DreamFoil's Bell 407 for X-Plane 11

(Note: Not a Mudspike article. Just me pretending. Thanks for reading anyway!)

$35 for a helicopter that doesn’t make rocket noises when I push the red button!? I am way to cheap for that. I spent five years bemoaning the demise of sims from the keyboard of my 2009 iMac partitioned with Windows. Before building a screamer PC in January, I couldn’t fully appreciate how trying to make that old dog bark had really dragged me down a dark hole of sim malaise. This new machine and a short adjustment period was all it took to pull me out of that hole and awaken me to what I now believe is a truly great moment in time to have a sim adiction. It takes time (and considerable money) to get out of the “everything sux now” mode and make the transition to “giddy fanboi”. And it also takes effort. My first boot of X-Plane 11 was, for a myriad of silly reasons, a disappointment. So I turned it off and left it off. But I read all the fun Beach was having with X-Plane despite being force to return to the lowly 2D ranks to do so. So I turned it back on. I ported over my Blairstown (1N7) from my iMac and gave it some overdue World Editor updating. And then I saw an email ad from X-Plane.org for what they claimed to be the first payware flying machine specifically made for version 11. I figured that if X-Plane 11 really was a step up then maybe an updated helicopter from a reputable designer was just the thing I needed to appreciate X-Plane all over again.

That was a good move. I bought it while on a 4-day trip immediately after reading the ad. In the past I would have forgotten the purchase fifteen minutes later. Now I understand that this hobby–any difficult hobby–is like a marriage, you must work at it. I found a pdf copy of the Bell 407 Flight Manual online and read it cover to cover. Mind you this wasn’t a steep climb because the 407 has, if anything, gotten even more simple to operate since the days of its granddaddy, the Jet Ranger. Once home, I finally had a chance to kick the skids after several days pumping myself up for the moment. I clicked the custom box and picked a color along with a beige interior. I parked it next to my hangar at Blairstown. I choose early morning with a touch of fog and a high overcast to get the lighting right. I was in no hurry to fly because I felt that I knew well enough how it would fly. The XP10 version of the same machine got a glowing review at Helisimmer. The reviewer was experienced and rated so the flying part seemed to be a given. Even virtual first flights don’t happen every day so I wanted savor this moment like a French diner would a moderately expensive meal–slowly over several courses with a bit of brandy in between. I normally care so little about a virtual airplane’s exterior that I never learned the Shift+number keys that X-Plane uses for various camera views. Yet another example of where effort pays off in further appreciation. I removed all the tie downs and covers. The rotors are secured to the skids with tie-down lines and the blades gently pop up with the loss of tension as each line is removed. A similar detail is seen when you click the fuel port and add or remove a substantial amount of fuel: the skids compress or extend an inch or two. ARMA has spoiled me and I thought I could sit in the back and check legroom and pretend to smell the leather (I do this when I buy a car too). But clicking the entry arrow just puts you in the right pilot’s seat. And like ARMA there is a little head roll as you shoe-horn your way in. (The first time this happened I kept recentering my TrackIr thinking it had gone awry.) I built this PC without speakers and use my Steelseries headphones 100 percent of the time. Turning on the battery rewards you with the near ubiquitous Low RPM warning. But this one was simply beautiful. Well, no, actually it was loud and irritating as hell–by design. But it had this wonderfully clear, stereophonic musicality to it. DreamFoil didn’t just bring an iPhone into a 407 and record stuff. Or if they did, they post-processed the recordings to stunning effect. Anyway, that Low RPM warning followed seconds later by the engine fail warning is one truly great first impression. It only gets better when you grab the David Clark off the hook above the panel. Neat stuff.

This is as far as I want to go in reviewing DreamFoil’s take on this machine. It is really good, maybe great. I now want to step away from reality and review the Bell 407 based solely off this virtual copy. Is it close to real? I will likely never know and, for my purposes here, I don’t care. There is a point in our hobby where we must just accept, pretend and fly. Startup/warmup takes just a couple of minutes even if you do all the appropriate checks. It’s like a 172. In fact, it is this “172” analogy (which I have heard often about the Jet Ranger) that prepared me to not expect much. Stable, dated, dull. It is pretty stable. And compared to Fenestron and NOTAR equipped competing machines I think it is fair to call it dated. Decidedly Not Dull. SAS is an option but unless you are practicing instrument stuff, it just gets in the way and you are better served leaving it off. Hover requires plenty of attention but is mostly predictable, even in winds that are not. At close to max gross at sea level on a standard day, an IGE hover only needs about 65%-75% torque. The 407 is not a 172 or a Robinson or a Huey. It’s a screamer. You can accelerate out of the height-velocity curve and into a 1000 FPM climb while barely pulling more pitch than was needed in the hover. Pull to 90% and you will either push the VSI peg well past the 2000 FPM limit or you will comfortably accelerate to Vne. The four blades make this gorgeous racket that implies something bigger and more substantial than is really there. And here’s where the love begins: Roll into a turn or pitch into a climb and listen to that rotor system under a load. If it doesn’t earn a smile, nothing will.

The 407 is very sensitive yet not at all twitchy. If correct, this must be a very hard control balance to achieve. Bell has improved this helicopter in small steps for 40 years. I guess that for them, making a helicopter that flies so well stopped being a challenge a long time ago. If I have a complaint, it is that visibility is pretty low when doing quick stops and pinnacle approaches. Even in a hover the left-aft-low attitude puts the panel in a large swath of your view. I found that landing on buildings was easier if I leaned a little to the right to get a better view out the chin. If I can express my satisfaction with this helicopter, it might be best to admit the following: Every shutdown I have made thus far has ended with me Shift+4-ing outside to secure the tie-downs and covers and to appreciate that dark, glossy skin reflecting the starlight. My wife would call that pathetic. We call that love.


Very nice @smokinhole :slight_smile:

If you (or anyone) wants to convert a forum post or write up a new article for the main website then please do ping anyone on @staff. The main site gets the majority of people reading it (sob our forum is just so niche and exclusive ;)) so any one of us would be more than happy to help.


Really nice write-up @smokinhole. Dreamfoil really knows how to paint, don’t they. I know that you are still in the honeymoon stage, but when your eyes begin wondering, I urge you to try the Dreamfoil Schweizer 300CBi for the ultimate XP rotor experience. She requires a little more attention in hover, but so rewarding when you get it right.

1 Like

That’s what you get for letting nutjobs like myself on here. :wink:

Very nice article @smokinhole :+1: