One of the most costly aspects of building and flying remote-controlled (RC) aircraft is the cost of repairs when a flight goes wrong and an airplane crashes. Even very skilled controllers have bad days, and when the weather is uncooperative, all RC planes are grounded. But these problems shouldn't deter anyone from working to better their RC airplane or glider control skills. These RC flight simulator programs feature either RC airplanes, or both airplanes and helicopters. Most can be purchased online, and some even have free downloadable demos so you can 'fly before you buy'.
ClearView RC Flight Simulator
Designed by SVK Systems, ClearView offers many RC models to choose from, with various nitro-powered and electric RC aircraft. You can even create your own aircraft and flying fields, and import them into the program to customize your experience. The SVK website provides additional user-submitted models that you can add to your own collection, and you can fly in multi-player mode online with a friend. This flight simulator works well with 3D LCD shutter glasses, for a realistic RC experience. There is an impressive demo available so you can see how impressive the program is before buying it.
RealFlight G4 R/C Flight Simulator
The RealFlight program is by far the most realistic of the flight simulator programs available today. It may also be the best known, but it is also somewhat expensive―but the cost is worth it if you're looking for serious RC flight training. Developed by Great Planes, RealFlight has a very extensive library of model RC aircraft, so players will never tire of the numerous choices available. The software comes with a transmitter controller designed by Futaba, and contains many features, including a virtual coach, training aids, night flying mode, reactive and active backgrounds, and several multi-player modes. For skeptics wondering if the price is right, you can watch a video on the Great Planes website, and download a demo.
Flying-Model Simulator (FMS) Flight Simulator
Roman and Michael Moller have developed a stunning piece of software in FMS. This simulator is a terrific way to engage young people into exploring the hobby of remote-controlled aircraft flight, because the program is entirely free. FMS can be set up easily with a single controller or with a two-stick analog game controller such as the controller used for a PlayStation 2. The characteristics of RC flight are exceptionally accurate as long as the program is installed on a PC that meets the minimum system requirements. There are only a few airplane models to select from, but there are plenty of 3D models available online that have been created by other FMS users.
Phoenix RC Flight Simulator
Phoenix is very rich graphically, and offers a unique experience in the area of RC flight simulation. A free demo is downloadable that lets you navigate through the program and get a feel for how you might like using the program, but the demo does not allow you to actually use the program. However, the demo offers three internal videos to watch, each of which showcases a specific feature of the product. Phoenix offers an impressive 100 models of RC airplanes and helicopters, including trainers, gliders, and amphibious aircraft.
Manuel's Radio Control Flight Simulator
Manuel's RCFS isn't the fanciest in terms of graphics and display, but it's a free program that can give new hobbyists a good idea of what it's like to fly RC planes. This is a great place to start, and you can download the software for free. If you like what you see and want to pursue the program further, there is a commercial version available called AeroSIM RC.
There are a number of other popular and well-made RC flight simulator programs available, including RC Flight Mater eXtreme64, PRE-Flight Standard Edition, Reflex XTR RC Flight Simulator, and FS One from Hangar 9. No matter what type of RC flying you're interested in, and no matter what your experience level is, there is a flight simulation program out there for you. No longer do you have to let a snowstorm or sprained ankle keep you from beefing up your RC skills―now you can practice in the comfort of your own home.