It looks like there are a differences between the models used in the schools and the simulators you can run in a PC .

I'm curious to know the differences and price of both type of simulators.

I thought that the one in the schools were just simple PC simulators.

What simulator can I use to practice basic helicopter stuff?

  • 2
    $\begingroup$ You still need some number of hours training with an instructor in a real helicopter. I think it's still 40hrs, minimum. The marginal benefit of a really good helicopter sim is probably not worth it. $\endgroup$
    – acpilot
    Commented May 18, 2019 at 16:59
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    $\begingroup$ Please Edit your question to indicate what kind of simulator you have in mind. There's a massive difference between a full flight simulator (probably out of reach of all but the largest flight schools and above) and something you can run on your home computer with no extra hardware (which the question Dave pointed you at discusses to some extent), and those are only the extremes on the scale. $\endgroup$
    – user
    Commented May 18, 2019 at 18:59
  • $\begingroup$ There are couple of simulators to chose from: FSX/P3D (not that good for actual helicopter training), X-Plane (very good for training) and the new Aerofly FS 2 (also very good for training). The last two can actually save you a lot of money on flight lessons if you invest in a collective lever, cyclic stick and pedal usb controllers. Not only can you skip the "getting to know the controls", you might actually be able to hover yourself in your first real lesson. With all of these you still need the 40hrs minimum but probably no more than that. Totally worth it. $\endgroup$
    – Jan
    Commented May 18, 2019 at 22:02
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    $\begingroup$ Voting to re-open since Microsoft Flight Simulator is not the only option. $\endgroup$
    – Koyovis
    Commented May 19, 2019 at 3:55
  • 2
    $\begingroup$ Even if this is not a duplicate question, isn't this off-topic because it's a shopping question? $\endgroup$
    – Sanchises
    Commented May 19, 2019 at 16:57

2 Answers 2


The main difference is in the flight dynamics model. A PC simulator can be realistic, but who is to say that it is? A professional simulator must show to the authorities (EASA,FAA etc) that the modelled behaviour matches flight data.

There are several authorisation levels, from very basic to zero-flight-time. Even for the basic devices, the authorities want to make sure that only correct cues are generated and that there never will be any negative training habits formed by the simulator user.

PC-based programs can teach students where the buttons and indicators are, what to push, which instrument to monitor far what etc. Some of them are accredited by the authorities, more info in answers to this question.


There are four types of aviation training devices: Basic Aviation Training Devices, Advanced Aviation Training Devices and Flight Simulators that are regulated under §61.4 and full flight simulators (FFS) and flight training devices (FTD) that are regulated under 14 CFR part 60

The BATD and AATD often use the same software that you can use on your home computer e.g. X-Plane. The difference is that they have received a Letter of Authorization (LOA) from the FAA certifying that the software and accompanying peripherals satisfy the rules regarding BATDs and AATDs. You can read more about it in AC_61-136B

Here’s the relevant part for a BATD like FlyThisSim.

B.3.1 General Control Requirements. The following items are required for all ATD approvals.

B.3.1.1 The aircraft physical flight and associated control systems must be recognizable as to their function and how they are to be manipulated solely from their appearance. These physical flight control systems cannot use interfaces such as a keyboard, mouse, or gaming joystick to control the aircraft in simulated flight.

B.3.1.2 Virtual controls are those controls used to set up certain aspects of the simulation (such as selecting the aircraft configuration, location, weather conditions, etc.) and otherwise program, effect, or pause the training device.

I have seen videos where the setup exceeds the requirements for the BATD but without a LOA it is not a BATD and time cannot be logged for purposes of fulfilling the experience requirements for certificates or ratings.

I have flown older BATDs like the ones that used to be sold by ASA and they don’t provide a very realistic flying experience. I used FlyThisSim extensively for IFR training and it does a pretty good job of simulating a real airplane. For IFR training X-Plane and my Mac are just as good. I haven’t tried either one for VFR maneuvers.


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