The Ultimate Helicopter Equipment | Part I
Introduction Pro Flight Trainer PUMA
Not so long ago I reviewed on request of X-Plane.Org the VSKYLABS Robinson R44 helicopter. As a fixed-wing simmer, flying helicopters is different than I thought, but not more than that. It turned out that flying helicopters is something totally different and not only that, helicopters are complex machines. But in one way or the other, I managed even with my default hardware equipment – Saitek/Logitech X56 HOTAS – and lots of advice from both JetManHuss (VSKYLABS) and Sergio Costa (Helisimmer.com) to fly the modeled VSKYLABS Robinson R44. I had a hard time although I liked the product a lot and therefore I didn’t give up.
The end result was a massive in-depth review published at X-Plained.Com and it not only covers all the ins and outs of the modeled Robinson R44, but also basic information and tips and tricks how to deal with a helicopter, in particular when you use the “wrong” equipment. Ok, “wrong” is perhaps not the right word, but you need some dedicated helicopter hardware to fly a heli on X-Plane.
With that experience and the struggle for me to master the VSKYLABS R44, and informed by JetManHuss about a nice YouTube movie of the right equipment to fly helicopters, I was immediately convinced that I wanted to master helicopters in general, but then only with the right equipment. It turned out I had to seek for a company called Pro Flight Trainer, but what is Pro Flight Trainer?
According to the Pro Flight Trainer website: “We are enthusiastic helicopter pilots, mechanics, and other field professionals that have searched the web for several years without finding a good price/features helicopter controls offer.”
“Hearing that other friends had similar frustrating search experiences, we moved into building/designing the controls ourselves based on flight feeling experience, professional procedural needs, and simulator enthusiasts needs, and a lot of efforts to perfect our products.”
“Our team has grown and receives inputs from many commercial helicopter pilots which deeply influences the design of our controls. Our staff and tester team are rated and experienced in most of the helicopters available on the market, especially in the light and medium category. Our Head Designer is Chris, a commercial helicopter pilot currently flying the AS350.”
Ok, that sounds awesome to me, but I’d seen the price and just buying and finding out that at the end helicopters are not for me, that’s a lot of money … so I said to myself … before I buy it, I would like to review it and I can tell you already, wow, that’s hardware of extraordinary quality and I bet it will fly great, but that’s all for later.
So, how to get such equipment for writing a review. I won’t go too deep into this and how I got it, but I contacted Aerosoft CEO Winfried Diekmann and asked him straight “I would like to review the Pro Flight Trainer PUMA … is this possible?”
The answer was “I bet you want to know what it is, right?” A couple of days later I received via FedEx a press copy of the Pro Flight Trainer PUMA. Wow … the fun can start!
And his brings you and me to this Pro Flight Trainer PUMA review. I’m so excited in how it feels, what the quality is, how it is packed, how it flies. Overall, I’m excited about everything that has to do with this dedicated helicopter hardware, offered to me to test and to offer you an unbiased review.
The PUMA Package
Although the carton box shows me on the outside that it’s from Pro Flight Trainer, it’s just a brown box. No fancy colors, no fancy look at all, and the moment I opened the box, oops, there’s another carton package inside. That’s weird, a box in a box! Since I don’t see anything yet, there’s no other option than to open the second box and once I’ve opened that … wow, it’s very well packed, wrapped and mounted with cables ties (or the brand name Ty-Rap) to a bottom plate. Not that I recognize yet all the pieces although I do see the pedals, the cyclic and the collection, but further on, it’s a bit of a guessing game regarding what’s wrapped.
It’s not that heavy, which means it’s either Aluminum (Alu) or durable plastic, but I can tell you, once I had opened and unpacked every part, all structural parts are made of Aluminum (Alu) and the handgrip on the cyclic is made of durable high quality plastic. All the Alu parts are painted glossy black and some parts – lucky that they are made of Alu – are made of massive Alu construction. Impressive to be honest. That every part is so well packed and fixed for transportation to the bottom plate says something about the overall quality of this company. By the way, the Pro Flight Trainer PUMA is made and, as much as possible, assembled in Canada.
