Is it like a real helicopter?
The Heli-Chair has a cyclic, collective and anti-torque pedals...exactly like a full size helicopter. The collective and throttle are separate, they are NOT coupled together. Learning to manage rotor RPM is one of the most important aspects of flying a helicopter, the Heli-Chair is designed so that the collective pitch and throttle function separately.
Does it fold?
Yes you can have one that folds, it would take 10-15 minutes to loosen and unplug things, remove the chair, etc and put it in your car. it is not very heavy, an easy lift; but a bit awkward. my personal chair has so much extra stuff bolted on it is starting to get heavy now. I have starter batteries and all sorts of stuff that go on it.
Will my radio still work after you modify it?
Yes, your radio will work identically to the way it did before. When you have us modify your radio transmitter to interface with the Heli-Chair, it will retain all functionality and versatility. The times when it is used to operate the Heli-Chair, your radio will be pluged in using an aerospace grade connector. When not using your radio with the 'Chair, the transmitter will simply plug into itself and be completely independent. You won't notice any difference in operation of the radio.
Do you use a gyro for the tail, is that cheating?
Yes, you want a gyro on the little heli. It is very hard to fly if you aren't keeping the tail straight and without a gyro it can be pretty demanding on your feet. Using a heading hold gyro is definitely cheating as you will not learn to compensate the addition of power with pedal input. There is no reason to go to extremes as far as low or high sensitivity. Start out with a good stable setting and if you get bored, turn it off. If you're still bored try flying with a 10-15 mph direct tailwind.
Does it work with flight simulators like RealFlight or Reflex XTR?
Sure, it works with anything your Tx works with. However, getting out there and flying it in the wind, seeing it, having real world physics (not physics equations) is just hard to beat. In my opinion the experience is far more beneficial than a sim (as it applies to learning to fly a real helicopter) and that's why I originally created it. Now, learning inverted and such would be awefully expensive without a computer, I certainly can't dispute that.
Is it any different from flying with the tranmitter?
Using your limbs to fly the heli is much different. It takes an entirely different set of reflexes to fly with the helicopter controls as opposed to the transmitter sticks. A person capable of doing one can't do the other. I first learned RC heli with my Heli-Chair. Later when I wanted to train new pilots, I had to learn the TX box so I could take over. It took some learning definitely, and my previous experience with model planes helped tremendously. By the way, turning the heli nose-in to hover with the Heli-Chair is very very demanding because moving your feet and your arms is so much harder to coordinate in reverse than just your thumbs.
What is the learning process like?
Flying the Heli-Chair is very difficult at first. The pedals come quick, the collective and throttle come quickly. Put those three together pretty easily and then focus on the cyclic. Cyclic alone is quite challenging but using all controls at the same time takes extreme concentration. Definately not easy but at the same time, anyone who desires to learn can do it in a reasonable amount of time.
Does it really teach you how to fly a real helicopter?
Can I use it to fly a fixed wing aircraft (airplane)?
Yes, the chair can be configured to control anything that is radio controlled, airplanes would certainly be something fun to fly with the Heli-Chair! Because the chair does NOT aim itself at the aircraft, flying an airplane is slightly more complicated than hovering a helicopter in front of you. You would simply have to address the issue of the aircraft flying in a position that it is hard to rotate your head and watch it. In most cases we RC pilots are used to flying always on one side of a flight line anyway. It simply works great in the helicopter case for learning to hover and such because the helicopter stays in a relatively close area where you can see it well. An airplane style throttle is offered if you are looking for that authentic feel.
How does the chair work, does it use a trainer cord like the buddy box?
The chair is basically identical in function to the transmitter box. In my original Heli-Chair, I salvaged the potentiometers from the transmitter and used them for the mechanisms on the chair. They lasted many many years. However, when I stepped up to a Bergen Gasser with video equipment and such, it merited some nicer parts. Basically what I do is take apart the radio and intercept the signals from inside of it with signals from the chair. I do NOT use the buddy box plug because it is not a very good plug and not reliable. I wouldn't trust $,$$$ to that plug coming loose. All of my wiring is aircraft grade and the connectors are very very reliable. I wired the transmitter so that when it is not in use with the Heli-Chair, it will 'plug into itself'. It doesn't appear the same as it did before, but it works just identical to any other radio. When it comes time to fly the Heli-Chair, I unplug the transmitter's two mating plugs and one of them then connects to the chair to provide power and receive the signals from the controls. In other words, to have a Heli-Chair, you have to have a modified radio to connect to it. The HeliChair itself has only a few transistors, it is a completely passive device and does not transmit or use integrated circuits or other digital signals. It is completely ANALOG. It interfaces with a common Futaba, JR or other radio by way of radio modification. Keep in mind that I have wired not only the sticks, but every switch, every slider, and every trim to work externally with the chair. In other words, when I am flying the chair, I can hit a switch on the collective to engage the GV-1 Governor. Or flip a toggle to change rotor speed. I even have my trigger set up to turn on heading hold. There is a coolie-hat (4 way toggle) that I use for cyclic trim. I have pedal trim, dual and tripple rate switches, you name it. The rockets are launched using a special guarded switch. Just kidding about the rockets.... To top it all off, on the chair I have decided to use relays to select which unit is controlling each function. For example, if I want a student learning to fly the helicopter using the 'Chair to only have control of the pedals, then so be it. I do everything else with the Tx, similar to buddy box training mode. If I want to give the cyclic and pedals to the student learning to hover with the Heli-Chair, then I flip those switches. Get the idea?
Does it compare to a computer flight simulator?
Some years ago, I endeavored to teach myself how to hover a helicopter. I did so by building a set of controls including torque pedals, cyclic, collective and throttle. I equiped the controls with electornics capable of controlling a small remote controlled helicopter. The remote helicopter has about a 4 foot diameter main rotor.
I found right away that hovering was indeed very difficult. I was a competent and current FAA rated fixed wing pilot at the time and that didn't help much. It reminded me of when I first learned to fly a fixed wing and how steering (while taxiing) with my feet was so difficult. After driving for so many years, stepping on the right pedal to turn right was different and it took a while to learn that motor function.
After a few hours training with my device, I found that my feet were now talking directly to my left hand when I applied power. Likewise, my right hand had a mind all it's own, responding to every wind gust and every action that the helicopter took almost by instinct. In the early stages, I went pretty easy on the collective and stayed low. When things went wrong, I would just dump the collective and roll off the throttle.
Needless to say, this taught me far more than a sim ever could in terms of how to operate the controls of a helicopter. By utilizing a real aircraft, I eliminated the millions of lines of computer code required to "calculate" how the helicopter flies. The remotely controlled helicopter simply obeys the laws of physics, just like any full size aircraft.
If your rotor speed gets slow, the cyclic gets soft and you eventually run out of tail rotor authority, if you descend too fast vertically...voila! - settling with power. You can even feel the difference in trim due to fuel load changes and physically see the helicopter tilted in roll when in a hover (something has to offset the horizontal thrust of the tail rotor.)
I have connected the device to the computer to fly with one of the worst helicopter sims available (Microsoft flight simulator) and lost interest immediately. Things just aren't nearly the same. A full size computer flight sim is certainly helpful in training, I'm just saying that for the physics of actual flight, they just don't stack up.
How do you make the throttle and collective work seperately?
the heli-chair, in its basic form, is connected to the futaba 7CHP channels: throttle, "rudder", "aileron" and "elevator" as well as the variable rate knob. because of a quirk in the 7CHP programming we have to set up the throttle stick as collective pitch and the VR knob as the throttle. on the 7CHP, the VR knob in the helicopter modes is typically pitch. we program the radio for two different modes of flight. the first setup automatically mixes throttle with pitch, this enables a new pilot to get a feel for the rotor speed that is most appropriate for the helicopter. we have a second mode which does no mixing and more closely matches the setup of most full size helicopter. as you pull collective pitch (increase the pitch of both blades) trying to lift the helicopter vertically, you have to add power to maintain rotor speed. it is very important for the heli-chair pilot to learn this skill because upon transitioning to a full-size aircraft, the coordination will be critical.
