A required preface to my writeup which follows:

Helicopters are here! And that’s really all it took to entice me to give MSFS a try. I downloaded initially to my PC to try it in VR. I liked it well enough. But what I really wanted from the sim, since it really doesn’t offer any PC functionality that I don’t already enjoy with X-Plane, is something to play from the comfort of my living room. I’ll relate my experiences thus far, limiting any “general impressions” comments to keep it relatively brief. I will allow myself this: the sim is stunning! Even down low where helicopters roam and Bing buildings don’t always render well, it’s still beautiful. Tokyo at night has taken top spot as the single most gorgeous sim experience in my many years in the hobby. What’s more, it looks better and runs smoother on my XBOX series X at 4K than it does on my PC. Loading times are about 1/4 of what they are on my PC (SSD).

The console was a bit of an impulse buy. I don’t see myself ever returning to Halo or CoD or BF. The appeal of gamer fodder is mostly lost to me now. So the console is pretty much a one-trick pony. Me being me, I doubled down on the “investment” by purchasing an “Elite 2” controller. Having two controllers lets me keep one for the PC in case I want to fly MSFS in VR (X-Plane has me too spoiled to accept the poor implementation of VR controls in MSFS). Behold my wine cork mod:

Over two days and a dozen hours I have tried every possible setup: from the default “Gamepad Helicopter” to using the right trigger as collective and right stick as anti-torque. There’s been some frustration but I’ve mostly enjoyed maximizing the usefulness of the controller. Working around some big limitations has been part of the learning experience. Those limitations when compared to a real joystick are obvious. And, yes, I know that there are very good setups available for the console. Going that route would defeat my purpose of having quick sim excursions in an otherwise uncluttered living room. The cyclic part of the problem is easy. My “mod” and the very high quality gamepad gives X and Y control that’s about 80% that of a decent joystick. The big limitation for the cyclic is the circular limits of a gamepad stick compared to the proper square limits on a real stick. Other challenges have been:

  • Sharing camera slew with collective.
  • Getting around the collective centering.
  • Fine collective control in cruise.
  • Getting accustomed to triggers as rudder.
  • Some general weirdness with MSFS helicopter FM, especially the 407.

The camera challenge is overcome by having a bumper serve as a shift key so that a combo press with collective stick can slew the view. Cyclic trim is pretty cool. I shifted that with the other bumper. So, let’s say we need nose up trim. I am already holding aft stick to keep the desired attitude. So all I do is bump the bumper and any needed trim values will dial in due to stick displacement away from center! The default Helicopter Gamepad settings use A and B for collective. Using buttons is fine for throttle in a fixed-wing. But a great joy in flying helicopters is having precise and timely control in the vertical. The challenge for me has been that the neutral spring coincides with 50% power which is roughly where hover power resides in the “Gumball”. Pushing up and down through the sprung center takes away some of the precision at the exact moment where you need it most. (I have an old wired gamepad that I plan to disassemble to see if spring removal is possible.) The triggers on the expensive controller are very precise. I am still not a fan of using them for rudder but I found that flying with rudder on the X axis of the collective stick was impossible for me. One “feature” of the new MSFS bespoke helicopter settings is the ability to have rudder inputs be additive (like a form of yaw trim) instead of axial. I hated that and found it impossible as well, unless one flies extremely conservatively so that collective inputs are perfectly timed with rudder taps. I lack the fine motor skill to do that consistently. So I have the triggers set up as axes and that works out great. Similarly, the collective can also be set up as trim-like but, like the rudder, I have it set as an axis. Remember the A and B collective buttons? I kept them. This way I can use the stick for fine hover control and use the buttons in cruise and more safely use the stick for view control. All together, this takes a bit of fancy finger-work, but it’s fun and, as my skill improves, I am starting to see a point in the near future where it will be hard to tell that I am not flying with a proper stick.

I haven’t flown RC in a couple of years. But I see myself getting back into it someday. So the left-stick-cyclic/ right-stick-collective bothers me. The gamepad and all of the MSFS presets are setup for this arrangement. My next move before I get too dialed in, is to see if I can reverse all of the letter functions and d-pad functions and swap the sticks.

EDIT a few days later. The controller disassembly revealed a stick that is enclosed as a unit and soldered onto the board. Spring removal is possible but more than I am willing to risk with either controller. Plus, it ruins the controller for anything else.

I won’t go into why I am unable to swap the cyclic and collective sticks other than to say it involves the secondary menu functions that the sticks serve on a setup with no mouse. I’m used to it now. Any RC model in my future is totally doomed.


I’m not sure that you are exactly Microsoft’s target XBox demographic, a one-wheel riding commercial pilot, who competes in aerobatics, and builds his personal helicopter. But what the hey. Humans are a complex species :laughing:

I’ve had a similar experience exploring Los Angeles downtown and the surrounding area at night. Breathtakingly beautiful and fascinating, especially in VR. You somehow feel master of your domain in a helicopter, not bound to airports for departure and arrival of your journey. Rather, the scenarios one imagines are endless.


I will admit I am all over the map. Nobody understands my helicopter fascination. Even helicopter people don’t understand it! “Enjoy the Pitts and leave the low, slow noise-making to the professionals!”, I can almost hear them say. I’ve been greatly blessed to be both weird and possessing the means to (barely) be able to feed the weirdness; plus an understanding family. I mean, how would you feel watching your 54 yo dad taping a cork to an XBOX controller? Maybe if I ever find myself in a padded cell, friends and family will point to the helicopter and say, “This is where it started!”