After I’ve unpacked every part, it leaves me with small pieces of plastic on one side while on the other side, spread out over the carpet, all the beautiful parts that make the Pro Flight Trainer PUMA. Those parts that have wires connected to them are not just a couple of wires. The wires themselves are covered with a shielding and it all looks to me as high quality and what I can remember from my years in the aviation, decent materials are used. Even the connectors are of a good quality and not to forget that every wire is numbered, very important, but more about that later when the assembly start. This is needed since we need to connect the wires to the motherboard.
Inside the inner box is another small box that contains a CD/DVD and three papers with instructions. Ho ho, don’t worry. When you don’t have a CD/DVD player like me, on the CD/DVD you’ll find a URL to the Pro Flight Trainer download pages with all the manuals you need. You can also find this web page via their menu; Support – User Guide and Sim Files Downloads. Back to the included papers. There’s one page that shows you the PCB (Printed Circuit Board) Wire Layout. It’s very easy what to do I guess, but that’s for the next section. and the third page deals with the calibration square.
What else is in the box?
A USB 2.0A to B Male Cable with a length of 10 feet, so a bit more then 3 meters. I guess that this is the cable that connects the Pro Flight Trainer PUMA to your PC or Mac. Then a bag with an Allen key, a regular wrench size 7 mm and bolts and nuts. Some velcro tape to bind the cables in position and two red tools of which one is the calibration square.
While spitting around on the Pro Flight Trainer website I learned that they have another helicopter set too. I also noticed that Pro Flight Trainer is, as stated in the manual a PFT Manufacturing Canada, a subsidiary of Pro Flight Trainer Switzerland. Interesting!
Mounting the PUMA together
Yeah, now the fun starts, but first we have to build all the pieces together and as you understood already, there’s no printed manual that explains all the steps. Perhaps the instructions are on the CD/DVD, but what said before, I don’t have a CD/DVD player in my iMac Pro. But no worries, there’s an YouTube movie from Pro Flight Trainer at their website, but when you prefer an Acrobat document, then download manual “Section 2 Normal Procedures”. The name suggest to me something different, but this manual explains all about assembling the part together, the necessary adjustments to make, the calibration procedure to follow and recommended settings for FSX, X-Plane and DCS.
There’s something I need to highlight right now before I start building the pieces together. I noticed this at the YouTube movie as well as in the “Section 2 Normal Procedures” manual page 6, lower picture. The seat holder plate seems to be different than the one I’ve got at my office. Weird since my serial number is 2020-10-009 which seems to my humble opinion one of the latest models. Not really a big deal, but worth contacting Pro Flight Trainer about. (Upon contacting the development manager, he said “let me double check with our production to make 100% sure, but on a first look everything seems ok.”)
Some guidance is needed and I have some suggestions. Since the Pro Flight Trainer PUMA is designed and probably also manufactured on/via a computer with a CAD/CAM program, the movie is fully digital and as clear and sharp as possible. Only thing is that the real PUMA frame is black and thus it’s also black in the Youtube movie. Why do I bring this up … because a black bolt is difficult to distinguish from a black frame which is in the manual much better since the frame, components and bolts are different shades of grey.
Besides that, I’ve got the following suggestion before you start building it together. There’s no parts list included! Check before you start and separate first the different bolts, washers and nuts. Make complete sets of it. I had the problem what I didn’t had enough washers. Not a big problem, but just to warn you ahead.
It worked for me, not sure if it will also work for you, but I suggest that you first check the whole movie, if needed check it a second time, and then start building the unit. Keep track of the right bolt length versus where you put it. The package comes with three different lengths and sometimes it’s clear where to put a bolt (length), but sometimes you figure out afterwards that it was better to place that long bolt at another location.
Although it’s fun putting it all together, don’t think that you can do it in 15 to 30 minutes. It will take a bit longer, believe me. On the other hand, why hurry? It’s part of the fun of flying your favorite helicopter. I mentioned before that the package comes with an Allen key and a wrench. In particular the wrench is of a decent quality, needed in combination with the Allen Key to tighten the parts thoroughly. The YouTube movie speaks for itself, but a couple of photos from the PUMA after it has been assembled is always welcome, right? Check out the following collection of photos and notice the quality of the components and for example the rods for the anti-torque pedals.
A note regarding an item that was missed and yes, I did inform the Pro Flight Trainer team already about it. During the building of all the individual Pro Flight Trainer parts, they mention in their Youtube movie at time frame 1:08 to make sure that the plastic spacer remains in position, but there was no plastic spacer at all in the package. It’s not a big deal when it’s not installed from the factory, but in case you miss it too then please contact the Pro Flight Trainer team.
The last thing I would like to highlight deals with ergonomic cyclic grip position. When you’re not so familiar with helicopter hardware, then at first you’ll think “why is the cyclic grip mounted at a twist angle at the cyclic rod … perhaps something is wrong, right?” No, this is ergonomically mounted and please, don’t try to twist it! Imagine yourself taking a seat and sliding the Pro Flight Trainer in position with the cyclic between your legs. If the grip was mounted straight at the cyclic shaft, it would feel unrealistic since you have to twist your hand/arm and believe me, this doesn’t feel good. The grip is therefore mounted at a twisted angle which is natural when your right hand grasp the cyclic grip.
Connecting – Routing Cables and Adjustments
From YouTube movie frame 2:05 and up, it’s time to connect all the wires. Not that it shows this in detail, therefore you need the paper included in the package named PCB Wire Layout. And last but not least, you also need to connect the PUMA to your PC or Mac. Or you can use the Section 2 Normal Procedures” manual. More about this in a minute. When facing the PUMA FWD, so the pedals are front of you, you’ll find on the right-hand side of the BLACK BOX, directly accessible without removing the cover as seen in the YouTube movie, an USB B receptacle. Connect the 10 feet/3.3 meter cable with the USB B connector right here and insert the regular USB A in your Flight Simulator computer.
By the way; at the end rods at the front and back of the PUMA (see attached photo) you’ll find rubber caps. I think, no, I’m sure that these will prevent the whole assembly to slide when it lies on a hard ground like tiles.
Before starting with the following paragraph I would like to share with you a tip. Don’t install the Velcro bands yet. First place the PUMA somewhere on the ground as it is intended to, put a seat/chair or whatever you prefer in position and see if mechanical adjustments for the cyclic, collective and pedals are needed. If no readjustments are needed then you can continue with the following paragraph, but if mechanical adjustments are needed to get the right fit, do this first!
In the “Section 2 Normal Procedures” manual page 20 and 21 you and I get a good idea how to route the cables to the black box and where to connect all the cable ends. This is well documented on the pages 24 up till and including 27. Then the manual continues where to place the Velcro bands.
And as mentioned before, you can use the Velcro bands to position the cables from the collective down to the main frame. How you do it, where you put the Velcro bands is of course a bit up to what you preference. The following photos show you a possibility. The cables running underneath the cyclic just lay there. No need to use any Velcro bands for it since they are not interfering the cyclic controls.
The YouTube movie stops here, but a few things are needed before using the PUMA with, in this case X-Plane 11. The following steps are explained in the previous manual starting from page 31 “Adjustments”. The adjustments to perform deal with the friction, control distance and positions like the cyclic grip, seat distance, collective sideway, collective forward, height and resting. This is very well explained and easy to do in case it’s needed.
Besides the adjustment of the friction, all other adjustments are optional, depending on your preference and leg length. Included in the small box you’ll find besides the calibration square also a red plastic 13 mm wrench. On the personal side; I increased the friction a bit for both the cyclic roll and pitch friction. Using the included red 13 mm wrench is easy to adjust the PITCH, but for the ROLL you have to fiddle a bit in-between the cyclic frame. Not a problem, just to make you aware of it.
