So after some prevarification, I thought “What the heck, it’s freeware. Just try it!”
I was not disappointed!
Despite the fact that flying a helicopter can be likened to sitting on a beach ball while balancing a plate with a marble in it on your head which you have to keep there purely by moving your hands and feet, the guys at HPG have managed to produce a remarkably workable flight model. Getting an even half way decent helicopter feel in a home PC simulation isn’t easy - a helicopter really needs that “seat of the pants” feel, without which you can’t get a true feel for the aircraft.
Many small movements are needed to stay ahead of controlling the beast and if you make too big a movement you are almost certainly going to bend something. Just like the real thing it takes practice to hover (say) over the centre spot of a football pitch (real football!) instead of sliding back and forth between the goals or twisting around like a dog chasing its tail. That’s why it can be a lot more difficult in a flightsim “game” than in real life. It took me a good couple of dozen hours as a technician on “you have” flights in real world helicopters. In the end, it was the likes of Gazelle and Lynx which became my favourites to fly. Intelligent power management systems take a lot of work out of flying helis.
Considering my limited experience and flying skills, especially never having even been anywhere near an EC135, I was able to “get in”, start the engines and go flying without the need to read the instructions. Is that a testament to Airbus for intuitive design? Perhaps, but HPG did a great job of that too. That’s right, I am not a pilot although I do have a couple or three hundred “you have” hours flying Sioux, Scout, Gazelle and Lynx on maintenance and test flights.
That easy start up and intuitiveness is one thing HPG have managed to get right rather well. Congratulations HPG!
Now, with around 15 hours flying the model, I can say that this offering - especially as it is still freeware - this is one excellent addon for msfs.
So, any “Buts”?
Well, yes. Quite a few actually, although none too serious. So here, in no particular order:
- the 3D model is still rather “blocky” (the fenestron is a polygon not a round object). As are other curved edges.
- switches don’t feel and sound up to real life (edit - but better in V9)
- pilot’s eye view needs better configuration. Wider angle of view
- the various grilles on external model need to be made more realistic. The Intake looks more like a solid panel. This is a bit of a let down as any air restriction (such as the “black wast sack” covering the intake) is not good for an engine’s health
- slowing down in flight needs working on. The helicopter climbs too far when you drop collective and lift nose. Especially when your barelling along at 120 knots and you enter auto
- you don’t just need pilots to develop a rotary wing aircraft for flightsim; you also need engineers to help with the tech details. Pilots are mere drivers. If flying were really difficult, then the engineers would be sitting in the driver’s seat.
- looking at the UV mapping, you start to see many little “nuisances” for texture repainters. Do not read this wrong! The H135 is pleasant enough to create repaints for, but the textures are very “bitty” and adjoining parts on the 3D are all over the place on the 2D artwork so getting colour into those awkward to reach areas can frustrate
- the sound still needs some tweaking
- lights and other FX still need work
- the documentation needs proof reading and quite a few corrections
- spotlight works but no animation on model exterior
- main rotor head animation is wrong and impossible. The whole mast tilts. bad. The main rotor “dish” needs work
But all in all - this has become my favourite helicopter addon in all the flight simulations I have used.
There is a really good review of the real world H135 that you can read about it here
And for the painters: