We’ve all heard the arguments for why a model aviation pilot’s tool kit should include a simulator. It’s almost a necessary part of our fleet. Simulators allow users to groom their skills, experience new aircraft, and tackle challenges—all without the stress of crashing an actual model.
Instead of rehashing the arguments of why to buy a flight simulator, this article will explore all of the exciting new features and characteristics of RealFlight’s latest RC Flight Simulator: RealFlight 7.
Buyers will immediately notice that RealFlight 7 includes two more choices in its lineup, resulting in four bundled options. As with previous versions of RealFlight, pilots can purchase the simulator with the InterLink Elite controller. This includes RealFlight 7 and an eight-channel USB transmitter. The package also provides a built-in interface for using your own RC transmitter.
Another option is the RealFlight upgrade, allowing RealFlight 4 and newer releases to be upgraded by simply purchasing the installation DVD for $49.98.
The release of RealFlight 7 introduces two more options. Users can now buy the RealFlight 7 Transmitter Interface Edition. Instead of receiving the InterLink Elite controller, this bundled package includes a transmitter interface to connect a pilot’s favorite RC transmitter to the simulator through a USB port. An actual transmitter doesn’t include the popular reset/rewind button (which would be nice on the flying field), so RealFlight 7 integrated the reset button into the redesigned interface.
Because no transmitter is included in the Transmitter Interface Edition, this bundle costs $39.99 less than the InterLink Elite Controller Edition. Most transmitters are likely more expensive than the InterLink Elite controller. I suggest playing it safe and keeping the beverages in the refrigerator during gaming to prevent any accidental spills or damage.
The second new addition to RealFlight 7’s software is the Tactic Transmitter-Ready (Tx-R) Edition. For $10 more than the InterLink Elite Edition, users can receive an actual Tactic TTX600 six-channel RC transmitter. The full-functioning transmitter can be used for the simulator and on the flying field to fly any Tx-R or Tactic SLT receiver-equipped aircraft! This is the best option for beginner pilots who want to master their flying skills and take the same controller out to the flying field.
My version of RealFlight 7 included the eight-channel InterLink Elite controller. As a result, the packaging is slightly bulky, approximately 10 x 5 inches, to make room for the transmitter. The box, however, is still small enough to tuck away in a desk drawer or nicely on a bookshelf for storage. In addition to the transmitter, the kit includes an installation guide, an installation DVD, two interface adaptor cords, and the opportunity to redeem $250 in coupons for other products.
The InterLink Elite controller works well and offers enough switches and features for most gaming conditions. In addition, I like the placement of the reset button and menu navigation on the transmitter. Plus, I don’t have to worry about accidental damage to a higher-end transmitter.
The sidebar highlights all of the system requirements for RealFlight 7, but in general, the more powerful the computer the better. RealFlight allows you to modify the graphics to accommodate the computer’s capabilities. If a user has an older computer with only a 1.0 GHz Intel processor and 512 MB of RAM, the computer should still be able to chug along.
The simplest option to adjust graphics is to select Simulation in the tool bar and then Graphics. From there pilots can easily adjust general graphic settings. If a user wants to make more detailed graphic adjustments, select in the tool bar Simulation>Settings >Graphics>Quality. Players then have the option to adjust foliage density, shadow quality, terrain detail, and more.
I am running an Intel i7 with a 3.2 GHz processor, 8 GB RAM, and a dedicated graphics card including 1MB memory. For those who don’t speak computer geek, that a means I was able to set most of my graphics to the highest quality. I didn’t experience any lag or hiccups when using the maximum settings.
RealFlight 7 is compatible with Windows operating systems running XP or better. Mac users may have luck running RealFlight 7 in Boot Camp. Because the software and technical support are set up for a PC/Windows environment, there are no promises that Boot Camp will flawlessly work, although some pilots have indicated that it does.
The process of inserting the disc in my computer, installing the program, and launching the program was 12 minutes. Approximately 10 GB of data will be installed on your computer’s hard drive, which includes updates and add-ons pulled from the Web.
During the installation, RealFlight asked me to verify if I had the latest version of Microsoft Direct X. If your computer does not have that version, expect a few more minutes of installation time.
RealFlight 7 does not automatically start when installation is complete. Users need to manually launch the simulator. The first time the program launches, pilots will need to validate the software by entering the serial numbers on the CD and the transmitter.
Operating the Simulator
An improvement most users will find with RealFlight 7 is a quick startup. On average, it takes 10 seconds to launch the simulator. A welcome screen allows users to easily select an aircraft, flying field, or challenge. The welcome screen will also indicate if there are any updates.
When playing, it only takes a few seconds to load any aircraft changes. Most flying fields take slightly longer—roughly 5-10 seconds to load. The more complex HD flying fields take the longest, but the process is still relatively quick.
Users upgrading from an earlier version of RealFlight will also notice the improved controller menus for a better user interface. This was probably developed to accommodate additional transmitters in addition to the previously standard InterLink Elite controller.
