For a fun, mid-range simulation heavy lift helicopter for X-Plane, the value priced S-92 Sikorsky by DMO Designs deserves a look.
Though nearly three years old, the DMO Sikorsky S-92, particularly at the price point of $24.95 at X-Plane.org, represents a great value for an entertaining X-Plane module. With a beautiful 3D cockpit and external model, light systems modeling, and a credible flight model, the S-92 is a must have for X-Plane helo heads.
The DMO S-92 package comes with several variants of the S-92 including: Offshore/Air Taxi, SAR, VIP, CH-148 (military), and VH-92 (Presidential). With each variant you’ll see some modifications to include custom interiors and exteriors. The Offshore/Air Taxi interior is utilitarian for delivering oil rig workers to the platform. The SAR interior features an internal rescue basket, litters, and an external winch. The VIP and VH-92 model more of an executive interior while both the SAR and CH-148 (military) variants contain external FLIR camera balls and other specialty modeling.
As one would expect, the cargo ramp and doors open, the rotor blades are articulated, and the overall quality of the model is very good. It would be very cool if the developer could consider adding winch functionality to the model, but it is probably easy enough to implement using a third party plug in such as X-Slingload.
The nice thing about lightly modeled sim add-ons is that they don’t require a full week’s worth of study to get off the ground – such is true with the DMO S-92. The systems modeling is complex enough to require a short study of the manual, but not so deep as to stump you most of the time.
Engine starting is straightforward enough if you follow a dozen or so steps in the checklist to get the electrical power on, APU, bleed air, rotor brake, etc. The sound effects are quite good in all aspects and lend a nice feel of authenticity. The virtual cockpit well modeled and presented, but in keeping with the light systems replication, there are stand-in systems representations that do a good job of giving the impression of a complex helicopter without actually being complex. The default X-Plane FMC and very little MFD menu integration are clues to the target audience for this helo (fun and flying over depth and studying). The 5-tube EFIS, pedestal and overhead instrument panels are well presented with enough functional switches to impart the feeling of doing more than just starting the engines and flying.
Flight modeling is good – imparting a nice, heavy feel. I experimented with aircraft weights and power settings and found a nice modeling of translational lift that I wasn’t expecting. I set the weight to above max gross and was able to lift off into a very low hover until the rotor RPM started to decay, forcing me to set the helo back down. Running the power back up to slightly below maximum, I was able to perform a rolling takeoff at a slightly reduced power setting, transitioning into translational lift at around 30 knots. Color me impressed! It isn’t all sunshine and kittens though since the upper end of the speed regime results in prematurely running out of nose down trim authority. Fortunately, the esteemed helicopter aficionado Brett S from X-Plane.org came up with some very nice custom settings that tweak the flight model into shape (use at your own risk): HERE! With that said, flying the S-92 is great fun and has just the right mix of helo dynamics and weight to make precise flying a joy. Unlike some lighter, twitchier models, the S-92 has a good bit of stability, making approaches to oil platforms and tight LZs a bit more achievable.
IFR operations are assisted by a functional autopilot that takes some getting used to (and constant monitoring). With the proper trim, the S-92 can be flown like a typical fixed-wing aircraft to perform procedure turns and ILS approaches, but I’ve had better success hand flying it than relying on the course capture modes. I’ve had quite a few “what is it doing?” moments that have degraded my confidence in the autopilot and flight director. I’m unaware of any auto-hover modeling which would be present in the real helicopter.
Single engine operations are doable provided you have some forward momentum and/or are at a lighter weight. Autorotations are not particularly difficult given the amount of energy that is stored in the massive rotor system. Once committed to raising the collective in the flare though, you’d better be ready for the onset of rapid rotor RPM decay. With a wheeled undercarriage, roll on landings ease the requirement for pinpoint precision during autorotations if you are performing them to a surface that supports a rollout. In the event of a water landing, DMO thoughtfully included deployable flotation bags.
Night cockpit lighting is fantastic and you can control the spotlight if you map it to a controller.
Overall the DMO S-92 is an affordable helo for your X-Plane hangar with good modeling and just a few quirks. For those that are more interested in flying helos than learning extensive systems and sub-systems, the DMO S-92 is a perfect fit.
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