I mentioned before the “calibration square” paper although it can also be found on page 37 of the “Section 2 Normal Procedures” manual. There isn’t much to check, but the paper shows with screenshots the steps to be taken and how to store the red square tool. The calibration is as stated in the manual page 36 “Omitting this procedure will result in poor flying sensitivities and bad axis responses”.
UPDATE: the red calibration square is used to center the cyclic shaft whenever X-Plane is asking to center the cyclic. When you’ve done that, you can store the red calibration tool by turning it 180 degrees in its recess.
The only thing I worry a bit about is that the manual only explains the calibration under Windows and since I’m on macOS, how should I do that or did I perhaps miss something? Hold on, when you connect new hardware to your macOS X-Plane, it will detect this new hardware at startup of X-Plane, and will ask you to calibrate it. In other words, although not mentioned in the manual specific for macOS, it is done before using it.
Pro-Flight-Trainer.joy Driver and Settings
From the Pro Flight Trainer website you can download the latest joy file and belonging hardware photo png files. I noticed that X-Plane 11.50+ has already all the macOS and Windows files and pictures in the Resources/joystick configs folder. That said, there’s actually no need to download them and copy and paste them, but it could be that Pro Flight Trainer has updated files which aren’t yet packed with the latest X-Plane 11.
But is it as easy as expected? No, since I’ve seen that many other hardware developers created dedicated Windows, Mac and sometimes even Linux joy files while the Pro Flight Trainer package and the one installed in X-Plane 11.50r3 is named “Pro-Flight-Trainer-com 4.9.joy”. It could be that this isn’t a problem. To be sure, let’s check it out.
First I make a jump in the manual to page 47 which deals with recommended settings under X-Plane. It seems the manual isn’t updated yet for X-Plane 11 since all screenshots are from X-Plane 10, but an experienced simmer will see immediately the relation between X-Plane 10 and X-Plane 11. Hold on, Pro Flight Trainer has made a movie on how to configure the Pro Flight Trainer PUMA with X-Plane 11.20+ as well as how to use the provided joy files. A personal note to this; these X-Plane versions you see in the movies are very old, so I hope these will be updated soon for the current X-Plane 11.50+.
But there seems to be an issue with the provided “joy and png” files and macOS. As you can see in the first movie how to calibrate the hardware, there’s no photo of the Pro Flight Trainer PUMA. Although this movie covers how to do it with Windows, under macOS Big Sur and X-Plane 11.50r3, I also had no pictures at all. In other words, time for action. I checked the “Pro-Flight-Trainer-com 4.9.joy” and noticed as I mentioned before, that there are no separate files for Windows, Mac and Linux.
That said, I first checked the Pro Flight Trainer package I downloaded from the Pro Flight Trainer website with Windows 10, but as I mentioned before, there’s not directly a need for since X-Plane Windows/macOS comes with the same files. Anyway, when you start X-Plane 11.50r3, connect the Pro Flight Trainer cable to your PC, X-Plane tells you that uncalibrated hardware is found. After you’ve moved the cyclic, collection, throttle and pedals, you’re set. Everything works on the fly as I would say.
But, for macOS and in my case checked with Big Sur, it’s not as easy. When you use the default provided joy file, nothing is recognized. So, this is what I did to get the Pro Flight Trainer PUMA hardware to work with macOS. I made a copy of the original file “Pro-Flight-Trainer-com 4.9.joy” file, renamed it Pro-Flight-Trainer-com 5.0 – Mac.joy. As you can see, I added Mac to the file name. I made some changes inside the joy still and changed the OS system to Mac. Not sure if this helps, but Windows is for sure wrong for macOS.
Then I installed the updated file in the Resources/joystick configs folder and deleted any other Pro Flight Trainer joy file. And now, happy about this, I can configure it in a way I liked it. I sincerely hope that this works exactly the same for you. Ok, a modified joy file isn’t enough. You still need to make the necessary travels for the cyclic, collective, throttle and pedals, but all assignments are straightaway correct as you can see in the screenshots, taken within X-Plane 11.50r3 macOS Big Sur.
