by Robert A. Froebel



Three weeks ago I was ready to declare this helicopter simulator unflyable, at least, by me. Then, after some very good help from this Forum, and after much serious reading about Helicopter Flying, and after a very useful discussion with a veteran helicopter pilot, and about 20 hours of serious practice, I am at the stage where I can fly it quite well, can hover and land safely nine times out of 10, and can fly formation with the Cessna 182RG. (My computers are networked; I put the 182 on autopilot out of Meigs, pause it while I get the 206B airborne and near, unpause and away we go.) Auto-rotations are next!

What follows, I hope, will be of some use to other budding chopper pilots. Maybe it will also start a serious helicopter flight training dialog.

I apologize in advance for any mistakes. I wrote this as a non-helicopter rated pilot for people who may have very little aviation background. I know that it is a little long; I could have used a good editor. When I started, I planned on spending two or three hours and writing two or three pages!

Computer Equipment

You need a computer which will give you a frame rate, frames per second, fps, at the visual detail level which you are comfortable with, of at least 20 fps all the time. In FS98 the frame rate varies at least 10 fps most of the time; so what I am saying is that you need a computer to give you a frame rate from 20 to 30 to take into account the variations. I will talk more about this when I get to actual flying techniques.

My main sim computer is a Pentium 200 mmx, 64 megs ram, ATI Pro Turbo PC2TV 4 megs with a Monster pass through 3dfx accelerator card. I just sort of fell into using this video combination and I think that it is excellent. I had the ATI card for nearly a year before hooking "The Monster" to it. My fps is from 25 to 40 at Meigs, full screen, full instrument panel, radio stack and compass (rotates backwards by the way), 800x600x16, 3dfx enabled, with everything checked off in Preferences except "cloud thickness effects". My main window, which I use most of the time, is the view out the front windshield of the chopper, cockpit view, full width and about half screen vertically. If I need a better view down and to the right, I will dump the radio stack and drag the front window all the way to the bottom of the screen. All my computers run with Win 95 OSR2. I have ordered the latest Beta 3 of Win 98 and am really looking forward to see if some of its new features will help us in the flight simulation area. (My Beta 3 of Win 98 has just arrived, and yes, all the multi-monitor stuff is in it. I wish that I could afford another video card and monitor so I could test it!) (In general cpu power, ram, and video card(s) are the important variables in achieving high fps.)

This computer is peer networked to a Pentium 100 (an overclocked 90 mhz) and a Pentium 133 (an overclocked 120 mhz). I do all my own computer design, building and trouble-shooting. All development and test work is done on the other computers before putting anything new on the 200. They, of course, are used for formation and other group flying over my network.

Flight Controls

I will start with the most important control:- rudder pedals (or just pedals) for yaw axis control and movement. You must have accurate, sensitive rudder control to fly the Bell 206B. All the messages in the FS98 Forum are absolutely correct about this. You cannot control the Bell 206B at low speeds with the keyboard. Do not confuse flying a helicopter at 80 or 100 knots IAS, when it flies mostly like a fixed wing aircraft, with flying a helicopter from the hover to 15 knots IAS.

I have tried a number of different, commercial, more or less standard rudder pedals. In my opinion they are all too erratic, and have too much friction in their mechanisms, to be of much use to the beginning helicopter pilot, particularly if the beginner has no real fixed wing experience. Also, some of them are not inter-connected. To control the helicopter you have to be able to make quick, small, and accurate rudder inputs. My TM RCS, the best of the lot, is sitting on the shelf in my "flying hangar" and the others are back in the store. As a long time fixed wing pilot, familiar with rudder pedals for the feet, I was most concerned about the combined control stick, with twist, hand rudder action. (My flight experience is about half yoke and half stick.) My concern was completely unfounded. In my opinion, the combined stick/twist rudder control is the best control system for the FS98 Bell 206B, especially for the non-pilot beginner. So, my CH yoke and TM stick and TM throttle and Gravis stick are all sitting on the same shelf as the TM RCS.

As you have probably surmised by now, I am a MS Sidewinder fan, especially now that I am flying the 206B. I started with the MS 3d Pro last summer and it is still connected to the P133. Since Christmas, I have used the MS SW Force Feedback Pro (my kids got it for me). It is my main stick, the one that I use more than any other. (I also fly DID's EF2000 and F22 ADF.) The only weakness in the FFP for helicopter flying is that the throttle, which is used as the "collective control", is a little sensitive and it would be nice if it had more range. However, this is a small point. I normally disengage force feedback effects when flying the 206B, especially at the beginning of learning to fly the 206. I program the usual stuff into the FFP buttons. I will not go into any of the details of that here and now.

