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Helicopter Simulator using Occulus Rift VR and Pro Flight trainer controls
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Hi all, 

Since the first MS flight simulator came out in the 80ies I'm playing around with them. Every time a new one came on the market the excitement was big but didn't last long, since sitting in front of one monitor and using just a joystick didn't really give me the experience like I am really flying the damn thing. Flying helicopters were even worse and almost impossible since they were very hard to control with only a joystick and no paddles or collective. But what always bothered me the most was that there was never the three-dimensional feeling you really need to estimate height, distance, and speed while performing a flight under VFR rules. 

Since VR (Virtual Reality) technology is on the market I always thought that it would be nice to use this with a flight sim, so finally, we could have some 3d feeling and no need for three or more screens on the desk anymore. However, for quite a long time you couldn't use VR devices with the flight simulators available and therefore I forgot about the idea until recently I stumbled across a software (FlyInside) that makes it possible to use the most advanced VR goggles on the market with the currently most common flight simulators. 
I was so excited about the idea that I jumped right into it and bought the Oculus Rift goggles, well warned by the guy at the store that it might not work with my computer and guess what, he was right. My almost brand new ThinkPad laptop that is taking a heavy cad program with ease was not able to handle Xplane11 and the Oculus goggles, in fact, it wasn't working at all with the goggles. Actually, the program even told me that my hardware will not work. I didn't really expect that (stupid eh..maybe wishful thinking) I thought it might work but just slow and then I could go and find solutions. Anyway, while that wasn't the case I had to look for other solutions and found an ASUS computer that was advertised as working with the Oculus goggles. It came ... it wasn't working at all and in not 12h it was on its way back to Amazon. 
I went back to the store where I had bought the Oculus goggles and where the guy had shown me a computer that would work flawlessly with the goggles and I went on and bought this one.  Well, I think you get the point, this time everything was running just fine.
For somebody who had never used VR technology, the first impression was just freaking amazing. You can look around in the cockpit in all directions and you can even (if you have enough room and sensors) step outside the plane and walk around, which is somewhat limited by the length of the USB cable, anyhow ... amazing. Flying is amazing you immediately get the feeling that you really sitting in the aircraft and it doesn't get long until you feel some motion sickness while the world around you is heavily moving and you seem to have a real feeling of height distance and speed, again... amazing.
However, nothing is perfect and it doesn't take long to figure out the downsides. Currently, the biggest one in my mind is the (relatively) poor resolution which makes it difficult under certain light conditions to read the gauges and screens, it's possible but not always very convenient. Another problem is that you cannot see your controls which are certainly not really necessary but if you have switches and such you cannot see them either.  
There is some technology available which can be used to actually touch switches and screen in the VR environment but this is not very functional yet and the devices you have to hold in your hand in order to do so will actually prevent that you can hold the flight controls appropriately.
Talking about flight controls, in addition to that, I decided to get some more realistic flight controls with paddles cyclic and collecitve and finally I ended up with the Puma Flight Controls from Pro-Flight-Trainer in Canada. They are very easy to install pretty sturdy and they have screws on every axis to generate some resistance like there is more resistance on the left paddle than on the right paddle in a helicopter with the blades spinning in counter clock direction.
All in all, this is a relatively affordable way to get very close to more professional flight simulation in your living room, sure for the even more realistic experience we are missing the motion platform so one actually could feel the motion of the aircraft. Well, there are some very good homebuilt projects on the internet in that regard for those who have the time and passion for trying. 
For now, I am OK sitting on my folding chair-hovering along the taxiway of Harrisburg international... Big Grin

   

Chris
who just started getting flight instruction on a Schweizer 300cbi - in real
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