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ProCyclic & ProStart Collective
For Flight Sim Developed by Komodo Simulations
Reviewed by David Williams
 February 2013


I've been a fan of helicopters ever since I got hooked on the TV series "Whirlybirds" back in the fifties, but it wasn't until FSX introduced me to the virtual kind, that my interest in helicopters really took off. I had been using various home built cyclic/collectives with the flight simulator for a couple of years which, together with some CH pedals, had provided me with a rather Heath Robinson approach to helicopter controls - better than a twist-grip joy-stick, but not very realistic. So, when I came across the Komodo stand at the 2012 Weston Flight Sim Show, I was very pleased to meet Rich Price and 'Mac' McCarlie and their Virtual Blade helicopter simulator controls. After waiting my turn to try out the Komodo demo set-up, I finally got seated and reached for the new collective and cyclic. I must say, my hopes were high. Was this the breakthrough I had been waiting for? And, possibly just as important, would I be able to afford the kit? Read on to find out...

How Komodo Simulations started

Some years ago, Rich started helicopter flight lessons and, as a way of getting ahead in training, got into flight simulation using Microsoft Flight Simulator. Rich wanted to replicate the controls of a real helicopter to make the simulated flight more realistic and to develop the important muscle memory for hands and feet co-ordination. Over the next 3 years he passed his PPL(H) and was well on the way to getting his Commercial License. During this time Rich developed the early prototypes of what is now the Virtual Blade Cyclic and Collective controls, which he and Mac market under the Komodo Simulations banner.

The Virtual Blade System (VBS) Cyclic and Collective

Komodo ProCyclic
The VBS ProCyclic uses the Infinity Aerospace Flight Grip, manufactured at Gillespie Field in California and certified for use in real aircraft.

It uses Hall Sensors that have 12bit resolution for super accurate control, no internal moving parts for robustness and zero hysteresis. It also has a built in simulated force trim, so if you move the ProCyclic and let go, it remains where you released it.

As you can see from the photos, the ProCyclic has a swan neck and looks very realistic. The USB interface electronics have been custom made for Komodo and final assembly is in-house.

The ProStart Collective replicates all the functions of a fully working helicopter collective control and is based on the one found in the B206 JetRanger.

The ProStart has a twist grip throttle with an authentic cork grip and mechanical Idle Release Button.

The ProStart also has all the switches from the real world collective and are all fully operational. You can turn on the landing lights as well as increase and decrease the engine governor control and of course the engine starter button is also there.

Importantly, you are able to adjust the amount of friction on the collective to get it just as you like it. The ProStart uses Hall sensors for both the collective and twist grip throttle controls. Again, custom made USB interface electronics are used and final assembly is by Komodo.

Komodo Pro-Start Collective

The Komodo Cyclic and Collective arrived by courier and, as I was unpacking them, I realised that I needed something onto which I could mount the controls. So, I made a simple timber frame (out of 2" x 2" carcassing) that the Cyclic and Collective control housings could be fixed to. This rather basic frame was compatible with the wooden chair I normally sat on - not as comfortable as some specialised flight-sim seats that I've seen, but a workable solution!

Komodo Mounting Side

Komodo Mounting Rear

Connection was simple - just plug the 2 cables into the USB ports on the P.C. Depending on how your own P.C. is housed, you may find cable extensions are needed. As it was, the Komodo cabling was fine for my set up.

The interface software installed automatically on my Windows 7 system, so I fired up FSX to confirm if the correct control axes had been set and to check calibration. The Cyclic's inputs were set to the Ailerons (X axis) and Elevators (Y axis) as you would expect. The Collective Lever input was set to the Throttle (Z axis) but the Reverse action box was blank. Ticking this 'reverse action' box was required.

I calibrated each axis of the Cyclic and Collective, using the FSX calibration wizard, and confirmed that all Sensitivities were at their maximum and that the Null Zones were zero.

Komodo Cyclic Control Axes
Komodo Collective Control Axes

Further refinements still needed to be made - the Cyclic's 5 buttons and hat switch, together with the Twist Grip and switches on the Collective - but I was itching to see how the Komodo would operate. Choosing the default Bell 206B I was soon airborne...

First Impressions

I remember the first time I drove a quality car - a Mercedes 230SL, back in the sixties - and the same feeling returned when I lifted off in the 206B. The Komodo controls are top class - no doubt about it. Both Cyclic and Collective have the positive feel of real controls, together with a very impressive precision action. In fact, the sensitivity of the controls took a little while to get used to, but once 'acclimatised', the result was most rewarding. No more 'pendulum' motion on approaching the LZs and hovering became much more predictable as I became accustomed to the flight dynamic effects of the Cyclic and Collective working hand-in-hand, so to speak. 'What next?’ I thought. Later, a couple of Tutorial Missions with the Robinson R22 completed, and I was convinced - the Komodo controls were the business.

Full of confidence(!), I tried out the controls with some other rotorcraft. First, the ND EC135, a bit more sensitive than the default 206B for torque induced yaw, but reasonably straightforward to handle. Next, the ND Bo105, a lot twitchier than the EC135, and therefore took a bit of practice as the Komodo controls sensitivity had to be taken into account. And, last, the Aesosoft Huey-X, another sensitive model with probably the best VC of any FSX helicopter. I'd found this aircraft difficult with my DIY kit, but, with the Komodo controls, after some practice, I found the 'sweet spot' and the beast was tamed. Autorotation was accomplished - with a bit of a bump after the flare - so I was well pleased. But the real test was to come - mastering the Dodo-Sim 206B.

