Free RC flight simulators

]Before buying and flying your first RC plane, I strongly recommend practicing with a computer simulator. A simulator will teach you the basic flight controls and getting used to the left/right inversion when the plane is flying towards you. Judging distances and where the plane is with regard to the runway is quite difficult in a simulator, so it’s not the perfect tool for practicing landings.

There are several commercial RC flight simulators out there. Some come with a controller that looks like a real transmitter, many can be coupled to an actual transmitter. However, this means an initial investment similar to the cost of a complete plane. Luckily, there are alternatives. If found two free RC flight simulators:

  • FMS is an older program, so don’t expect too much in the way of graphics. It also has issues with more recent Windows versions – check out the forum for a solution. It comes however with a couple of nice planes, including two slow-flying planes that are great for getting used to the controls.
  • RC Desk Pilot is newer, looks better, but comes with a smaller number of planes. It lacks a really basic model, but comes with a nice 3D model for more advanced flying.

I fly with a cheap Logitech gamepad that I originally bought for the Microsoft Flight Simulator. The only disadvantage is that the throttle control defaults to 50%, not 0%.

One thing to keep in mind is stick modes. Mode 1 has ailerons en elevator on the left stick, throttle and rudder on the right, mode 2 is the other way round. Generally, which mode you chose doesn’t matter, but it may be smart to use the same mode as other people (such as an RC flying club) in your area so the can help you.