I decided to send this updated/modified joy file also to Pro Flight Trainer, but included a link in case you want to download it directly from within this review.
I think I covered all the steps needed to start with a successful helicopter flight. While writing the Pro Flight Trainer PUMA review, Pro Flight Trainer will also send me the toe brakes add-ons. That said, I only have pedals for YAW correction and no toe brakes on the Pro Flight Trainer. And this means that theoretical I can’t use helicopters with wheels to taxi. But this will be covered in the next The Ultimate Helicopter Equipment | Part II review.
Now it’s time to see how it goes.
Ready to join me on my first helicopter flight with the Pro Flight Trainer PUMA?
First Flight Impression | Laminar Research Sikorsky S-76
I would like to highlight one thing first before starting with my test flight and that’s “what seat or chair can be used”?
Basically, every kind of chair can be used so that could be a dining with or without armrest, desk- or office chair. Since my office chair, a Herman Miller Aeron, is a bit too big, I used one of our dining chairs. Due to the construction of the chair, I can place it well in position to give me a nice and comfortable sit during the heli flights.
Anyway, now you know what chair I use, it’s time to start with my first flight impression.
For my first flight experience I decided to take the Laminar Research Sikorsky S-76. With the Pro Flight Trainer PUMA can you jump in your favorite helicopter and fly away? Is it so simple? No no, that’s not the case. You need to relax, and practice, but the learning curve to fly a heli is in my humble opinion much easier with this hardware than using a joystick, throttle unit and separate pedals. It’s the integration of all these axis/controls build in one piece. It sounds so simple; with the Pro Flight Trainer you’ve got the cyclic where it belongs – between your legs, you’ve got the collective on your left-hand and to correct for yaw, the pedals. All that together gave me after my previous Saitek/Logitech experience, a boost in handling and first hovering a helicopter.
As said before, I’d chosen on purpose for my first helicopter adventure the default Laminar Research Sikorsky S-76. Although it looks nice but not spectacular, I think it flies easier than a real modeled S-76. That is just what I need for my first flight using the Pro Flight Trainer PUMA.
And, I did some additional adjustments before starting and that is; double check the frictions. On a previous section I explained already that I adjusted the cyclic frictions, but I also released the pedal friction too. What I didn’t change was the collective friction, but it’s one of the possibilities. All these friction adjustments makes it possible to fine tune the forces you need to control the pedals, cyclic and collective.
Anyway, I started the Sikorsky at a lonely place far away from terminals or hangars, just in case I crash into a building! Just for your info, I loaded Orbx KFAT (Yosemite Fresno International Airport), and placed the S-76 at one of the helicopter spots. To make it easier for easier – I’m a bit nervous not knowing yet what to expect – I loaded the Sikorsky with every thing active. This means, I can concentrate myself fully on the Pro Flight Trainer controls. I’m not sure how sensitive every sensor in the Pro Flight Trainer is, so I started relaxed and slowly and waited for the S-76 to respond.
Due to the fact that there are helicopters that have brakes, I’ve decided as of this writing – mid December 2020 – to rename this review to “The Ultimate Helicopter Equipment | Part I” and this means there will be a Part II that covers the Pro Flight Trainer toe brake add-on including some flight tests with helicopters that have regular wheels and thus wheel brakes.
Ok, lets continue with the Sikorsky.
Oops, almost forgotten; toe brakes. This Sikorsky helicopter has wheels and the wheels have brakes, but as of this writing, I don’t have yet the toe brake set that can be fitted to the Pro Flight Trainer Puma. That said, I am using the Sikorsky at the moment without the toe brake option. I slowly raise the collective and wait for a yaw. When I see the yaw in the sim, I apply gently some pedal input. The easiness with what you move the collective and the ball bearings of the pedals makes it possible to make small movements/adjustments. And not to forget that I don’t feel any slack in the mechanical system. I move the collective further up, pedal input is given to correct for yaw and the S-76 start moving forward. Normally with brakes you could stop this, but it’s ok for now.
