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Flight Simulator Software Overview

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In this section, we compare several popular flight simulator packages which are also well suited to helicopter flight simulation. The evaluation of them is conducted with helicopter flying in mind. Every package has its own strengths and weaknesses, but overall, it is possible to get great value at very low prices. You will find the results of our assessment in the following table.

Name MS Flight Simulator X or Steam edition Prepar3D X-Plane (v10.0) FlightGear (v2.4.0)
Price level
(approximate)
$10 - $160 $10 / month
$500 (commercial licence)
$60 Free (Open Source)
Flight Model Fair tot accurate, depending on airplane / heli model. Fair tot accurate, depending on airplane / heli model. Fair tot accurate, depending on airplane / heli model. Fair tot accurate, depending on airplane / heli model.
Graphics Very high quality aircraft, buildings, scenery, water and animated objects. Very high quality aircraft, buildings, scenery, water and animated objects. High quality scenery, buildings and animated objects. Very high quality light simulation and roads. Medium to low quality water. Comes with 60GB of global scenery. Medium quality scenery, and buildings. High quality light simulation. Most airplane models lack detail.
Features FSX Standard: Weather, ATM, multiplayer, missions, tutorials, and failure simulation. Comes out of the box with many airplane models, and two helicopter models: Bell 206 and Robinson R22.
FSX DeLuxe: Standard + SDK (Software Development Kit) + More aircraft models (however, no extra helicopters), high-detail cities, airports and more missions.
FSX Acceleration: Expansion pack with additional features, performance improvements (multi core support), SDK (Software Development Kit),  and more models, including one helicopter: AW101.
FSX Gold: DeLuxe + Acceleration.
Steam Edition: FSX minus SDK. Supplied and maintained by Steam. Uses Steam platform.
Weather, ATM, multiplayer, missions, tutorials, and failure simulation. Comes out of the box with several airplane models, and one helicopter model: the Robinson R22. Weather, ATM, failure simulation. Multiplayer is not incorporated but is available as an add-on. Comes out of the box with a broad range of airplanes and 4 helicopters: Robinson R22, S-61, Bell 47 and Bell 206. Expansions again available as add-ons. Weather, multiplayer, and failure simulation.
Comes out of the box with many airplane models, and one helicopter model: the Eurocopter Bo 105.
Hardware requirements (for realistic simulations) CPU: 2 GHz or more.
RAM: 1 GB or more.
Harddrive space: 15 GB
Harddrive speed: at least 7,200 RPM
Video RAM: 512 MB or more. Support for DirectX 9.0c or higher

Note: Good performance with FSX (frame rates per second) will need high performance CPU (i5 or equivelant / better).
CPU: 2 GHz or more. Quad core.
RAM: 2 GB or more.
Harddrive space: 20 GB
Harddrive speed: at least 7,200 RPM
Video RAM: 512 MB or more. Support for DirectX 9.0c or higher
CPU: 2 GHz or more.
RAM: 1 GB or more.
Hard drive space: 70 GB.
Hard drive speed: at least 7,200 RPM
Video RAM: 512 MB or more. Support for OpenGL.
CPU: 2 GHz or more.
RAM : 1 GB or more.
Hard drive space: 2 GB.
Hard drive speed: at least 7,200 RPM
Video RAM: 512 MB or more. Support for OpenGL.
Add ons Many add-ons available for airplanes, helicopters, missions, traphic and scenery, both on a commercial basis and as free ware.
Also add-ons for adding network devices to the simulator (instrument panels, instructorstation, etc).
Many FSX add-ons are Prepar3D compliant. Add-ons available for helicopters and scenery, both on a commercial basis and as freeware. Many models and scenery available, including a broad range of helicopters (freeware).
Target audience People with no technical computer background. Broad range of users, from enthousiasts to real pilots. Market for professional simulator devices. People with no technical computer background. Product is targeted towards those who are serious about real and accurate flight simulation, and less interested in gaming. X-Plane is also regularly found in commercial / professional simulator devices. Some technical computer background may be needed to get the system up and running.
Platforms Windows XP SP2, Windows Vista.
Steam edition: Windows 8
Microsoft Windows 7 (32-bit), Windows 7 (64-bit) recommended Windows, Mac OS X, Linux Linux, Windows, Mac OS X, Solaris (sparc/x86), sgi, FreeBSD
Miscellaneous Used in certified simulator devices*).
Used in certified simulator devices*). Used in certified simulator devices*). Active open source community.
Multiscreen support Yes Yes By using multiple computers in a network. Yes
Multi channel support Yes, with addon (WidevieW) Out of the box. Requires licence per computer. Out of the box. Requires more expensive license. Out of the box.
Shopping

Gold

Steam edition
icon Prepar3D Flight Gear
*): A simulator device is defined as the combination of hardware and software. Accordingly, it isn’t possible to say that a software simulation package is certified, only the combination.
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2 Comments

ItemInfoText
1  Adriaan Sluis

Sunday, June 30, 2013 11:09 PM

How about TakeOn-Helicopters from Bohemian Interactive?

2  WaldoPepper

Wednesday, December 23, 2015 8:55 AM

Forget TakeOn Helicopters. The flight model is crap and the guys from Bohemian rejected any help from the community to fix it (even though some very knowledgeable people like real world heli CFI's offered suggestions)

DCS heli simulations are very accurate, especially the Huey.

Also anyone interested in heli flight sims should consider a device like TrackIR....

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HeliStart is authored by Peter Goossens.


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