What flight simulator most realistically models helicopters?

I’ve played a number of games over the years that have attempted to at least somewhat realistically model helicopter flight. Various versions of Microsoft Flight Simulator, the old Jane’s Longbow, Apache vs Havoc, Arma 2, desert combat - and in each game the helicopters all felt like they handled significantly differently, so most of them must’ve gotten the basic flight model wrong.

Never having flown in a helicopter, I can only guess as to the accuracy of each model based on how I’ve observed helicopters in flight to move and handle.

To me it seems like the helicopters in MS Flight Simulator have too much momentum and skid too much - you keep travelling in the same direction long after you’ve got the helicopter facing a new direction. Sort of like flying on ice, if that makes any sense.

In Arma 2 it handles reasonably enough at very low speed, but once you get something moving at 40+ mph the rudder controls stop actually yawing the aircraft and instead just bank it, and the only way to turn is to bank and pull up like a jet.

Desert Combat was a mod for bf1942 that tried to fudge helicopter physics into a game that wasn’t designed for it and actually did a halfway decent job. The flight physics are off… but in terms of the actual sort of manuevers you could pull off in a helicopter it actually stacks up pretty well. It’s definitely the most purely fun to fly helicopter of any game I’ve seen.

But I’d like to know what flying a helicopter actually feels like, so I’m wondering which game/simulator best models it.

I don’t fly helicopters but I’ve flown in them and have a basic understand how they work. I don’t see anything particularly inaccurate about your description of the MS helicopters. When you’re traveling forward at a reasonable speed you pretty much fly them like an aeroplane, i.e., you bank and pull to turn. Sure you can just pedal (most helicopters don’t have rudders) yourself around but that has the problem you’ve described. You can point the thing whatever way you like but it won’t move in that direction if you are just using the pedal to rotate the body under the rotor disc. Basically the main rotor disc is used to keep it up like a wing and to move it in a particular direction, it’s not like an aeroplane that has engines pushing it forward and a large keel surface to keep it flying straight.

Yeah, “rudder” is the wrong word since they don’t have actual rudders. I meant of course the pedal controls which yaw the aircraft, typically by increasing/decreasing the AOA of the rear rotor.

I’m not just referring to it being unresponsive to yawing, though - I mean you can turn the entire aircraft 90 degrees to the right, and tilt it forward, and still skid more sideways than forwards for a good - I dunno, 8 to 12 seconds. You could give your full effort to change direction but it feels like a 200 ton truck on ice, unable to change its momentum.

You need to do more than turn 90 degrees and tilt forward, you need to do something to stop moving in the original direction. By just turning and tilting forward you’ve done nothing to counter the original vector.

We need someone like Johnny L.A. for better input.

FWIW, I found the MS FS helicopter to be about how I imagined, but that doesn’t make it accurate, it might be that my expectations were off.

I understand that’s why there’s skidding, I just think it’s ramped up way beyond realistic in that particular game. I remember trying to go from ~80 mph into a hover (I can’t remember with which helicopter) to land, and even though I actually flared so hard that my rotor blades were actually perpendicular to the ground and I was at full collective, I still overshot my landing target by a large margin.

Earlier versions of MS Flight Simulator had some serious problems with helicopter flight physics that made them extremely difficult to fly. I have heard actual helicopter pilots say that they were much harder than flying a real helicopter and almost impossible for a helicopter novice. MS tried to address that in Flight Simulator X and it certainly seems much easier now even at full realism than it was before. They do a good job with their small plane simulations and I can fly those around just fine but I still end up crashing the helicopters about 1/3 of the time. I think they are just harder to model and it depends greatly on the type of input devices you are using.

I believe the definitive helo sim is still Jane’s Longbow 2 (which apparently still has its followers, who released add-ons to make it prettier and higher res), since there haven’t been that many dedicated helo simulations since. I liked most of it, even though the mechanics for the helmet targetting are waaaay too cumbersome for what’s supposed to be point-and-kill. I suppose TrackIR would make it simpler these days.

I also hear good things about DCS:Black Shark, though it’s an atypical helo sim as it simulates the KA-50 Hokum, a helicopter with not one but two main rotors, which can make things… interesting.

I never was able to find Longbow 2. I’ll see if I can manage to now. I loved the original.

I’m thinking about grabbing DCS, but as you said the model will be pretty atypical and may not give a good feel for general helicopter piloting. The wiki page says the AH-64A is on their upcoming list, and I can’t wait for that - an apache sim as detailed and accurate as they could make it will be awesome.