“Do not go gentle into that good night,
Old age should burn and rave at close of day;
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.” - Dylan Thomas


Yeah! Sure…
I bet you believe in Santa too!


I think I first heard this quote in Interstellar, where it gets repeated a bit too much. I assumed it was Shakespeare. You’ve been an education @chipwich!

EDIT: That came across wrong. I love the quote. But the movie itself hits it too much…but with reason. I get it. Don’t get old!


A renaissance man I’d say.

From the web:

“…Leon-Battista-Alberti (1404–72), that “a man can do all things if he will.” The ideal embodied the basic tenets of Renaissance…limitless in his capacities for development…men should try to embrace all knowledge and develop their own capacities as fully as possible…”


huh, what !? …

… now I see :smile: :wink: imo there is only one way to enjoy low 'n slow in a sim and its hand crafted custom scenery. theres no doubt that MSFS default scenery looks good, but it gets boring down low relatively quickly.

regarding gamepad as a flight sim controller. didnt use it for helo flying recently but just today realized, controlling airplanes, that its for sure more convenient way to flight sim from sofa than standard flight sim setup. so we can agree on that. and similarly was looking into thumb joystick adapters. here 3D printer will come in handy.

but iirc on my PS5 pad I have cyclic on my right stick, yaw on my left stick and collective as index finger buttons (dont know the exact name).

will give it a go again as the freeware Kiowa released for XP12 looks really good inside-out.
after they improved performance in the latest beta build I am v12 convert. still experiencing micro-freezes here and there.

but will give MSFS helos a go with controller also as the last time I flew them was with HOTASFOP (thats HOTAS + Foot On Pedals).


I first heard it from my CFII. We used to train at night in his Arrow, because both of us had day jobs. I was pre-flighting the aircraft on one of our first lessons at a little airport on the east side of Atlanta called Stone Britt Mountain Memorial. With displaced thresholds at each end, it only had 1700 feet of useful and mic controlled lights. Only a one room shack for an FBO that closed at sunset. I was crawling under a wing in the tall grass at 9 o’clock at night and complained something like, “It’s dark as f— out here.” His reply as he stood in the dark watching me, “Do not go gentle in that good night.”

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For whatever it’s worth, when my 2013 era i5 based PC was due an upgrade last year, I cashed in on the video card craze and sold my 1070 for more than I initially paid for it, and used that to help finance a Razer 14 (only laptop on the market that was both available, AND not scalped into stratospheric pricing). I now have it setup for either ‘docking’ into my flight sim setup, where it projects to a 32” 4K TV, or can plug it into the living room TV in ‘console’ mode. (Mostly lego starwars gets the milage there). But in my case that’s scratched the ‘console’ itch which rarely comes along these days (I too have long given up on CoD and the like). It’s proven a great alternative so far!

I say that because if the Xbox keeps giving you issues, selling it and going the gaming laptop route would let you use one of these, which seems like it would be the perfect solution, as clearly it’s based on an RC Tx, but with enough buttons for any armchair aviator to be happy. Figure it would also let you take advantage of PC mods if the need strikes you.


oh, that HOSAS looks interesting. plus there are other interesting things. gamers are definitely creative.

how about this for XBOX pad ?

and one also for PS5 pad


I am two weeks in! The MSFS experience from a comfy couch and a big TV is beyond my best expectations. This isn’t X-Plane. I don’t believe it will ever be X-Plane. The experience is very different: Way more beautiful over urban environments. A little less real everywhere. The game itself is PFM! How is all of Paris moving at 60fps in such near-perfect 4K depiction? It defies everything I thought I understood about the limitations of consoles.

The controller required dozens of hours of adjustment and practice. But now that I have the light touch needed to be precise and smooth, it’s a delight! Both the Bell and the Gumball are now very controllable with “True To Life” settings. Gradually over time I’ve removed the curves and set Sensitivity at 100%. It’s still no joystick. Accurate flight requires a bit of conservatism, especially when transitioning through ETL. Everything I’ve found to help in MSFS have been techniques that helped in real helicopters last year: look 50-100 yards ahead while keeping the LZ in periphery (rather than staring directly); minimize collective inputs by staying on a stable, straight descent path; decelerate slowly. Rooftop pads we’re impossible for me until yesterday. Now I got ‘em! I just have to follow the rules above and tell my thumbs to stay calm as the hover starts. My legs still twitch as they make involuntary phantom rudder inputs.

The hardest thing to fly hasn’t been the helicopters. It’s been my own Pitts S-1S! The MSFS Pitts is total fantasy, honestly. The pitch and roll rates are at least double those of the real plane. This was easy to fix on the controller by setting up extreme deadzones. The glide rate in a real Pitts is about that of an autorotating helicopter. The MSFS Pitts glides like a sailplane yet generates very little drag in a slip. I have yet to land it successfully.

I didn’t buy MSFS be to a simulator. I bought it to explore the world while scratching a pull-for-power itch with moderate fidelity. It meets the first request shockingly well and the second, adequately enough to be a joy.

EDIT: duh! I just realized that the sticks (and everything else) can be swapped in XB settings!


for me big TV is as imersive as VR, with the bonus of no none-motion sickness :slight_smile:

I can confirm. took some time to get used to the small throw but I am similarly amazed how precise the thumbsticks are ( PS5 gamepad here ). no dead zones, no noise.
plus enough buttons on the gamepad. nearly enough to not touch the keyboard the entire flight.

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