I watched the video of you flying the Robinson R22, are those typical results?
yes they are typical and this is the description of why the Heli-Chair works so well in teaching pilots how to fly a helicopter:
when i first started training in a full sized airplane (cessna 172), i had to consciously force my feet to steer left and right while taxiing along the ground. turning the control yoke had absolutely no effect on which way the plane was moving along the pavement. after driving a car for many years, this new usage of my feet was quite awkward and took a short while to get accustomed to. it is the training of your muscle groups that is my first goal with the Heli-Chair. the chair teaches you how to use your feet, how to use BOTH arms and at the same time use your left arm for two functions, collective and throttle. this type of muscle group training could occur in any flight simulator or flight emulator...computer or otherwise.
the second achievement of the Heli-Chair is what i consider to be far and above the computer flight simulators presently on the market, even the very expensive ones. i have chosen to package my helicopter cockpit controls with a remotely controlled helicopter that is every bit as responsive to the laws of physics (aerodynamics) as a full size helicopter. the feel of the cyclic, the ground effect when hovering over uneven surfaces, the fact that moving the cyclic requires a slight addition of power, these are all aspects of the model helicopter that come across fully when flying in the Heli-Chair and they are very important to understanding how to pilot a full size helicopter.
there is no "feel" when flying a model using the Heli-Chair and to add a tactile response should be the topic of a funding grant from SBIR or DARPA. however, rated helicopter pilots are able to successfully fly the model using the Heli-Chair and this tells me that it is, at some fundamental level, at least similar to a full size helicopter in the way it reacts (obviously no surprise since it is after all just a smaller version of the 'real thing'). incidentally, rated airplane pilots have a surprising amount of trouble with even the torque pedals because they are much more sensitive than the 'rudder' pedals in an airplane.
an important concept for me to explain here is that flying the model with a transmitter box (thumb and fingers method) in no way compares to flying it with the Heli-Chair controls. my first flights with a model helicopter were exclusively with the Heli-Chair and did not include having a safety pilot. i simply pulled the collective until it was light on the skids and started getting the feel of the cyclic, i dropped it back down if things weren't just right. it was difficult to say the least. only after mastering flight with the Heli-Chair and the necessity of training new pilots did i even need to learn how to fly with the transmitter. i can attest with first hand knowledge that almost no motor skills learned from the transmitter relay to the Heli-Chair and vice versa. using thumbs with precisely spring centered gimbals is nothing like using your arms and feet with controls that are constantly in motion. when i want to fly a model for relaxing fun, i'll use the transmitter because it is easier. when i'm up for a challenge, i will use the full size controls.
the owner of a Heli-Chair can successfully use the training videos and materials i provide to teach themselves how to hover, without crashing and rebuilding the helicopter. there is of course the option of finding a local R/C helicopter pilot to have as a backup, but that is a luxury that most folks certainly won't need. you can learn everything you need within 10 feet of the ground. i have given many people a try at flying while serving as the safety pilot. i select before lift-off which controls they will be using and i do the rest. if things get out of hand, i simply take over completely and set it down, then they try again. i always start by teaching the pedals first, then pedals and throttle, then progress from that point. most curious pilots can get the feel of pedals and collective in a short while. the cyclic of course is the key to everything and takes much more practice.
my goal is to have the Heli-Chair available at more flight training schools as an inexpensive alternative to $200+ per hour for dual instruction. afterall, my initial motivation for this entire project was the dream of lfying a real helicopter. some folks will want to purchase a Heli-Chiar for themselves and some will opt to take advantage of hourly training or leasing options. if you are interested in this but can't afford to buy the whole thing, talk to your local flight school and get them interested if they don't already have one. it is a small investment that draw in LOTS of new customers.