RCU Review: RealFlight G5

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    Contributed by: Chris Batcheller | Published: March 2010 | Views: 212680 | email icon Email this Article | PDFpdf icon
    RealFlight G5

    RCU Forums: batchelc
    Email: chris@nolapilot.com


    • Kick butt in virtual combat including real time chat!
    • Excellent graphics
    • Realistic flight models
    • Great special effects like airplane details and engine smoke.
    • You can use a real controller with the supplied InterLink Cable. Includes connectors for square Futaba style and JR style.

    • None


    RealFlight G5 is the latest release from Great Planes of their famous radio control flight simulation software. When the first release of RealFlight hit the market, it set a new standard for graphics, flight dynamics and realism. The folks at KnifeEdge Software (the developers of the RealFlight software) and Great Planes have done it again!

    RealFlight G5 offers you an amazing radio control simulation package. This software will let you practice flying or simply have fun. If you're looking to sharpen your flying skills, there is basic and advanced flight training that covers topics like learning to land and learning to hover. Both things I could use some practice in!

    RealFlight G5 isn't all business. When you're looking to kick back and burn some virtual nitro for fun, crank up the real time combat. While being challenging and fun, it's also highly addictive.


    For full details, visit http://www.RealFlight.com

    • Over 75 aircraft to fly!
    • Over 30 flying sites to explore!
    • Includes the InterLink® Elite controller ?
      with digital trims, QuickSelect
      ® and built-in
      transmitter interface!

    Also new to G5:

    • Fly with up to 31 other pilots using the Multiplayer and your
      Internet connection.
    • Automate Multiplayer sessions ahead of time ? invite pilots
      and describe the airports, aircraft, activities and time limits.
    • Create your own online ?pilot?s license? profile.
    • Use the Targeting System to select a single Combat opponent and track his movement throughout the virtual arena.
    • Add on-board cameras with the Aircraft Editor ? change
      their angle from your controller and enjoy ?from the cockpit? views with First Person Video.

    GPMZ4440 Great Planes RealFlight G5 Mode 2
    GPMZ4441 Great Planes RealFlight G5 Mode 1

    Already own RealFlight G3, G3.5, G4 or G4.5?
    Move up to the latest features with the G5 Upgrade (GPMZ4448)!

    For this review, Great Planes provided a RealFlight G5 Mode 2 stock number GMPZ4440.

    First Look

    RealFlight G5 comes packaged in a full color box. The InterLink controller is well protected against the delivery folks in a Styrofoam tray and full color box. Included with the controller and InterLink cable is a DVD case with the program disk and instruction book.

    The instructions are clearly written and explain the basics of the program. The InterLink Controller is similar to a 4 or 6 channel transmitter, except it has a USB cord protruding from the top. The radio looks very similar to a Futaba 6EX. The program will not run unless the InterLink controller is connected to the computer.

    The red button is the handy "reset" button that you will use to reset after crashing. There are plenty of switches, and all the switches are clearly labeled.

    The control sticks feel very similar to a basic four or six channel radio. The sticks are smooth and the throttle ratchet is very positive. The rear of the controller has the square trainer port that the InterLink cable is plugged into.

    To use another transmitter, plug in the InterLink cable. Plug the InterLink Controller into your computer and then plug the other controller into the back of the InterLink Controller via the supplied cable. The whole setup is a little cumbersome on the desk, but it works well. The benefit to this is that you get to use your actual transmitter to fly the simulation.

