanical linkages when the collective is raised to maintain rotor RPM, It’s not as precise as an electronic governor, so the pilot must still manipulate the throttle to maintain rotor RPM in the optimal range.
But the correlator, if adjusted properly will keep the rotor RPM from getting dangerously low. A well-adjusted correlator can be almost as good as a governor. The correlator in this model has 3 different settings. I found preset 3 to be most like what I remember flying un-governed 300C’s. Even though preset 3 is the closest, it’s not quite perfect, but it’s close enough for a desktop simulator in my living room.
This model is a great example of why I think X-plane is one of the best platforms for Helicopter flight modeling. This model performs very well, and is really close to my memory of an actual 300, with a few exceptions.
OGE hover performance is very weird. The model isn’t by any means overpowered. No, not at all. Not even a little bit. But there is a way to get superb OGE performance out of this model in the weirdest way. During my testing I found that even with marginal IGE power available, the slightest bit of directional airspeed will cause this model to climb. Now, I know what some of you might be thinking, “Joe, that’s translational lift! DUH” well, no, it isn’t.
Translational lift is universally accepted to be in full effect somewhere between 16 and 24 knots. This rapid increase in lift happens well before that.
In zero wind conditions you can get this model to an OGE hover using only IGE hover power while creeping in any direction ever so slightly. As long as the movement is consistent, the helicopter will rise. I even tested this at altitudes well above the published max hover ceiling for the 300CBi and was still able to get to OGE altitudes below effective translational lift. This little quirk isn’t a deal beaker for me, as there aren’t a lot of reasons to be hovering OGE above the max hover ceiling in a 300CBi, but it was worth noting.
Another exception to the real thing was tail rotor performance at low rotor RPM. I remember when I was training, I would often get frustrated when the helicopter seemed to refuse to respond to my pedal input while hovering, only to find that I had allowed my rotor RPM to slow down until it reached the bottom of the green arc. Once rotor RPM was restored to the normal, the pedals were back to normal. With the correlated throttle and collective in this model, I did find that I accidently let the rotor RPM drop, but the only tell was the sound (which is pretty convincing).
But when the rotor RPM gradually decays into the lower limits, as it often does, you may not notice the change in sounds from the rotor system. Fortunately, newer 300s like the CBI feature a low rotor RPM warning light unlike the ones I trained in, but I still didn’t notice any change in tail rotor authority like the real thing.
Other than SETL (SUPER Effective Translational lift) this model performs extremely well. Its general feel and handling are very reminiscent of what I remember a 300 to be, and even triggered some old muscle memory that I assumed had long since been replaced by my current IRL helicopter. Its cyclic feel is forgiving, and tame, but not sluggish, exactly as a purpose-built trainer should be. Response to cyclic input is what I would expect from a helicopter this size.
Autorotation’s feel very natural, almost like the real thing. The attitude of the fuselage during the decent is about right, the cyclic and pedal inputs feel almost perfect after entry into an autorotation. Flare and recoveries are a little different than what I remember when doing touchdown autos, but overall, it’s a very good representation.
So, is it worth it?
Yes! Absolutely. There are many in the flight sim community that are upset that this isn’t a free upgrade for the X-Plane 10 version. I would agree if this was just a compatibility patch that fixed the bugs from porting over the XP10 version to 11. But that’s not what this is. It’s an almost complete re-coding of the original, and it adds new features that in my opinion, makes this model worth the cost, especially for those who enjoy VR flying like I do.
The DreamFoil 300 is still one of the top models for all of home use flight simulation. Don’t let the lower score compared to the XP10 version fool you. This model is just as good, but the Bar has risen since the X-plane 10 days. The two deficiencies in the flight model didn’t stop me from loving this model. You will almost never find me in a small piston powered helicopter during my simulation session. My simulation training goals don’t require them. But somehow, I keep finding my way back to this model, over and over again. It’s that much fun.