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RealFlight 6 RC Flight Simulator - First Impressions

Executive summary: RealFlight 6 offers top notch performance!

RealFlight 6 flight simulation program

RealFlight 6 Interlink Controller and computer display


In May 2012 I purchased the RealFlight 6 radio control flight simulator for my home computer. I had been using RealFlight 3 for the past several years. As I now have a Sony Vaio all-in-one desk top computer, the time seemed right to match this device up with the latest update from RealFlight. Following are some of my initial impressions of this remarkable program.

Tower Hobbies has a complete recap of the RealFlight products on their website, as well as a great price (hint: same as Amazon). RF-6 is the latest update of the popular model airplane flight simulation program.

RealFlight 6 offers a software and hardware package geared toward either the fixed or rotary wing pilot. Be sure to purchase the correct package as the transmitters will differ on how the throttle control is set up. I chose the fixed wing airplane version, which actually came with several helicopters as part of the aircraft selection menu.

Ensure you have the right computer

Be certain you have a powerful enough computer to handle the intense graphics required to properly simulate radio control flight. The RF website has a complete list of the necessary hardware to properly run this image intensive program.

 

Sopwith Camel RealFlight 6 model airplane

Rear view of a Sopwith Camel on a grass flying field

The package arrived in short order from Tower Hobbies. The RealFlight 6 box includes the interlink controller (otherwise known as the transmitter) as well as the CD that contains the software. The controller plugs into your computer via a USB connector.

Piper Cub on RC simulator lake

Piper Cub on floats

There is a lot of software, but it loads smoothly from the included CD. As part of the automatic installation process you must type in verification codes from the CD pack as well as the controller. The RealFlight 6 program will not run without the authorized controller plugged into your computer.

RealFlight 6 is easy to use

The RealFlight program could not be any easier to use. Pull down menus allow you to select model types, flying fields, weather conditions, pilot view, etc. The program also contains a very complete set of instructions to guide you on all the controls and shortcuts.

RealFlight Interlink Controller

Interlink Controller plugs into computer via a USB connection

RealFlight knows what you want to do, and that is go up for a flight. As the program quickly boots up, a plane is sitting at the end of the runway with the engine ticking over. You will need to do a one time calibration of your controller (very easy to do), and then you are ready for takeoff.

The graphics are outstanding, truly amazing. RealFlight uses a combination of computer generated backgrounds or an adaptation of a photo realistic airport setting. In either event, the presentation is stunning. It really is like you are at the field.

P-6E Curtiss Hawk model airplane

Curtiss P-6E Hawk awaits RealFlight take off

The model behaves just as the one you fly at your local club field. Engine sounds are realistic and fade as you fly away from the runway. All the aircraft controls move realistically as you manipulate the transmitter sticks. Aircraft shadows show accurately on the ground. The gas powered models even have a faint wisp of exhaust as you fly along.

The RealFlight engineers completely met their goals for replicating aircraft flight characteristics. I have a good amount of experience flying a wide range of model and full size aircraft, from propeller trainers to high performance jets. All of the RealFlight models do a terrific job of capturing the handling characteristics of their full scale brethren.

Piper Cub vs. Sopwith Camel

An interesting example of how well the aircraft fly in the simulator is shown between two types, a Piper Cub and a Sopwith Camel. I have experience flying both RC model and full scale Cubs. The RealFlight simulator has the Cub’s flight profile captured perfectly. It is the real thing.

 

While I have never flown a Sopwith Camel I think the programmers did their homework in this area. The controls are a bit more sluggish as compared to a more modern light aircraft design. The Camel exhibits adverse yaw when turning, which I am quite certain was the case when flying back in 1917.

Sopwith Camel by RealFlight link

Realistic image of a fence next to the Sopwith Camel

An interesting Sopwith Camel item that came to my attention as I practiced maneuvers was the exceptionally high descent rate, due to airframe drag, when the power was reduced to idle for landing. All of the rigging, struts and surface area of the Camel did not contribute to a robust gliding profile.

This was also a good reminder that the rotary engines of these early birds did not have a throttle. Rather, the pilots had to “blip” the ignition off and on to provide a rudimentary throttle capability when in the landing pattern.

Learn to hover!

One of the key reasons I purchased RealFlight 6 was to see if the program was powerful enough to allow me to learn how to hover a radio control model airplane. Few flight regimes are as challenging for simulation as a model airplane in full hover. The plane is very close in, there is little aircraft lateral displacement and all control surface movements can be carefully observed.

I have spent a good amount of time learning to hover. I am slowly getting there. I can state without reservation that you can learn to hover with RealFlight 6. The program contains some exceptionally useful training modes where you can isolate controls to master, say, throttle and rudder only. More information to follow once I actually figure out this demanding regime of flight!

This report is a first look at the RealFlight 6 simulator program. More insights will follow as I gain further experience with this very complete offering. I can saw without hesitation that RF-6 will satisfy the needs of any radio control pilot from the newest beginner to an experienced professional. By all means give RealFlight 6 a try, you will not be disappointed.

Author: Gordon McKay


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