• Review: RealFlight 7.5

    Review: RealFlight 7.5

    By Nels Anderson

    Many people dream of flying, but not everyone is able to get licensed as a pilot and fly a real airplane. Thus over the years many alternatives have been invented included forms of virtual aviation. The earliest form this took was model aircraft and these date back further than you might imagine.

    For a model aircraft to truly offer a virtual aviation experience to its owner it needs to be controlled. While free-flight and control-line do offer an actual operating aircraft, radio control was the needed breakthrough that put people in full control of their models.

    None other than Nikola Tesla invented the first R/C system...in 1898! Though his patent (U.S. Patent 613,809) is mostly oriented towards water based vessels he did consider its use for balloons. In the 1930's Amateur Radio Operators actually did develop the first hobby R/C systems applied to airplanes, though at the time a transmitter might fill the truck of a car!

    Over the years, R/C has become more accessible and today we have a wide variety of R/C controlled vehicles, with radio systems that vary from the most basic to extremely complex, multi-channel, computer-controlled spread-spectrum systems.

    But no matter the details, whether scale model or full size, the operator neeeds to learn how to control the vehicle. Which brings us back around to the topic of computer flight simulation.

    RealFlight 7.5     RealFlight 7.5

    RealFlight 7.5

    RealFlight is an R/C simulation software series created by Knife Edge Software and published by Great Planes. The company was founded in 1995 and as you can see from the title is now on the 7th generation of the software.

    The primary purpose of RealFlight is to train people to fly R/C aircraft. As such, it includes quite a mix of aircraft, from those commonly found in hobby stores to some that are pretty wild. It simulates all types of flying machines including airplanes, gliders, helicopters and quadcopters. Its versatility even lets it simulate things like a swamp boat and the V-22 Osprey with its tilting wings.

    RealFlight 7.5     RealFlight 7.5     RealFlight 7.5

    Installation

    Somewhat contrary to most software these days, RealFlight still comes in a box. This is because you need an appropriate controller to use with it. The standard edition comes with the InterLink Elite Mode 2 controller made by Futaba, one of the biggest names in R/C equipment. Though not actually capable of generating a radio signal (its output is a USB cord to connect to your computer) it is otherwise just like a quality R/C transmitter you'd find at any flying field.

    Installing the software is as simple as can be, just load the disk into the computer and let it do its thing. It does take a while as there is a lot to install but it really could not be simpler.

    You may find that there is an update available, and updates are downloaded and installed. I've done one update since I started and it was also quite easily accomplished.

    With the software up and running let's look at some of the many features.

    RealFlight 7.5     RealFlight 7.5     RealFlight 7.5

    Physics

    A simulator is of little use unless the physics of the aircraft is realistic. While I cannot from personal experience judge each of the many aircraft included, the planes I flew did feel quite realistic and operated in a controllable and expected manner.

    Moving from one aircraft to another it was quite clear that RealFlight is well able to simulate aircraft with a wide variety of flight characteristics. So, just like any other simulator, the reality comes down more to how well each individual aircraft was designed rather than the abilities of the sim itself.

    It should be noted that the user has control over the physics in two ways. From the menus, "physics" can be selected offering several simple settings that let you change the plane you're flying from "realistic" (the default) to simpler and tamer. This can be a useful option when taking on a high performance plane.

    In addition, you can edit each individual plane's flight characteristics right from within the sim. The editor is actually very easy to use, though obviously some skill and knowledge are necessary to get the results you want. But at least the tools are there and readily accessible.


    4 Comments
    1. DominicS's Avatar
      DominicS -
      Great review Nels. It certainly looks like you had a lot of fun!

      Cheers

      Dom
    1. TseTse's Avatar
      TseTse -
      Ditto on the well-written review. I also have RF7.5 and have been a proud RF user since G2.0!

      I personally give RF a flight-dynamics realism of around 75-80%. (Compared to a real RC counterpart of whatever plane is simulated in RF)This jumps to around 90% when the wind is set to around 5mph.
    1. pinkyjr's Avatar
      pinkyjr -
      I trained to fly 3D and jets on this sim, and the results where awesome. It is soooo much easier to fly in real life, the sim makes it hard which is good.
    1. lnuss's Avatar
      lnuss -
      Nice review, Nels -- thanks. Another R/C training choice is the Phoenix R/C. The version 5 that I got came with a Spektrum DX4e transmitter, usable both as a transmitter and to run the sim, but also works well with the Spektrum DX6i that I prefer for my helis. Some of the things you describe are beyond what Phoenix does, mostly the 3D mode and training circles, but it still comes with a variety of aircraft models, fixed wing, rotary wing and quad, and flight models are pretty good, too. Helis offered are both fixed pitch and collective types. And it has various training modes, as well as some tutorial videos, and more.

      It, too, does a decent job of training, but doesn't have the cockpit view or the "3D" environment, only the photo fields. Updates, new aircraft types and more are downloadable, too.

      I bought it as V5.0a, but just got the latest update and it's 5.5j, with a number of features added since new (including multiplayer, which I've never tried), as well as a LOT more aircraft and several more flying fields added.
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