With enough collective, the S-76 starts off the ground and slowly begins to hover. What was a struggle with the Saitek/Logitech equipment is now so easy with the Pro Flight trainer PUMA. Giving a bit more collective, the heli starts climbing more. I need to focus on all of this, but with the Pro Flight Trainer Puma it suddenly seems so much more logical, so much easier to control an X-Plane helicopter.
I still need “to get one with” the hardware as I feel I’m hovering a bit too long to my feeling, but it’s not uncontrolled yawing, but suppose I lose some concentration and it starts yawing or I’m a bit too late to respond, correcting with the pedals does correct the yaw immediately. It feels so natural using the pedals, but perhaps it’s not only that, but the fact that you have all the controls needed to keep the helicopter in the position. I’m impressed, honestly, I’m impressed that with such high quality helicopter hardware, controlling a heli is so much easier then with regular fixed-wing hardware. I won’t say that it’s suddenly extremely easy to fly any helicopter – no – I’m still thinking what Sergio Costa from Helisimmer.com told me – which is not the case, but for some reason it feels you’ve got more control over all the “controls” you need.
I’m 100 percent convinced that due to the overall quality of the Pro Flight Trainer PUMA, helicopter flying will become fun, just as what Sergio Costa from Helisimmer.Com wrote me. Once I’ve reached a speed of at least 20 knots, and at 1000 feet, it all becomes very stable, but then the dedicated hardware is doing a great job. The same as I experienced with the R44 software review, when your speed is high enough, no longer an input is given by the collective and thus no further pedal input is needed, you can use the cyclic to go forward, left, right or backwards. And although I had removed the centering spring of my Saitek joystick, it is totally different with this Pro Flight Trainer PUMA cyclic. It’s first the arm length of the overall cyclic that makes is very easy to control pitch and roll, but due to the bearing and durable materials, it feels solid, it feels as if you’re one with your sim helicopter. I hope you get how I feel since it’s not easy to write my feelings down.
After this, it’s so easy to use the cyclic and fly to whatever you want. When I want a bit more lift, the same as before, I gently move the collective and can easily correct for yaw with the pedals. Because it’s all fitted together as one construction, it feels natural to correct for yaw. And this means for You and Me that getting grip on a helicopter with the Pro Flight Trainer PUMA is suddenly worth every Euro, Canadian- or American Dollar you need to pay.
Right, let’s move on.
What I said before, perhaps the default Laminar Research isn’t the most realistic helicopter to start with, but I got a good impression what the Pro Flight Trainer PUMA did for me. I ended this short flight with a feeling of “wow, it’s not just me, it’s due to the Pro Flight Trainer PUMA that made it possible for me to fly the S-76 without crashing, ok almost not crashing!” Time to explore another perhaps more sophisticated helicopter, the VSKYLABS Robinson R66.
Second Flight Impression | VSKYLABS Robinson R66
For my second hardware flight experience I use the VSKYLABS Robinson R66. It’s a much smaller helicopter then the Laminar Research Sikorsky, but it’s a bit bigger than the Robinson R44 which I reviewed before. The instrumentation of the R66 is a bit more sophisticated, but that’s it. Did it fly totally different or ….?
To answer that, I should test the R44 also with the impressive Pro Flight Trainer PUMA. I wrote on purpose “impressive” since with this kind of dedicated helicopter hardware, it offers you a total different flight experience. I dare to say that you can simply not compare a Saitek/Logitech stick, even with pedal included, with this Pro Flight Trainer PUMA. Period!
Since this isn’t a review that deals with the VSKYLABS R66, I have to concentrate myself that the review deals with the Pro Flight Trainer PUMA, so I’ll try to stick to that.