Where to Fly While Learning

To fly the helicopter at hover to low forward speed you have to be able to sense its motion, or better yet its impending motion, as soon as possible, so as to make your control inputs as soon as possible and as small as possible, to maintain the helicopters proper flight attitude which lies within a very narrow range, at least as compared to a fixed wing aircraft. At the beginning stage of your learning almost all of your cues for flying the Bell will come from outside and not from the helicopter instruments. On the subject of cues and control inputs, the veteran chopper pilot said to me: "You do not move the controls so much as think about moving them." I will come back to this later.

So, you need as many visual references, close and far, left and right, high and low, as possible. Remember, that compared to flying the real helicopter, you have two strikes against you before you start, because on the computer flight sim you do not have any peripheral vision cues worth talking about. (I can hardly wait to see if the Windows 98, multi-monitor feature will work.) You need to be able to see, very small, longitudinal and lateral and vertical motions. I use Meigs as my main training field because it has great visual references, close and far. The gas pump yellow marked square, on the tarmac, near the helicopter pad provides the close lateral and longitudinal references and the red gas pump is great as a close vertical reference (I start off about 40 feet from the pump.) The rest of the scenery and buildings around Chicago are really great as distance references. The water, the land, clouds etc. are also very good (except when compared to DID). Also, everything in the MS aircraft works at Meigs, O'Hare and Midway, which is not true for some other airfields. For instance, increase/decrease prop rpm control works, like in the actual aircraft, at Meigs but does not at Toronto, where I live. You can do great manual and coupled approaches at O'Hare.

How Does a Helicopter Fly?

"A flying helicopter is a bunch of metal pieces, vibrating in close formation, on the way to a crash!" No, I did not make that up, someone else did and it is not very funny. It does, however, have an essence of truth in it.

The following is a bit longer than I had intended, but it is my firm belief that if you are going to enjoy flying the helicopter and if you are going to fly it well you should have a little technical background about the brute.

There are many great books on how helicopters fly so I will not go into theory here, except for what I consider to be the absolute basics. The Principles of Helicopter Flight, by W.J. Wagtendonk, is as good as any. If you are at all interested in Helicopters get it and read it. I hope that my pedagogical bias is not showing too much. By the way, there are a whole bunch of new, good books on FS98, four of which I have. They are all worth buying.

The helicopter is like a wind mill tower on its side, big end forward, with two, turning, controllable propellers, one of them bloody big, fastened to it, oriented at 90 degrees to each other. The control of those two propellers is given to one person, using three or four non-intuitive levers, to make six or seven different motions, using both hands, both feet and several fingers, for the task of maintaining the helicopter in all its flight regimes. Can you imagine what "the troops" said, several hundred years ago, when L. da Vinci said that something like that could be made to fly?

You are all familiar with the toy gyroscope, how that when it is spinning it is more or less steady in space, and that when you push on it, it moves, but not in the direction that you push it. Are you beginning to see the reason for my opening quote? Now take your toy gyroscope, increase its spoke length and eliminate all but two of them and take the outer stabilizing ring off, make the spokes flexible and fan shaped and make the pitch of the spokes variable. We are getting fairly close to our ordinary, simple helicopter two blade rotor. Further, have two different controls changing, simultaneously, the pitch of our gyroscope blades while it is spinning, and on the big gyroscope have one blade change its pitch differently from the other, depending on where it is in its rotational cycle or which control is being used. Finally, let us move our now aerodynamic gyroscopes through the air, while they are spinning, and fastened in the above mentioned way to the windmill tower. This motion gives yet another aerodynamic effect, or lift, to the gyroscope which is different on the forward moving blade from the backward moving blade. This lift markedly affects the way the helicopter will fly as we, lift off, hover, move forward slowly and finally move forward faster than about 12 to 15 knots IAS.

The purpose of the gyroscope analogy, not original by the way, is to try and make it very clear that the helicopter, which has two lift producing gyroscopes spinning in planes oriented at 90 degrees to each other, is a very unstable contraption. It needs much loving care and control to keep all the "metal pieces" flying together all of the time and to prevent the "crash."

