I know it varies from aircraft to aircraft, but I want to know in general, which would be the most difficult aircraft to fly even after years of experience. Helicopter or Airplane ?

I tried to fly a helicopter on the FSX and I couldn't land the aircraft once without spinning like a beyblade for minutes. I know it is not possible to fly something perfectly without knowledge, but I remember that my first time flying a plane on the FSX, everything had been easier.

Some people also say that the wind greatly influences the helicopter on landing, which makes me think that perhaps the helicopter is more difficult to fly.

  • $\begingroup$ Helicopter. I say... helicopter. $\endgroup$ Mar 17, 2020 at 2:02
  • $\begingroup$ While this is an opinion-based question since difficulty is subjective, if you were to take a survey of pilots who have learned to fly both I think it would be very heavily skewed toward rotary wings being more difficult to learn. Perhaps once you're proficient in both they're more equivocal. $\endgroup$ Mar 17, 2020 at 3:25
  • $\begingroup$ FSX has very simplified helicopter physics and it's not as realistic as Aerofly, X-Plane or DCS. $\endgroup$
    – Jan
    Mar 17, 2020 at 7:21
  • $\begingroup$ And even simplifying, it was more difficult (almost impossible) to land a helicopter than an airplane. $\endgroup$ Mar 17, 2020 at 7:30

1 Answer 1


Unfortunately, this is an opinion based question. My opinion is based on the fact that my first few hours of helicopter instruction were harder than my first few hours of fixed wing instruction.

Takeoff in a helicopter was fairly easy after hover taxiing to the takeoff pad and hover turning 360° with yaw control to visually clear the area. Landing in a helicopter was fairly easy up to the point of bringing the aircraft to a hover. In both cases, the hard part came in the form of any of the low speed maneuvering. That includes just getting the skids off the ground and putting them back down under control.

Takeoff in a fixed wing aircraft was easy except for directional control to remain on centerline before rotation and the extended centerline after rotation. Landings in a fixed wing aircraft are in another realm of difficulty until you get the hang of it. From stabilizing the approach to slowing down to a speed appropriate to turn off the active runway and everything in between are hair-raising and nerve-wracking your first few hours of instruction.

Cruise flight in both is fairly simple and enjoyable once the aircraft is trimmed out and the friction locks are set properly. Although, changing flight parameters in a fixed wing can be done with as little as input on one control. Say for instance, changing the throttle input in a trimmed out airplane will make you change altitude. Changing flight parameters in a helicopter will involve input into more than one if not all of the controls. Changing the collective will require a change in throttle input, which will require input into the anti-torque pedals, in order to change altitude in a helicopter without a governor at low speeds.

The biggest difference is that a good instructor can verbally walk you through flying an airplane up until short final on your first flight. Although, they will always be ready and prepared to take the controls at any time. In a helicopter, the instructor will be on the controls the entire time your first flight. They will give you command of each control, one by one, as your confidence and competence grows.

Bottom line is that hovering is the deciding factor on whether it is harder to fly either a fixed wing or a rotary wing aircraft. Although, it is easier in a fixed wing. In a fixed wing aircraft, all you need is plenty of altitude, and a headwind that matches your airspeed (or an aerobatic plane with lots of thrust). In a helicopter, you need to be able to juggle while riding a unicycle.


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