Microsoft Flight Simulator X offers a realistic look at what it's like to pilot an airplane or helicopter. Helicopters use the tail rotor to generate torque to offset the main rotor's energy and prevent the aircraft from spinning uncontrollably. The anti-torque pedals control the tail rotor and work similar to the rudder pedals of an airplane. The cyclic operates like an airplane's yoke and steers the aircraft. The throttle controls the rotation speed of the main rotor blades. Faster rotation gives the helicopter more lift. The collective adjusts the pitch of the blades and affects the amount of lift.
Open Flight Simulator X and choose the "Select a Flight" menu. Select "Chopper Pilot" and load the tour of your choice. Select the "Aircraft" menu and choose the helicopter you wish to fly. You can download more helicopters for free from sites such as Hovercontrol.com and Flyawaysimulation.com (see links in Resources).
Increase the collective until the torque gauge reaches 60 percent. The helicopter will begin to hover a few inches above the ground. You must use the anti-torque pedals to keep it pointing straight. Practice controlling the helicopter while hovering until you are comfortable with the way it handles.
Move up the collective so the torque is in the 75 to 80 percent range and the helicopter is approximately 10 feet above the ground. Push the cyclic forward to begin accelerating. Keep the blades above a 10-degree downward pitch at all times. Make sure the vertical speed stays positive throughout the entire takeoff.
Tips & Warnings
- If you are having trouble with the controls, reduce the realism settings for your first few practice flights. You can return to the original settings as flying becomes easier.
- Move the controls gently or the helicopter may dive suddenly and crash.
- Photo Credit Kim Steele/Photodisc/Getty Images