All aircraft maintain flight by producing aerodynamic lift from the airflow around an airfoil shaped structure. The lift is proportional to the shape of the airfoil section and to the angle at which the airflow passes over it, the angle of attack, and the velocity and density of the air flow. The pilot has greater or lesser control over the angle of attack in all aircraft. The aircraft fixed wing, the propeller and the helicopter rotors all have roughly the same shape if you look at them in cross section. It does not matter whether you move the airfoil through the still air (fixed wing aircraft) or rotate the airfoil section about an axis (propeller or helicopter rotor). A lift force is produced which must be directed and controlled by the aircraft design and by the pilot to make the air vehicle do what we wish it to do.

The main helicopter rotor rotates about the yaw axis of the helicopter, in a plane more or less normal to the yaw axis. It provides all the lift forces to make the machine do all it's stuff. When the helicopter engine turns the main rotor, by applying a torque to it, the reaction to this applied torque tends to rotate the helicopter body, in the opposite direction. Thus we need some mechanism to prevent this unwanted rotation of the helicopter. The tail rotor performs this task. It is oriented at 90 degrees to the plane of the main rotor and the lift force or thrust that it produces is controlled by the rudder pedals (or just "pedals"), which vary the pitch of the tail rotor blades.

Helicopter Operating Controls and Instruments

The helicopter has a few more controls than a fixed wing aircraft for the pilot to contend with. They operate somewhat differently than they do in the fixed wing aircraft, even though some of them look the same. We will discuss each of them, and how they are used, independently but please remember that they all interact. Moving one or changing one setting will affect all the others to a greater or lesser extent. A helicopter is not a simple device.

They are:

                Rudder Pedals (Pedals)          Needle and Ball
                Collective Control              Torque Meter
                Cyclic Control                  Airspeed Indicator
                Various Engine Controls         Vertical Speed Indicator
                Altimeter                       Attitude Indicator
                                                Engine tachometer
                                                Main Rotor Tachometer

Rudder Pedals (Pedals)

The left rudder pedal moves the nose of the helicopter, about the yaw axis, to the left and the right pedal moves it to the right, just like the fixed wing aircraft. The pedals are inter-connected, of course, just like a fixed wing aircraft and unlike many, so called, commercial rudder pedals available for computer flight sims. The main rotor in the Bell 206B rotates counter clockwise as you look down from above it. This means that the nose of the helicopter wants to move to the right, or clockwise as viewed from above, because of the rotor drive torque reaction. You, as pilot, control this torque reaction with varying amounts of left rudder control to balance the engine main rotor drive torque. You also use the pedals, on a continuous basis, to keep the nose of the helicopter oriented where you want it, as the helicopter is subjected to many other external and internal forces.

The primary instrument we should refer to in connection with pedal usage is the Needle and Ball, also known as the Turn and Slip Indicator. The needle or turn indicator indicates when the helicopter is changing it's direction or heading. In the hover we should try to maintain constant heading. The ball or the slip indicator, in a fixed wing aircraft, indicates whether the aircraft is, yawing, slipping or skidding. In the helicopter it is not so simple. For now, I offer the following on rudder usage and ball indication. The ball will move opposite to rudder application, i.e. left rudder input moves the ball to the right and vice versa. In general, when you have time to scan your instruments, check the location of the ball, and try to maintain it in it's center position; if it is to the left of center, left rudder will bring it back. Initially, do not waste too much time on looking at either the needle or the ball, but maintain the helicopter directional and other attitudinal orientation by visual reference to the outside.

Collective Control

The collective control is a lever, normally operated by the left hand, which uniformly changes the pitch of the main rotor blades. Greatly simplified, the collective control can change the thrust produced by the main rotor from zero to slightly more than the gross weight of the helicopter. Raising the collective control, or increasing the collective (both terms are used) increases the thrust or aerodynamic force (lift) produced by the rotor. Lowering the collective, or decreasing the collective reduces the thrust or aerodynamic force produced by the rotor. Increase the rotor lift enough, in any given flight regime, and the helicopter will ascend or ascend faster and/or increase it's forward velocity; decrease the rotor lift enough, for any given flight regime, and the helicopter will descend or descend faster and/or decrease it's forward velocity.

For the moment we will not discuss the other controls, primarily for engine control, also available on the collective. For instance some of the older, small piston engine choppers have a twist grip throttle, very similar to a motorcycle's, on the end of the collective control. For the Bell 206B computer sim most of the engine stuff is automatically controlled. Lucky us!

The primary instrument used with the collective control is the Torque Meter, which indicates the torque applied to the main rotor by the engine. Increase torque, increase lift. Decrease torque, decrease lift. The torque meter is graduated in percent of maximum torque, from 0% to about 115%. For normal flight training in the 206B computer sim, you will rarely use more than 80% torque. In many helicopters torque usage above 90% has a time limitation, operation in excess of which, will damage, possibly catastrophically, the engine, transmission, rotor drive line. You should attempt to utilize proper torque settings right from the start of your training.

