Surprise for Hubby? Retired w/ 16,500+ hrs of flight time

Hiya! I’m a non gamer looking for some basic advice on putting together a surprise present for my hubby. He’s a recently retired helicopter pilot with a lot of flight time, lastly in the AW-139 which was his favorite, besides Hueys.

He’s bored silly in quarantine and mentioned (many years ago) that a flight simulator might be fun. Since we’re stuck at the house and he’s grounded I thought I’d surprise him with a basic starter setup. We are Mac OS based but ideally to start I’d probably like a game console we could just hook up to the TV. Not averse to getting a PC though, if Flight Simulator 2020 is the best thing.

Can you experts recommend any setups for me? I’m completely clueless.

Thanks for your time!


Hello Holly! Welcome to the forums!

It’s great that you want to surprise your husband and we are here to help you out.

Please bear in mind that I will be giving you a lot of information right now and I know that it’s a lot to chew on and I understand that. Do note that we will be here to help you, answer your questions and advise you the best we can so please don’t be afraid to ask as we try to funnel you through the best options possible for you until we can reach a good conclusion and get you to surprise your husband!

Consoles are not the best option for sims at all, as there are no good sims for that platform. Microsoft Flight Simulator will be released for consoles in the future but that will take a while. Also, that particular sim does not have helicopters yet and that will take a few months until it’s out, unfortunately.

If you are Mac based, you have only one good option, which is X-Plane. That is one of the best sims out there right now and it runs on Macs. May I ask you which Mac you have? Sims are beasts and demand a lot of power from computers. If you have an old Mac, you may not be able to run the sim properly. I would start there: let us know which Mac you have so we can see if X-Plane would work.

Since you said you would be OK with getting a PC, let me tell you that a machine ready for a sim will cost you quite a bit. Around $2000 or more for a good, able computer. The sim would cost around $60, an AW139 would cost about $40 (but the one for X-Plane is not completely finished yet), a good joystick would cost another $300 or so and some good pedals probably around the same amount.

If that is an amount you can spend, I can give you other options as well.

So, there are a couple of things that we need to know first:

  1. Your Mac version/model
  2. What’s your budget for such a project

Please note that I am trying to give you some pointers to decent simming material. It’s not cheap/bad quality but it’s not the best of the best, yet it will do its job.

Let’s start with those 2 questions first, shall we?

Thank you very much for stopping by and allowing us to be part of this surprise somehow. I’ll be thrilled to help in any way I possibly can.

Wow! Thank you for all the information! I had no idea that it takes so much processing power. I’d have to get a new computer for sure. We have several macs but they are all older and not configured as heavy graphics processors. Ideally a mac mini to connect to our main tv would be great I suppose - if you can get them with the necessary power…Though I’m sure I’d get a lot more bang for the buck if I got a PC. Would you advise going for a powered PC and then flight simulator or the Mac route? I’m not sure he’d even want to do the AW139 sim - it might make him miss the real thing too much. I think he wouldn’t mind fixed wing even…mostly I think he would like the experience of flying into many different cities.

Thank you so much for your help and advice!

Warmest regards,


Oh yes. Sims are very demanding.

My suggestion: go with PC, for a simple reason: sims in Macs are very limited in choice. Being a pilot and having an obvious passion for aviation, there is a chance that he will want to explore other simulation software in the future (I actually encourage that he does so that he manages to find a sim that ticks all the boxes for him.

As for a computer, do you have access to any store nearby or are you planning on purchasing online? If you let me know where you’d be buying it, I can suggest a couple of models that would work for him. It would be nice to have a budget for the whole kit so I can try to tailor it the best way possible for you.

Hi Holly.

Another point to consider is VR.
It’s come a long way and is currently being viewed as the best interface for current pilots to train on non-industry or dedicated sims.
Completely immersive.

While processing power is good, VR will also demand a beefier graphics card.

You can get purpose built computers from resellers, but the best value is building your own.
Who knows, he might enjoy that aspect of it?
It worked for Terry Crews.

If you guys decide to go that route, come back here and we’ll set you up with a basic hsopping list of things to look out for.

For a heck of a deal…

Then tell hubby to head over to…