If you are interested in building a helicopter wing simulator, you will need to add a realistic way to control it. Your standard fixed wings control will either not be suitable at all, if you have a yoke, or be only partially usable, if you use a joystick. Helicopters are controlled by a side lever called a collective, which also houses a motorcycle-style throttle; a between-the-legs joystick called the cyclic, in the popular R22/44 this is actually a dual-operated central T control; and a set of pedals sans-brakes which only articulate back and forth. From the software point of view there are options abound. Both P3D and X-Plane have myriads of add-ons for your favorite chopper. A few models are native in P3D, but add-ons for X-Plane (besides the native Sikorsky S-76C) are easily found on XPlane.org as paid add-ons. See the R-22 Beta II here. This is a highly detailed and accurate flight model, with even the correlator and governor fully simulated.
As far as hardware however, if flight training is the objective, there are fewer options than for fixed wings controls. We looked at a few training-ready controls and some component level offerings:
Pro Flight Trainer Puma
This is a well made, lightweight, all inclusive set of helicopter controls. It’s fully adjustable and allows the pilot to find a comfortable and natural position as in the aircraft they fly, or will fly. At $1,279.00 (at Helicoptersonly.com) for the partially assembled version, the Puma offers the following characteristics:
-Plug & Play seamless installation
-Long Collective Arm with Twist Throttle Grip
-Push-Pull Pedal design
-Curved Cyclic with High Quality B8 Style Grip
-Adjustable Collective Arm Design
-Adjustable Cyclic Height
-Adjustable Pedal Length and anti-slide chair proximity
-Adjustable Collective Arm in Sideways, Height, and Resting Angle
-Throttle Box with Zone Switch, 2 Permanent Switches, and 2 Temporary Switches
(A lighter version, the Fox, sells for $699)
Note that the distance between cyclic and collective in the Puma cannot be adjusted, but should fit most seats as it is. The B8 grip comes standard and it is really comfortable to hold and operate. Buttons on the collective and cyclic allow for standard functions to be activated, and even more than you would find on a light trainer. Fully USB plug and play, the Puma requires only basic calibration in X-Plane and a couple of button assignments.
Watch this video for a view of this item.
If you are a sim integrator, Germany-based Brunner makes professional-grade flight sim controls. Their products are widely used by high-end sim manufacturers who integrate third-party controls in their products. Their quality is exceptional but their products come at a price. Take a look at their cyclic, which is flanked by their collective and pedals. Why the relatively steep price tag (check with them for current prices)? This is a force feedback device, so you will feel the control loading response as in real flight. Their site description makes it clear that these controls are certification-ready: “The BRUNNER CLS-P Active Force Feedback Cyclic meets the highest demands of professional flight simulation. As a top level element of our Control Loading System portfolio of leading drop-in devices, the CLS-P Cyclic integrates perfectly into many new or existing FNPT I as well as in FNPT II MCC or even FFS Level D Helicopter or Fixed-Wing cockpit environments.”
Flight Link offers a R-22 package priced at $2,335.00 with optional base and centering stick. This looks like a good option for those who have chosen the popular R-22 as their training aircraft.
Custom-made by a team of dedicated engineers, so their site says, offering a range of products specific to several make and model. Here are the links:
An range of the prices: from $1,285.00 for a school model R22 set, to $4,480.00 for a twin seat Huey 3.0, to over $7k for a B206 Trainer with seats and overhead panel.
Seller Simulationdevices ‘s motto is “We build in our shop” offers products with an entry price of $1,395.00 for a single generic set to a unit inclusive of the seat for $1,699.00. A few videos are provided, here is one:
From their store, take note of their production time: “Helicopter simulator controls, uses one USB port on your computer, works with most simulator software, like Microsoft flight simulator, X-Plane. Has all the controls you need to control the helicopters in your simulator software, Cyclic/joystick, Anti-Torque pedals, Collective, Throttle with 3 buttons on end of collective that can be assigned in the simulator software you are using, and one button on top of cyclic. We fabricate the controls in our own shop, Please allow about 2 weeks build time.”
If you are into the whole Robinson experience check out this instrument panel on eBay. Not tested here, but looks great as a complement to your hardware.