Cyclic Control

The cyclic control stick looks like the stick in a fixed wing aircraft. It is located between the pilot's legs and its motion is fore and aft and left and right. The similarities end here, for the most part!

In the fixed wing aircraft, fore/aft stick motion moves the elevators to change the aircraft's pitch orientation about the lateral axis, i.e., nose up or nose down. Left/right stick motion moves the ailerons to change the aircraft's bank or roll orientation about the longitudinal axis, i.e., left wing low or left wing high.

In the fixed wing aircraft the control stick has very little effect on the aircraft at very low airspeeds and has essentially zero effect at zero airspeed; not so the helicopter stick, which has some effect as soon as the main rotor is turning.

In the helicopter the cyclic control, through a very complex mechanism, changes the effective direction of the thrust force or lift produced by the main rotor in any flight or hover regime of the helicopter. Remember, that the main rotor, when rotating, is always producing some thrust to balance that portion of the weight of the helicopter that is not on it's skids or wheels or to accelerate the helicopter in any of the two coordinate directions, left/right and fore/aft, when the friction between the skids/wheels and the ground is reduced enough by the rotor thrust, and finally to make the helicopter accelerate in the third coordinate direction, or climb, when the thrust exceeds the weight.

Changing the direction of the main rotor thrust force, gives us another force, a component of the main rotor thrust, in the direction of the change, which we can use to make the helicopter change what it is doing. To summarize so far: Moving the cyclic control forward gives us a component of thrust in the forward direction, which will tend to move the helicopter forward or increase it's speed forward; moving the cyclic control backward will do the reverse, i.e., will tend to reduce the forward speed of the helicopter. Do not attempt rearward flight! Moving the cyclic control rearward will also tend to make the chopper ascend or climb, the magnitude of which will depend on the IAS, collective setting and the amount of rearward motion of the cyclic. Moving the cyclic control left or right in the hover will, other factors being equal, tend to move the helicopter left or right. In forward flight moving the cyclic left or right will bank the helicopter so that a component of the thrust vector of the rotor is directed towards the center of the turn, which provides the force to turn the helicopter, or to change it's heading. This turn is essentially just like a coordinated turn, ball in the center, of a fixed wing aircraft.

In this discussion of the cyclic control we have not mentioned the collective control. We will do so now. Anytime the main rotor is required to produce additional force in excess of what it is providing in a particular flight regime, the collective control must be adjusted accordingly. If we wish to climb faster while maintaining the same forward IAS, we must increase the collective. If we wish to descend faster at the same forward IAS we further reduce the collective. If we are flying a constant heading and altitude and wish to increase our IAS, we increase the collective control and move the cyclic control forward. If we are flying at constant heading and altitude and collective setting at an IAS above 15 knots the helicopter will tend to climb, at least for a while, and the IAS will decrease if we move the cyclic control rearward. All the time, all of the above is going on, we must be continually adjusting the rudder pedals to maintain directional control of the chopper.

In addition, all the time all the above is going on the lift force produced by the rotor increases as the IAS increases, at least up to a certain value. This lift is caused by the induced airflow through the main rotor caused by the forward motion. It is called translational lift. It is this lift, and the weather cock effect of the airflow past the helicopter body, which gives the helicopter its much increased stability at forward speeds above 20 or 25 knots; i.e., it flies very similarly to a fixed wing aircraft at speeds above 25 knots or so, and not like a squirrelly helicopter.

The primary instruments which you will use in conjunction with the cyclic control are the air speed indicator (ASI), the vertical speed indicator (VSI), the altimeter and the attitude indicator (artificial horizon). As always, especially initially, you will depend heavily on your visual cues from outside the helicopter. The most important instrument is the VSI, which is graduated in feet per minute climb or descent. Initially try to make all climbs or descents at 500 feet per minute or less. Touch down for a landing should normally be at a vertical speed of less than 50 feet per minute.