Aircraft and Flying Sites
RealFlight 7 boasts more than 90 airplanes and 30 helicopters out of the box. Everything from park flyer foamies, to 3-D aerobatic aircraft, warbirds, and quadcopters are ready for flight. Players also have more than 40 3D and PhotoField flying sites from which to choose. If a pilot wants more, he or she should take advantage of swap files.
Knife Edge Software, which created RealFlight, allows other players to create and share user-generated aircraft and flying fields (swap files). Any user can download and install these new aircraft and flying fields to RealFlight. There are thousands of files to download.
Although some earlier user-generated content, such as flying fields designed for RealFlight 6.5 will work with RealFlight 7, it’s best to download files specifically designed for RealFlight 7. Because RealFlight 7 is relatively new, there isn’t much user-generated content available. Most past versions have at least a thousand files available for download, so I’m confident that RealFlight 7 shared swap content will become populated.
I downloaded the Culpeper Model Barnstormers RC Flying Field swap file. The user experience to install these shared files is slightly clunky. After a swap file is downloaded, users need to open Real Flight 7. From there, select Simulation > Import > Real Flight Archive, then select the newly downloaded file. The installation time for the Culpepper Model Barnstormers flying field was approximately 30 seconds.
Because swap files are user-generated content, not all flying fields or aircraft may match RealFlight’s standards. My newly added flying field did not include a preview file and it took slightly longer to load, but overall, it was a great field to add to the simulator. If Fun2av8RC, the Culpepper flying field provider, is reading this article—thanks for the contribution!
If you are unfamiliar with the variety of simulators on the market, many would argue that RealFlight flight simulators offer the best flight physics and environmental conditions. Even damaged aircraft will obey the laws of physics in the simulator. Pilots looking to hone their skills will find that RealFlight 7 is one of the best available training tools.
By default, the user views the flying field and aircraft from the flightline. Depending on the flying field, aeromodelers can change their perspectives. Users can also set the view to auto zoom. This may be a valuable feature for new pilots so they can maintain aircraft orientation.
With all good things come some tradeoffs. It can be easy to lose relative perspective from the runway when auto zoom is enabled. Another option is to toggle the plus key on the keyboard to zoom, but that’s easier said than done when eyes are focused on the screen and both hands are on the transmitter.
Most will find the reset button to be a popular feature. If a user continuously holds the reset button down, RealFlight 7 plays back the most recent flight maneuvers. This can be helpful when trying to learn from a mistake.
While flying, pilots will appreciate another new feature in RealFlight 7: the Heads-Up Display. Users can quickly glance to read heading, altitude, speed, and other flight data.
All Skill Levels Welcome
RealFlight 7 adheres to the laws of physics. After practicing with RealFlight 7, a new pilot will find that many of the techniques learned on the simulator apply to real-life flying. Beginners can also utilize the training features by clicking on the Training tab. Takeoffs, landings, and helicopter flight can be mastered.
RealFlight 7 users can take a series of lessons from leading pilots including Frank Noll. Many of the lessons go beyond the basics and address advanced airplane and helicopter maneuvers.
Seasoned pilots can gravitate toward many of the higher-skilled 3-D aircraft or helicopters. To add difficulty, users can select the Environment tab to increase wind, adjust the sun, or add dynamic thermals.
Pilots with an Internet connection can also try multiplayer and fly with others around the globe. This provides an enjoyable outlet with more than six games and challenges such as Combat, streamer cut, and paintball.
New to RealFlight 7 is multiplayer unlimited Combat. This allows you to fly any aircraft with your choice of weapons. As I quickly learned, the one with the most powerful weapons is not necessarily the one who will win the competition. The victory typically goes to the competitor with better flying skills.
When you’re being hunted down by others, the pressure kicks in, forcing you to master your flight skills. It’s definitely a fun and challenging way to become a better pilot!
RealFlight 7 is one of the best simulators with the best physics. And if more than 120 aircraft and 40-plus flying fields out of the box isn’t enough, RealFlight 7 allows users to generate, share, and download content from other players.
Whether you’re new or an experienced pilot, RealFlight 7 should find its way to your computer.
• Windows XP, Windows Vista, Windows 7 or Windows 8
• Intel Pentium 1.0 GHz or equivalent processor
• 512 MB RAM
• 10 GB hard drive space
• DVD drive
• 3-D accelerated video with 32 MB dedicated video memory
• Full DirectX 9 compliant (Shader Model 2.0 or better)
• USB port
• Dual core 2.4 GHz CPU
• 2 GB RAM
• 3-D accelerated video with: 512 MB dedicated video memory
• Windows 8 Home
• Intel Core i7 Ivy Bridge 3.2 GHz processor
• 8 GB DDR3 RAM
• 1TB 7,200 rpm hybrid hard drive
• NVIDIA GeForce GT 630M graphics with 1 GB dedicated memory
• Price: $49.98 to $179.99
• Simulator physics are true to real flight.
• Great graphics.
• Improved user interface navigation from previous releases.
• New bundles with transmitter options.
• Free future updates and swap files.
• Swap file integration is slightly clunky.