Huey One Skid Balance

Installing the ProStart Collective for the DodoSim 206B using FSUIPC

The next step was to fully install the ProStart Collective for the Dodo-Sim Bell 206, considered by many to be the most realistic helicopter simulator add-on available, certainly for FSX.

As previously stated, the Komodo Collective replicates the one found in a real 206B. Switches included with the Collective are for the Starter, Governor RPM and Landing Lights, and these are connected to the flight simulator via the FSUIPC interface. Unlike some add-ons, which work with an unregistered copy of FSUIPC, the additional complexity of the Dodo-Sim 206B Collective controls require a registered copy. Registering FSUIPC is, unfortunately, not cheap. Unless you have already purchased another of Pete Dowson's products (i.e. WideFS), then you will have to pay Euro 24 plus VAT. However, there are a number of other extra facilities built into the registered version of FSUPIC, which compensate for this outlay. Have a look at the information on this page:

Komodo provide full written documentation for setting the relevant parameters to enable the 7 Collective control inputs to interface with FSX via FSUIPC. I found the instructions easy to follow - Start Button, Throttle Twist Grip together with Landing Light and Governor RPM Increase/Decrease switches were straightforward to set up and, subsequently, performed as expected. But what was a real bonus was to complete the engine start procedure using the Dodo-Sim VC in conjunction with the ProStart Collective. Now, this may sound unusual, but the sound of the turbine spooling up as you twisted the Throttle and released the Start Button at the right engine RPM, was a truly immersive experience.

Notes: The Komodo ProCyclic does not require FSUIPC and has a standard joy-stick interface such that the 2 axes, Hat Switch and the 5 Flight Grip Buttons are all assignable from within FSX in the normal way. In addition, the Komodo controls are designed to work independently, that is, you can use the ProStart Collective with a standard joystick as cyclic. Komodo also offer Pedals, as part of their modular system.
Komodo Pedals

Flying with the Komodo Controls

Since installing the Komodo cyclic and collective, I have used them exclusively for all my FSX flying - both rotary and fixed wing. As my experience with the Komodo controls has developed, I have found that my helicopter flying has become a lot more smooth and, what's more, predictable. The sensitivity of both Komodo cyclic and collective has made my control actions become more muted and, because of this, I have become more aware of needing to take control actions in anticipation of up-coming manoeuvres. Thus my flying techniques have improved significantly - and, with it, my enjoyment.

Interestingly, I have just completed the annual DC-3 Airways World Rally, flying the DC-3 with the Komodo controls. With the collective as throttle control - albeit for both engines - maintaining a consistent true air speed was easily accomplished. Also, using a long 'stick', similar to many vintage single engined aircraft, made approach and landing a lot easier. All-in-all a good result.

Pluses and Minuses

Since first touching the Komodo controls at the Weston Flight Sim Show 6 months ago, my reaction hasn't changed. These controls are as near perfect as you can get. The Cyclic has a solid feel about it and the precise transmission of hand movement makes simulated flying so much more predictable and consistent. The Collective, with its twist grip and replicated 206B switches, brings almost total realism to your helicopter flying, thus adding to that most important immersion factor.

It's got to be said that the Komodo controls are not cheap - the Cyclic and Collective each cost a little over GBP 500. That said, there is not a comparable cyclic or collective available at this price - at least, not with the technical specification offered by Komodo. Possibly the only competitor to the Komodo controls comes from Bob Sidwick, who markets the Cadet System for both helicopter and fixed wing simulators. Whilst the Cadet cyclic is similar to the Komodo Pro-Cyclic, the Cadet collective is not a replica of the controls found in the Bell 206B JetRanger and the basic Cadet version comes without throttle twist grip. Lastly, on price, you're going to have to find an additional 50% to purchase Bob's alternative helicopter controls.

So, the Komodo price tag may be an obstacle that may prevent you from owning such an excellent set of controls. I'll admit, I thought long and hard about the price before purchasing, but, in the light of all the subsequent benefits to my helicopter flying and overall enjoyment, the investment was well worth it.

Concluding Remarks

I'll finish off with a warning: Do Not Accept Any Invitation To Try These Controls! You will not be satisfied until you own a set yourself. That, I think, is the ultimate recommendation. Yes, I know the Komodo controls don't come cheap, but the benefits by far outweigh this. Let's face it; you don't get such high quality equipment without a certain level of investment. I'm looking forward to many years of enjoyment from mine.

Dodo Sunset


10 stars

  MH Award for Excellence
    • Ease of setup:
    • Performance against expectations:
    • Documentation:
    • Build quality:
    • Value for money:  
An overall score is 10/10 and the coveted Mutley's Hangar Award for Excellence, well done Komodo Simulations.

David Williams
Review machine Spec:
Q9400 2.67 GHz | 4Gb Ram |nVidia GeForce 8800 GT 512 Mb |Windows 7 64bit