I don’t do much helicopter content on Stormbirds and that’s largely because flying them have mostly eluded me when I have gone to try. In DCS World I have the DCS: Mi-8TV2 which is an impressive module for that sim with plenty to like about it, but me getting that helicopter under control has been a bit of a challenge, and so I went looking for something simpler and more training oriented. Enter VSkyLab’s Cabri G2 for X-Plane 11 which is a brilliant two seat helicopter with safety and training in mind. Here are my first impressions not only of the helicopter but of trying to learn how to fly it!
Simple training helicopter
After crashing the Mi-8 several dozen times I figured it was time to try something different and after some research and talking to different people around the community I decided to go in on the Cabri G2 from the X-Plane.org Store. Flying a helicopter is like learning to fly again and it’s a bit humbling after many years of fixed wing piloting.
The Cabri G2 is a helicopter designed in the 1980s by Eurocopter engineer Bruno Guimbal who started his own company to build the helicopter. It’s a three rotor, two seat helicopter with a Lycoming O-360-J2A piston engine and a Eurocopter Fenestron. What’s a Fenestron? That’s the tail rotor of the helicopter which, in this arrangement, is located within the tail fin rather than exterior to it.
The type is small, simple to manage, relatively easy to fly while still being very much a ‘stick and rudder’ kind of experience.
Approach to helicopter simulation
VSkyLab’s approach to aircraft making for X-Plane is designed around using as much of the X-Plane systems as possible without custom coding and plug-ins. It’s very much an out of the box X-Plane simulation and it’s something that VSkyLabs mentions in their product details.
Highly engineered, robust helicopter simulation which pushes X-Plane’s out-of-the-box features and flight dynamics model to its extent.VSkyLabs product page for their Cabri G2 Project
That makes the Cabri G2 an easy install with no real dependencies needed to get going. It also seems to run really well with no significant frame rate loss caused by the aircraft itself and, when using the X-Plane 11.41 experimental flight model as recommend, it flies like a real helicopter should. For me that’s a bit of a challenge but then that’s a good thing and that’s why I wanted it.
Unlike when I write about my first flights in most aircraft on this blog, helicopters are something that continue challenge me, so my first flights are a bit more stumbling around in the dark than usual.
The Cabri G2 is a good teacher as I said above as it’s simple yet capable and I’ve already had some fun with it thanks to some lessons from friends and from a YouTube channel that helped inspire VSkyLabs to make this helicopter. Mischa Gelb, known for his channel Pilot Yellow, has some great introductions both to helicopter flying in general as well as instructions on the Cabri G2 itself which he uses to teach new helicopter pilots.
You need a good playground to fly a helicopter and really enjoy it in X-Plane 11. There are other options out there but Orbx’s 74S Anacortes Airport is one that I already owned and is an ideal package for helicopter flying. It’s scenic for one (alongside TrueEarth Washington) but it also has a full GA airport plus a dirt strip and two helicopter landing sites. I’ve got some exploring to do but for the first couple of flights I flew around Anacortes and the nearby islands.
Right now I’m trying to learn how to manipulate the collective and manage the cyclic together to achieve flight. One I’m up to speed I’m pretty happy with how this flies and a little trim work can keep it centered and flying without too much adjustment. It’s the transition into hovering that I struggle with and then holding position once I’m there.
I’ve crashed the Cabri G2 more than a few times already. Into the water, into a landing pad, onto the grass at Anacortes (without any apparent damage), and then finally successfully landed not too harshly a few times after that. I’ve crashed the G2 more than I’ve crashed any other aircraft in X-Plane – but this is why a simulation can be so useful as you just restart the flight and try again. Multiple times if needed!
Watching the RPM meter, keeping an eye on my speed, and gauging how much authority my tail rotor is going to have at different speeds makes things unique and interesting in ways that are quite different from conventional aircraft.
Looks like a great helicopter
With 4K PBR textures, a nicely detailed interior, good sounds both inside and outside the helicopter, I’m overall already very impressed with the effort by VSkyLabs. The Cabri G2 Project is a fun little helicopter to fly and although it doesn’t have much that it can do, as a trainer, it’s already doing a lot for me with its smaller size, zippy performance and easier handling than the DCS: Mi-8 that I’ve been trying to tame.
Once I’ve really gotten the hang of it I plan to write some more about the Cabri G2 and my adventures in it. It’s available for $29.99 USD at the X-Plane.org Store.