    System Requirements and Installation

    Here is what Great Planes publishes:

    Minimum Recommended System:
    Some graphical features may be disabled. Aerodynamic calculations will still be high quality.
    Windows* XP, Windows* Vista® or Windows* 7
    *Local administrator access required.
    Intel® Pentium® 1.0GHz or equivalent
    512 MB RAM
    4 GB Hard Drive Space
    DVD Drive
    3D Accelerated Video with:
    32 MB Dedicated Video Memory
    Full Windows DirectX® 9 compliant (Pixel Shader 1.4 support)
    InterLink® Elite Controller:
    USB Port
    Compatible with the trainer jack on most Futaba and all JR, Spektrum and Tower Hobbies systems (if using the interface mode)
    Optimal System:

    Optimal System:
    Dual core 2.4GHz CPU
    2 GB RAM
    3D accelerated video with:
    256 MB dedicated video memory
    3D accelerated video with: 512 MB dedicated video memory, Pixel Shader 3.0 support

    Multiplayer Requirements:
    Broadband connection
    Computer microphone for voice chat

    *Please note that the number of participants in a Multiplayer session may be limited by the internet connection (speed and bandwidth) available to each participant.

    Note: The connectors on the InterLink Elite cord and included adapters make the InterLink Elite compatible with the trainer jack on most Futaba® and all JR®, Spektrum® and Tower Hobbies® systems. Special adapters for use with most older Futaba and Hitec® systems are available separately. Windows is a registered trademark of Microsoft Corporation in the United States and other countries. For more information vist the RealFlight web site at:www.RealFlight.com.

    Installation was a snap. Follow the directions and you'll have the software installed in a matter of minutes. One slightly annoying part was the online update program. The online update program will automatically download updates, but it requires you to restart the program. On my installation it downloaded an update for the update program (go figure), but after a few times everything was installed with the latest software.

    Performance Please....

    When I received RealFlight G5 from the delivery truck, I couldn't wait to load it up and see how this puppy performed. I was curious to see if I would have to buy a new computer or if I needed to pour some some 20% glow fuel into the one that I already owned.

    While a 3 GHz Pentium 4 processor and 1 GB of RAM with onboard video really isn't considered a hotrod gaming computer, it is above the 1 GHz and 512 MB RAM that are the "Minimum Recommendation". I'm running Windows XP with Service Pack 3 installed.

    With the default setting I could fly planes and have fun, but the simulation would get choppy every now and then - but it was still very useable when I turned off most of the memory and processor intensive graphics features. The great news is that the aerodynamic simulation isn't affected by the framerate. Even if the simulation is choppy, the flight dynamics are still right.

    I knew I needed a good excuse to order more memory and a new video card, and now I had one. I installed 2 additional GB of RAM (for a total of 3GB) and a NVIDIA GeForce 9400 GT 1GB video card. Since I only had a PCI (not a PCI-e) slot open, I was limited to the video cards to choose from. The GeForce 9400 met the requirements for G5 and has the most memory that I could find.

    With operation upgrade in the rear view mirror, I fired up G5. With the monitor now hooked to a DVI port (white plug with all the funny pins) my frame rates went through the roof! There are times in the simulation where my frame rates hit 130 fps! I still can't turn on all the memory and processor intensive features, but I was able to put a number of them on the middle setting. For a point of reference, 60 fps will give you nice smooth video.

    Let's Fly!

    The first step to running RealFlight G5 is to plug in the InterLink controller, the program will not run without it connected. Set the throttle to idle and check the positions of all the switches. Opening RealFlight G5 will put you in the last airplane that you were flying when you shut the program down. Mine started up with "Big Beautiful Doll" a famous P-51 mustang and the sound of an engine thumping along. I like this thing already!

    Along the left side - a menu pops out when you move the cursor over it. From here you can select aircraft, flying fields and pop out some helpful menus.

    • NavGuide - Gives you the basics, airspeed, altitude, heading and RPM. Also tells you what the current framerate is.
    • Radio - shows you the position of the sticks
    • Binocular - always shows you a close up of the airplane so you can get used to orientation
    • Viewport - shows a specific view
    • Variometer - Similar to the NavGuide but for gliders. Shows rate of climb graphically and in numbers along with altitude in above sea level and above ground level.

    Along the top are several menus including Simulation, Aircraft, Controller, Multiplayer, Recordings, Training, View, Window and Help.

    My InterLink controller worked with no tweaks out of the box. I did run through the controller calibration menu under controller, but I didn't see any difference.