Various Engine Controls

The only engine controls we need concern ourselves with at this time in the Bell 206B computer sim is the engine speed control. Engine speed is increased by pushing ctrl-F3 and is decreased by pushing ctrl-F2. (I program these on to my stick buttons.) Controlling engine speed, automatically controls main rotor speed for us in the sim. We will not discuss auto-rotations at this time. The tachometer instrument for engine/rotor speed is combined in one large instrument, graduated in percent of maximum rpm, with two concentric rotating needles, main rotor needle marked R on top of the engine needle, marked T for turbine. When you launch your sim the engine is running, and the first time, the engine and main rotor speeds are at 100%. No, I do not know how to shut the engine down, short of emptying the fuel tank. If you push ctrl-F2 and hold them, engine and rotor rpm will drop to about 62%, the engine (turbine) rpm dropping much more quickly than the main rotor rpm. Push and hold ctrl-F3 and the rpm will increase to 100%, again the engine rpm much more quickly than the main rotor rpm. The main rotor has a huge inertia. Remember our gyroscope discussion.

For this discussion on initial flight training on the Bell, you will simply set the engine/main rotor rpm to 100% and you can essentially forget them. All hover and flight operations will be at this 100% setting. This is not a power setting as such. Remember our collective control! When we increase the collective control, an automatic engine governor/fuel flow controller increases fuel flow to the engine so that engine power is increased so that 100% rotor and engine rpm is maintained. The reverse happens when the collective control is decreased.

I will not go into all the other engine instruments and controls. You can study them at your leisure. Just remember that temperatures and pressures are very important and should be monitored constantly.

In summary, it is the job of the helicopter pilot to continuously adjust, in a coordinated manner, the pedals, the cyclic and the collective controls, in conjunction with each other to maintain the intended helicopter attitude, motion and, of course, its mission.

Human Factors

Just a bit about Human Factors, the study of man/machine interaction and then we will do some flying. There are many volumes on this subject. I will just dust the surface. Get a good, comfortable, solid chair with arms. Arrange, your keyboard, mouse and control stick/throttle/collective in such a manner that the monitor screen is visible with no distortions or glare. You are going to be very busy and concentrating heavily, so that any distraction due to discomfort or other reasons, will affect your performance. Particularly, pay attention to the location of your stick. I have mine arranged so that my right forearm rests horizontally on my chair arm, with my hand around the stick with no kinks or stress in wrist or fingers. I have a special little shelf where the control stick is anchored, about 4.5 inches lower than the desk top surface. My left hand forefinger operates the throttle/collective on the sidewinder. I have the pause control button programmed on the stick base.

The human mechanism is a very complicated machine, especially when it comes to learning new psycho-motor skills. We can only learn so much at a time and we learn much better if we are not fatigued or stressed out, for what ever reason. Initially, do not practice for more than an hour at a time, not more than twice per day. If you are having trouble, only practice once per day. Hit the pause button often and think about what you have been attempting to do. Look at other views of the helicopter in relation to its surroundings. You can do this by successively pushing the "s" key (I have it programmed onto a button on my stick base).

Please note that I do almost 100% of my flying with the cockpit and instrument views only. I want the computer flight sim experience to be as much like the real aircraft as possible. It is my opinion that you can never hope to really master flying all these aircraft unless you can do it from the cockpit view including the aircraft instruments. Experiment with the myriad settings for everything available to you in the "options" and other menus in FS98. Keep a notebook to record all of your settings and how they affected performance. Then you will know how to get back to where you were before, if the changes do not work out well. If what you are trying to establish is difficult make only one change at a time!

Finally we get to the part of this discussion as stated in the title:

How to Fly The FS98 Bell 206B

1. Go to Meigs.
2. Select the Bell 206B, slew it to the south side of the gas pump yellow marked square, hdg north (360). Make sure that you can see the red gas pump on the left side of your cockpit view.
3. Use cockpit and Instrument views.
4. Select some wind, 360/10 knots, i.e. from the north parallel to the runway.
5. Get into your cockpit, adjust the seat height; shift-enter or shift-bksp, up or down.
6. Make sure that your throttle/collective is fully down or closed, torque reading 15%.
7. Increase engine/rotor rpm to 100%, push ctrl-F3, torque reading now about 30%.
8. Press shift-z three times. This will put the frame rate and your IAS on the screen.


I strongly recommend that you use 10 knots or less wind speed. Anything more and the weather cock effect, will tend to make the takeoffs easier than they really are, and the landings will be correspondingly more difficult. Select the wind parallel to the runway because initially you are going to land on the runway with a bit of forward velocity. Crosswind landings will come later.

You should be able to see the observatory, on your front right, the gas pump on your close front left and all kinds of nice buildings of the City of Chicago between the two. You should be able to see some sky, the horizon and the tarmac in front of you, and at least one of the yellow lines marking the gas pump quadrangle. If not adjust your seat height again and/or slew the chopper a bit.

