I am a private pilot (and fairly avid VR flight simulator user) and have been taking real-life instruction in a Pitts S-2C (and have some time in a Pitts S-2A) out of KSDL. I have been using the AeroFly Pitts S-2B as a training aid to supplement real-world flying. Site picture is perfect in VR, control response, and speeds are pretty close but there are some gaps that exist that I have identified going back and forth between real plane and simulator. These probably apply to other planes as well but I am limiting discussion just to the Pitts because that is all I have been using in Aerofly.
In the air:
- Adverse yaw is very understated in AeroFly especially at slow speeds. Real Pitts has a lot of it.
- P-factor doesn't seem to be modeled in Aerofly. During climb at 110mph in real Pitts, if you take your feet off rudder pedals, plane will yaw by ~5 degrees per second to the left requiring constant right rudder. In fact, in a left climbing turn, no left rudder is needed - you only need to reduce right rudder pressure to stay coordinated. In AeroFly you need no rudder input, and you still track perfectly straight. The converse of this is when pulling power (for example abeam the numbers on landing) in the real plane the nose will move to the right requiring momentary left rudder input due again to p-factor.
- The model will not forward slip. Anything more than a mild aileron input and there isn’t enough rudder authority to prevent the aircraft from simply turning. The real Pitts forward slips incredibly well.
- In flare, the Aerofly Pitts floats a bit long. Even with the two-blade prop it should decelerate a faster and touch down.
On the Ground – Landing Roll and High-Speed Taxis:
The real Pitts is very sensitive on the ground during rollout and is easy to overcontrol. To get students used to this, the instructor has you perform high speed taxis on the runway (with tail down) at about 30mph. Goal is to first track straight down centerline which is surprisingly hard the first few times. The plane is easy to overcontrol with rudder. So, a slight deviation will result in you putting too much rudder in (and/or leaving it in too long which is probably the bigger issue) giving you a slightly bigger deviation the other direction, and so on. By swerve 3 you are on your way to running off the runway. Anyway, you eventually get the feel of this. Then he will have you move left of centerline 10 feet and then right of centerline, etc. Until you can do it without getting into any swerves. This whole procedure is performed with the stick completely back. In Aerofly, with the stick completely back, it is as if the plane is on rails. It is perfectly stable and the tailwheel is basically locked to the ground. This isn’t accurate. I have found you can sort of recreate the real instability in Aerofly by keeping the stick 3/4 of the way forward of neutral and keeping the speed low. In Aerofly, this will sort of recreate the swerve tendency that exists in real life. However, when you start picking up any speed in Aerofly, the stability increases regardless of stick position (for example, when you are still moving fast on landing roll). In real life, this swerving tendency also exists at higher speeds especially when decelerating on rollout. (The plane is obviously easier to control on takeoff with full power pulling the nose forward giving the plane more stability.)
On the Ground – Regular Taxi
In a real tailwheel plane when doing s-turns for example, once you input rudder and get the turn started, the plane continues to travel through the arc even after you neutralize rudder. In Aerofly, the turn stops as soon as you neutralize rudder.
On the Ground – Takeoff
Real-plane – Smooth full power with stick initially fully back combined with very gentle rudder inputs to keep tracking straight. Requires some constant right rudder presumably due to p-factor of the plane sitting at a high angle of attack in three point attitude and engine torque putting more weight and friction on the left tire. About the point you get to full power, release back pressure on stick slowly. The stick will move forward on its own through about the midpoint between full aft and neutral which will require a gentle forward pressure to push through this. If you push too hard through this (which I have done), you get a very pronounced and startling swerve to the left due to gyroscopic precession of the tail coming up which you inevitably overcorrect for giving you a swerve to the right! Anyway, get the plane in slightly nose high attitude and then keep tracking straight until it flies off. (When first learning, there is a very strong urge to just lift the plane off too early. This is because once the wheels get light, they sort of start hopping and skipping across the runway giving you the urge to just get off the ground and into the safety of the air!). This is obviously wrong, but I had a lot of mental trouble with this.
In Aerofly, from the start there is still too much stability in the takeoff roll. Also, in Aerofly if you push the nose forward too quickly it doesn’t show the exaggerated gyroscopic forces. In fact, a while ago Aerofly actually had the force going in the wrong direction. When you would push the tail up, the plane would yaw to the right. I had submitted a bug and it seems like it was sort of fixed. But either way, the stability on takeoff in the sim is too much and the gyro force is understated.
I am by no means an expert in the Pitts. I am a student learning. But I have had the unique perspective of going back and forth between the real airplane and the simulator and trying to closely document the differences. I saw there is a professional flight model for the new R-22 helicopter. I was hoping there might be a professional flight model for fixed wing aircraft and also hope that this post may be useful. I would be happy to provide any more input and perhaps can take some GoPro video of the next flight to demonstrate some of the things I have mentioned in this post. Aerofly is a really great sim and I would love for it to get to an even more advanced place.
One final note, the most accurate tail wheel sim I have used so far is the DCS P-51 Mustang. I obviously have never flown a real Mustang but prior to getting my tailwheel endorsement, I practiced heavily in the DCS Mustang – takeoffs and landings (normal and crosswind), high speed taxis, and wheel landings. I flew in a Super Decathlon for my actual tailwheel endorsement and found it very easy and intuitive. To me that is proof that the DCS flight model is done very well. It is mainly a military sim though. If Aerofly could recreate that on the civilian side it would be fantastic. For reference, my hardware consists of Warthog flight stick and throttle with 10cm extender on the flight stick to match real plane dimensions better. I have slaw device rudder pedals which was an upgrade from MFG Crosswinds. All of the tailwheel stuff I mentioned requires good rudder pedals to get value out of a good flight model.