I have done quite a lot of hours in a simulator already and own a coaxial chopper I use for indoor hover training, which you can see here as it was before the flimsy bodywork got slightly damaged (and here after a second recent crash)...
At the time of writing this I was thinking about getting myself a Nano Arrow, as it is smaller/lighter (=less easily damaged), has a "normal" configuration with single rotor blades and a powered tail rotor and is cute as hell. I have now bought one of these and use it for training. ;-)
Recently I got a question about simulators, specifically if there were any open source/free ones around.
As I really didn't know (only having used RealFlight 4.5 myself), I did a quick Google. This is what I found:
- A silly, arcade like Java "simulator"
- Flight simulator information on about.com
- List of helicopter flight simulators on about.com, including links to demo versions
- Flying Model Simulator, which does seem to be (also available as?) freeware
- Hovercontrol.com seems to be related to helicopter simulation with/in Microsoft Flight Simulator?
- Flight simulator information on thirtythousandfeet.com (seems to be geared more towards fixed wing aircraft?)
- FlightGear Flight Simulator seems to actually be open source
If you know of anything that should be in this list that I missed (didn't put that much time into compiling it), please let me know in the comments.
Get the right controller
One last comment: if you are (or become) serious about flying RC helicopters, I think it will be imperative to have simulator software that has a physical USB transmitter available or at least the means to attach and use one.
What you have in your hands while simulator flying should really be as close as you can get to what you will be flying your actually helicopter with. This helps to train muscle memory and make you a pilot instead of "just" a gamer trying to fly an actual helicopter model.
If you want to know more about my helicopter adventure, please check out my personal blog (which is in Dutch).