You want your frame rate visible all the time because it gives you an indication of how your computer is performing, compared to how it was performing 5 minutes ago. If it appears to be slowing down under the exact same flight and view conditions then it might be time to get out of FS98 and reboot; a cold reboot. If your frame rate is below 20, you are probably going to have some trouble. This is because by the time your control inputs will have affected the chopper it will be already doing something else which requires a different control input.

You want your IAS visible on the screen because it is easier to keep track there then looking down for the airspeed indicator on the instrument panel. You can always turn it off later when you get more proficient, or you can leave it up and pretend that it is part of a HUD. Remember that the neither the IAS display on the screen nor the airspeed indicator give any indication of any velocity except forward. You are essentially blind for backward flight, and nearly blind for left/right.

The sounds that you hear in FS98 are very good and can be used to help you in the initial stages of entering the hover and/or taking off. When the helicopter gets light on its skids, as the collective is increased and the cyclic is used, it will attempt to slide and/or rotate on the tarmac. This will produce a sound, readily audible, similar to dragging an empty, metal garbage can across a rough concrete floor. It is your cue that the helicopter wants to get airborne and/or move. The sound will always be there until you are airborne. It is also there on touch down.

The pilot's operation of the controls in a helicopter is a little different than the use of the controls in a fixed wing aircraft, because of what they do in the helicopter and because the helicopter is a very unstable beast until it gets some forward velocity. For example, in a fixed wing aircraft, if some force causes a wing to start dropping, or banking, the pilot will correct for it as soon as possible. However, it does not much matter if he lets it drop 5 or 10 degrees; if it drops farther it will take longer to bring it back and it may take a larger control input, but other than sloppy flying no serious harm (most of the time) will occur. In the helicopter you cannot fly this way, especially until you achieve a good forward velocity. Such attitude deviations in a helicopter, if uncorrected, rapidly increase in amplitude and velocity, start affecting the operation of the other controls in major way and, if the deviation gets beyond a certain point, the normal corrective action may, in fact, make the deviation even worse.

The helicopter pilot must be aware at all times of all motions of the helicopter, and be prepared to correct, as soon as possible, all those that are not part of the intended flight regime. In other words, a small deviation of the helicopter's intended attitude must be immediately followed with a small corrective action, and this corrective action must be terminated in time so as to not start the same type of deviation but in the opposite direction. This is definitely unwanted and is called a pilot induced oscillation. The only thing worse than getting into trouble flying something because of external forces or influences is getting into trouble because of things you, as pilot, do with the helicopter controls.

Surely, in flying a helicopter, LESS IS MORE! In general, when flying this computer sim, attempt to control all unwanted deviations, about all three axes before they exceed 5 degrees, especially yaw and roll; you have a bit more leeway in pitch.

Please note that most speeds and control settings and motions given in the following are start values. Experiment a little up and down and see what happens. Initially, I would not exceed my stated upper limits.

Exercise 1: Getting A Feel For The Controls

Your collective is still all the way down and the torque reading is about 30 to 32%. Check you pedals left/right; you should be able to make the chopper rotate a little and to control that rotation. Move the cyclic control, small amounts at first; the attitude of the helicopter should change a little, left/right and fore/aft. Experiment with increasing amplitude of your cyclic movement. Build a mental picture of your cyclic movement associated with your visual cues outside the cockpit, the indication on the attitude indicator and your skid sounds on the tarmac. All the while, maintain the helicopter's heading, north, 360, but do not be afraid to move it around with the pedals. Be careful; you have almost enough thrust to upset the helicopter.

Experiment now with the collective control. Determine how much motion is required to increase the torque reading to 40%. Do the same thing to get a torque reading of 50%. Be careful and deliberate. Repeat all in the above paragraph with the cyclic control at each of the 40% and 50% torque settings. At these settings it is very easy to upset the chopper, with any misuse of the cyclic control. Note that at 50% you are only a little bit below the torque required for a lightly loaded Bell to become airborne.

Exercise 2: Moving Forward Slowly On The Skids

The airspeed indictor is very slow to react to small forward velocities and is hard to read a low speeds. The screen display airspeed is easier to read but there is still a long delay before an initial low airspeed registers. Therefore, use your tarmac cues to tell you when you are moving forward. The yellow lines and the gas pump are great for this.

Start with the collective at 40% torque, move the cyclic forward a small amount and evaluate what has occurred. Move it a little farther. Do not upset the helicopter. Do not let the pitch attitude change more than about 10 degrees, and the bank attitude not more than 5 degrees. All the while maintain heading with the pedals. Be patient!