Using the hardware with such a small helicopter – compared to the Sikorsky S-76 – is not so much different than my previous experience. The only thing that could be is that the flight dynamics of the modeled R66 are more realistic then the default X-Plane S-76 and that could lead to a more challenging way to hover and fly the R66.
Ok, let’s see how it goes. I Parked the Robinson R66 at the same helispot KFAT as with the first flight. For the same reason, to prevent myself from crashing in any nearby building. After starting up all the systems, using the build-in checklist, it is time to see what happens when I use the collective and correct for yaw and monitoring the correct position of the cyclic. Perhaps that’s a small suggestion, but no idea to whom. Is it perhaps something for VSKYLABS or is the Pro Flight Trainer team able to add this in the sim. What I miss or what I would like to see is the position of the cyclic or to be more precise … is my cyclic in the middle position?
Ok, slowly adding collective and watching what the R66 is doing and adding some yaw with the pedals. I still remember how it went with the joystick and throttle, but oh oh, this is so much easier. I mentioned it before; every movement you make with the collective, pedals and cyclic, there’s 0.0 slack which doesn’t surprise me. It all feels solid, it all makes the control of a helicopter so much easier and I almost want to say … with this kind of dedicated professional helicopter equipment everybody can fly helicopters. Ok, that all sounds perfect, isn’t it? And yes, the answer is YES!
Although I’ve reduced all the frictions except from the collective, it feels as if you’re one with the Pro Flight Trainer PUMA. I’m really serious about this. It’s stunning to see how smooth it all goes and believe me, this has nothing to do with the modeled R66. I just say to you and myself, relax, monitor the simulated R66 and before you know, you’re hovering and not spinning around or crashing. It’s really the “equipment” that helps tremendously in mastering a helicopter.
Once I’m high enough, and the speed has reached at least 25-30 knots, it’s time to fly away and that goes easy. And when you’d read our VSKYLABS R44 review, you’ve noticed that this was also easy, but to be honest, with the Pro Flight Trainer PUMA it all fits together like a jigsaw. That doesn’t mean when I had to find a spot to land, that this was easy. Oh no, I did had several crashes, but this has nothing to do with the hardware. I still need to learn or re-learn how to fly helicopter. As was said previously to me by Sergio Costa (Helisimmer.com) “you need to learn flying helicopters and it doesn’t make much difference when you have enough fixed-wing experience.” And I can confirm, this is absolutely true, but when using the Pro Flight Trainer PUMA, it will all go much quicker and be with a lot of fun!
My overall hardware impression with just these two example flights using the Pro Flight Trainer PUMA is that I’m blown away with such professional hardware. I only tested and used it with X-Plane, but it can be used with many other well known flight simulators. I mentioned this before; it’s made of Aluminium and durable plastic parts. It’s easy to move and light weighted. The handle on the cyclic feels good, the grip is perfect for small and larger hands. Besides the HAT switch it has three other red buttons that can be assigned to your preference and a fire button. If you don’t find this enough, check the collective. At the end of the collective you’ll find two other buttons and two switches each having two positions. In other words, there are a lot of functions to add to this Pro Flight Trainer PUMA. Due to the used materials, the way it is designed, how it is manufactured, and the fact that this device is also used for professional pilot training, says enough to me. Awesome!
I could continue for hours in doing other flight tests, but I think I’ve expressed my personal love for this hardware helicopter device.
What can I say?
Can I say it in one word or …?
Yes, one word is enough … awesome equipment for those who love to fly or to master helicopters. It’s clearly different hardware and can be used with several flight simulators – thus not only for X-Plane – and when I say “clearly different hardware” then I mean the overall quality, the used materials, the way it is designed and not to forget, the support in case you need assistance from the Pro Flight Trainer team.
Although I only tested it with X-Plane 11 with macOS and Windows, I’m impressed how it looks like, but also how it is manufactured, and not to forget how it is painted. The cables that connect all the individual sensors to the PCB (Printed Circuit Board) are of high quality with a nice and protective shielding around it. Besides all of that, you’ve got lots of possibilities to adjust the Pro Flight Trainer PUMA to your needs, your overall body length, your leg length and so on.
