The first actual helicopter I ever flew was a fixed-pitch helicopter. Like most people I know who are hobby enthusiasts, I kind of dove right into it, in the same way someone dives into a pool with no water. In fact, I got the exact same result… a huge crash.
I didn’t bother getting a simulator at the time because they were expensive, and at that time I didn’t even have a computer. Instead, I put my heli together and learned how each of the controls worked. I decided to try out my first flight in my living room to see if I could get it to hover. The space I had to work with was probably only three feet from the blades to my walls and fireplace. Like most people on their first time flying, my heart was pounding and I couldn’t wait any longer.
I might have managed a whole foot off the ground before the heli took a hard right, straight into my wall. At that point, I had to stop and take a step back to learn the sensitivity of the helicopter. At the time, I TRULY had to train myself. Not only did I not have internet connection, but at that time there was not a whole lot of information out there on the web.
So, I was very diligent. I probably spent two weeks, working at it an hour each day (and another bag full of parts) before I managed to hover for a full five minutes. That was the point at which I started trying to do more things. I wound up with another hundred dollars of broken parts before I finally forked over the money for a simulator. With the money I had already spent in broken parts for my helicopter, I could have purchased this thing more than once. After all the “hard lessons” I learned by experience and broken parts, the simulator was definitely the SMARTEST purchase I ever made.
In thirty minutes on my simulator, I had improved my skills to a level equal to the skills that took me two weeks to learn with just my heli. As long as you treat the heli you’re flying in the simulator like it is your real model, then you can truly learn and take yourself far. It only took two weeks of simulator work for me to be able to do full tic-tocs with a smile so big my cheeks hurt.