Do everything mentioned above again at torque settings of 45% and 50%. Do not exceed 50%. The helicopter should move forward quite smartly at 50%, less so at 45% as you move the cyclic forward. Keep close watch on the pitch attitude; not more than 10 degrees nose down; it should move at 5 degrees nose down at 50% torque. Do not let the speed exceed 5 knots, when it gets to five knots, move the cyclic control back or towards the rear to stop the motion. Be careful, too far and you will move backwards blindly or whack the tail rotor, or worse.

Exercise 3: Lift Off And Hovering

Your Bell should still be by the pumps, heading 360 into the 10 knot wind and engine and rotor rpm at 100%. You are now ready to practice lifting off so that the skids are off the tarmac, no skid sound. To say it is easy and quick. To do it is much harder. I found it easier to lift off with some forward velocity, 5 knots or so, and then slow down for the hover but this is very tricky so as not to end up going backwards. Increase the collective slowly, feeling your way, from 50% upward towards but not beyond 60%. Move the cyclic control forward watching the pitch attitude change; try to maintain no more than 10 degrees maximum, the pitch attitude will want to go beyond 10 degrees by itself when it starts moving and thus you will have to move the cyclic back slightly; be prepared. Maintain directional control with the pedals and do not let the helicopter tip either right or left. Make the corrections immediately; accurate directional control with the pedals will make the left/right control with the cyclic much easier and good left/right control makes the pedal control easier. Uncorrected yaw will induce both pitch and roll motions to the chopper.

In this all your cues will be outside the chopper, except for the IAS after some initial delay, low speed delay. The VSI and altimeter will not register. The attitude indicator will show pitch and roll attitude accurately, but your outside visual cues are better at this stage of your learning.

When you are confident in the hover try very small cyclic movements left and right and observe what happens. Maintain directional control with the pedals. The helicopter will want to fall left or right and/or rotate about the main rotor axis. Be prepared. During all this you can leave the collective at or slightly below 60%. When you feel comfortable hit the pause control and have a look, "s" key, at the chopper from outside. If at any time you feel that things are going to get out of hand very soon, reduce the collective smoothly, maintain attitudinal control about two axes, and smoothly bring the cyclic control backward, not too much, and the helicopter should settle more or less smoothly back to the tarmac, assuming that you are less than two or three feet above the tarmac and that your IAS is less than 10 knots. If the chopper hits the tarmac at about 50 feet per minute or more it will crash.


Exercise 4: Hover To Forward Flight

Now, if you do everything that you were doing in Exercise 3, and increase the collective slightly to 65% torque, and do not move the cyclic back quite as far, to stop your forward speed from increasing as in exercise 3, then the forward speed should keep on increasing through 15 to 25 knots. Do not let the pitch attitude go below 10 degrees nose down. Ease back a wee bit on the cyclic and the ground should fall away smoothly and slowly. You are, of course, maintaining directional control and bank control. When you are comfortable, increase collective to 70% torque, establish an IAS of about 55 knots and you should be climbing 500 to 700 feet per min on the VSI. Continue the climb to 1000 feet agl. To stop the climb, move the cyclic control forward slowly and smoothly, monitoring the VSI, altimeter and airspeed. The IAS will increase slowly, the VSI indication will decrease towards zero and the altimeter will stabilize at your chosen altitude. Take your time and watch what happens with everything as you make each change. Your IAS now will be in the region of 80 to 95 knots.

Now try some turns. Move the cyclic gently left or right until the chopper is banked about 10 to 15 degrees; do not climb or descend and maintain the ball in the center. For all practical purposes the helicopter is performing much like a fixed wing aircraft and much of its instability is gone. Try some steeper turns to a bank angle of 25 to 30 degrees when you feel comfortable with the preceding. When you are comfortable carry on with the next series of exercises. If you are having trouble go back a couple of exercises. If you are still having trouble, stop practicing for a few hours. Go back and read again some or all of these notes.

Exercise 5: Effect of Collective Settings on Chopper Performance

Reduce the collective to 60% torque, maintain altitude by moving the cyclic back and the IAS decreases. If you maintain your pre-torque reduction IAS, then you will begin descending. Notice how the rate of descent can be modified with fore/aft cyclic motion. When you are comfortable with this, try to stop your descent using the collective control only, increasing the torque; do not increase torque beyond 70%. Next try stopping descent by applying some collective and some back cyclic together; this, of course, is the way the chopper is brought to the hover and to landing.