I mentioned that I tested it with Windows and macOS, but as of this writing, I got the impression that Pro Flight Trainer only had a X-Plane joy file that was only for Windows and not for macOS. As mentioned in my previous section “Pro-Flight-Trainer.joy Driver and Settings”, I modified their Windows joy file, sent it to Pro Flight Trainer, but also included a link of this modified macOS joy file in this review.
I remember the struggle I faced during my VSKYLABS Robinson R44 review when using regular fixed-wing or fighter flight sim hardware (Saitek/Logitech X56 H.O.T.A.S.) while mastering the R44 helicopter. At the end of that review I was able to hover and fly the Robinson R44 with a joystick and throttle unit, but it was far from realistic and without a rudder pedal device, complex and very sensitive. Ok, I was warned by JetManHuss from VSKYLABS and Sergio Costa from Helisimmer.com that flying helicopters in general aren’t easy. You need a lot of patient, a lot of time to learn to fly helicopters.
With that in mind, I was warned in advance, but also curious to review, test, explore, to have fun with this dedicated helicopter hardware. While almost reaching the end of this review, I never regret the time I invested in this great dedicated for helicopters, hardware since flying helicopters is suddenly much easier.
And therefore the following question is very easy to answer; is it worth the 1560,00 Euro as it is prices at the dedicated Aerosoft webpage? Absolutely!
Ok, it’s a lot of money, but let’s be honest, it’s a professional kit that is not only use for us flight simmers, but also for professional helicopter pilots. That said, the Pro Flight Trainer company team “are enthusiastic helicopter pilots, mechanics, and other field professionals that have searched the web for several years without finding a good price/features helicopter controls offer.”
“Meanwhile, our team has grown and receives inputs from many commercial helicopter pilots which deeply influences the design of our controls. Our Head Designer is Chris, a commercial helicopter pilot currently flying the AS350.”
As you’ve read in my second flight impression section “First Impression with Robinson R66”, I knew a bit what to expect due to my experience with the R44, it was much easier to fly a helicopter. Ok, I have to be honest to myself and to you. You still need to practice and you can’t connect the Pro Flight Trainer PUMA and hover away and fly out to your destination, no, you need to practice. But immediately adding to this I can tell you that with such a great dedicated helicopter hardware every challenge you face in mastering helicopters, is no longer stressful. It is fun although, yes, I say it again, some practice and time is needed.
I think, no, I hope I covered everything that is needed to get an in-depth impression of the Pro Flight Trainer PUMA. I would like to thank not only Winfried Diekmann from Aerosoft who offered me this hardware devide during the review, but also Christophe Niederhauser, Development Manager at Pro Flight Trainer.
I sincerely hope that for those simmers who want to explore helicopters and fly them in a professional way, that this review helps in making the right decision and go for the Pro Flight Trainer PUMA.
Angelique van Campen
|Add-on:||Hardware Pro Flight Trainer PUMA|
|Publisher | Developer:||Pro Flight Trainer | Aerosoft|
|Description:||Professional hardware equipment for helicopters|
|Software Source / Size:||N.A.|
|Reviewed by:||Angelique van Campen|
|Published:||December 16th 2020|
|Hardware specifications:||- iMac Pro
- Intel 3GHz Intel Xeon W / 4.5Ghz
- Radeon Pro Vega 64 16368 MB
- 64 GB 2666 MHz DDR4
- 1 internal shared 1TB SSD (Big Sur 11.x)
- 1 internal shared 1TB SSD (Bootcamp Windows 10)
- 1 external 2TB LaCie Rugged Pro SSD (Big Sur 11.x)
- Saitek Pro Flight System X-52 Pro and X-56 Rhino
- Honeycomb Alpha Flight Controls
- Honeycomb Bravo Throttle Quadrant
|Software specifications:||- macOS Big Sur (10.15.x)
- X-Plane 11.5x