We are not ready to land the chopper yet, but from now on keep in mind: the near perfect landing is when the skids touch the tarmac when the descent rate is less than 20 feet per minute, the IAS is less than 5 knots. You arrive at this happy state by the careful coordinated use of the collective, cyclic and pedals.

Keep practicing the above, and slowing the helicopter more and more each time until you get to an IAS of about 10 knots. Remember, quick, accurate, small inputs of the cyclic and pedals, for the correct length of time, to maintain the helicopter attitude. When you are confident, use reductions of torque in small increments down to 40 or 45% and repeat all the above. When you get below 50% torque, monitor the IAS and VSI very closely. The rate of descent will rapidly increase as the IAS decreases below 25 knots. Try to aim for rates of descent which are never greater than 500 feet per minute.

Exercise 6: Preparing To Land

All aircraft flights end when the aircraft stops moving and the engine(s) is (are) shut down. Before this, there are the last two of many preceding components: the approach to landing and the landing itself. Every good landing is preceded by a good approach, no exceptions! You will not do a good landing if the approach is poor or deficient or non-existent.

Very simply, the approach requires that we know when and where we are going to land, that it is permissible to land there, the weather conditions at the landing location and, most importantly, the wind velocity and whether or not it is gusty. For our purposes, we have permission, we will always be landing at Meigs, we will set the wind so that it is not gusty and we have set the velocity, 360/10. This means that while we are learning to fly the chopper, our heading at landing will be 360. We have a great visual reference to help us at Meigs, the single north/south runway. We will use it to guide our approach, and we will fly down toward it while reducing our altitude and reducing our IAS to about 10 knots or so. This should be somewhat easier than a full hover landing.

When you are comfortable with the exercises in 5: above fly your chopper in a big circle about two miles south of the southern end of the Meigs runway and line up the chopper heading 360 towards the end of the runway. The first couple of times that you do this, just fly at constant altitude, 500 to 1000 feet, hdg 360 and fly directly over the runway. Pay special attention to all your visual cues as you fly along; how the runway changes apparent shape as you get closer to it. Do this a few more times flying lower each time until you get down to about 200 or 300 feet.

Exercise 7: Landing

When you have mastered flying along the runway at 200 to 300 feet, 45 to 55 knots, collective at 50 to 55%, try doing a skidding landing. When you cross the south end of the runway the next time at 300 feet agl, i.e. approximately 900 feet on the altimeter, reduce the collective smoothly to about 45 to 50% torque (you will have to experiment with this) and move the cyclic backward slowly and smoothly (try not to gain any altitude) and the chopper should start a slow descent as the IAS drops. Try to arrive at the runway surface, 593 feet asl on the altimeter, at no more than 10 to 15 knots IAS, and no more that 50 feet per minute descent rate. Monitor the IAS very closely; do not let it get too slow. Remember, that with the 10 knot headwind you have, at 15 knots IAS, your forward velocity over the ground is only five knots. You do not want to start moving backwards; that will wreck your whole day. Maintain directional control as accurately as possible with the pedals and correct all roll deviations immediately with the cyclic. As you slow down your rate of descent will increase a bit so increase collective by small amounts to control this remembering that you want to arrive at the runway surface with a very low rate of descent, 50 feet per minute or less. As soon as you touch down, collective all the way reduced, move the cyclic rearward a further small amount. The chopper should stop in a second or two.

End of the Beginning

The foregoing should help you get to the point where you can fly the Bell 206B and get some practice doing real helicopter things, and, most importantly have some fun. We have probably discussed only about 20% of what you really need to know to fly a helicopter. Still to be covered: the full hover, the vertical ascent, out of wind operations, gusty wind operations, the vertical descent and hover landing, flight planning, weight and balance, navigation, approaches, instrument flying, helicopter maintenance, instruments and avionics, the airways system, the air traffic control system, and so on and so on.

I had fun writing this and it really helped me in my own learning of how to fly the FS98 Bell 206B. I hope that it will be of some use to some of you.

I have been involved with aviation since 1953, when I joined the RCAF, and with flight sims since the late 1950's. The FS98 is, in my opinion, the best all around computer flight sim available. Some others have better visuals or fancier aircraft or what have you, but if you look at the total capability of FS98 (I only know about 1% of it) it is the leader, hands down. If you want to practice basic instrument flying the Cessna 182RG (or fixed gear) is as real as it gets without actually sitting in the real aircraft.

Robert A. Froebel
Retired Professional Engineer, Teacher, Commercial Pilot (fixed wing) and Computer Buff. Copywrite by RAF.

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