    Before taking off I wiggled all the sticks to make sure everything was connected like I expected. The flight controls on the airplane actually move, so it was easy to check. I played with all the switches to see how the gear and flaps worked. And yes, you can retract the gear on the ground! A quick push of the reset button on the InterLink controller and I was ready to fly again. I wish fixing planes in in the shop was that fast!

    The InterLink controller allows you to virtually control every aspect of the simulator from the controller thanks to it's many switches.  You can even select different aircraft, flying sites, etc.

    In a few seconds I had "Big Beautiful Doll" rolling down the virtual runway and I was airborne. Having flown a few Mustangs, I can say this one felt very realistic. The airplane performed aerobatics like I expected and was very close to flying a real model. KnifeEdge prides themselves on having an accurate flight model, and from the airplanes that I flew I would say they should be proud. I really look forward to using this software on future reviews so I can get used to the airplanes before I get to the field.

    If you are looking for the most realistic flying experience, try setting the simulation to "expert mode" under Difficulty in the Simulation Menu, then and add in some wind and turbulence. Without the wind and turbulence, the airplanes are easy to fly - but rarely do you have a flying day that nice!



    From the simulation menu you can change the airport, environment and even the difficulty. You can even create a new airport to simulate where you fly.


    In the aircraft menu you can select which aircraft (or helicopter) to fly. You can also set the aircraft paint job (color scheme) and change the aircraft position.


    The controller menu will let you select the controller to use and calibrate that controller. You can also change the mapping of the channels from the defaults.


    In the multiplayer menu you can join or host a multiplayer session. You can also control various aspects of the multiplayer sessions and control the voice chat options.


    The recording menu will let you record your sessions so you can play it back later. This can be handy when learning to land or when trying to perfect your aerobatic skills. This menu also allows you to open an earlier recording.


    The training menu is your gateway to the various training options that RealFlight G5 offers. You can learn how to takeoff and land as well as hover both airplanes and helicopters.


    From the view window you can change all the view options. This includes the perspectives, like in-cockpit view or the game like following view.


    The window view will keep your windows organized. One handy feature is the "Capture Screenshot" option. The menu's show you the shortcut keys too. The capture screenshot shortcut key is the Tab key.


    The help menu has a handy list of keyboard shortcuts and links to helpful websites.


    In keeping with the "real" in RealFlight, RealFlight G5 offers photo-realistic flying fields. There are tons of fields to choose from. RealFlight G5 also includes a simple to use editor that allows you to "build" your own flying field. You can use this editor to pick from a library of objects (trees, buildings, signs, etc.) and place them on the map. You can adjust many different parameters about the objects, making it easy to recreate your flying field. If someone has created that field in RealFlight, you can always import a field too.

    One cool rendering feature is the "depth of field" setting. You can set this so the background is always clear and sharp, or you can set it so the background is blurry. This setting can be handy to match your eye sight to the simulation.


    The aircraft in RealFlight G5 look, sound and fly spectacular! My first R/C flight simulator was the old Dave Brown Simulator with the large metal controller that looked a lot like an old Kraft radio. Things have come a long ways!

    The aircraft are VERY detailed. The control surfaces and landing gear all move just like they would in the real world. Visually the airplanes look photorealistic and even the shadows imitate real life. There are several other realistic details that complete the "real" simulation including the way the engines sound and the smoke trails coming from the exhaust stacks.

    I found the flight models to be excellent. The airplanes all flew like I expected, and exhibited the same flight characteristics of the real thing. I found the flight models to be accurate at both high and low speed too. Even taxing the airplanes on grass - they bounced and required more power, just like the real thing.

    RealFlight G5 lets you set the level of detail that is displayed in both the airplanes and the scenery. This is nice if you want to bump up framerate performance, you can set the level of detail as required to get the performance that you desire. Another nice feature is that the flight models are always accurate, even when the frame rate is down.

    One thing I think is really cool about RealFlight G5 is that you can fly airplanes before you build them. Take the V-22 Titltrotor for example. Building a V-22 would take probably take years, but you can fly it in less than 5 minutes in RealFlight G5. Oh yea, and when you accidentally let terra firma meet the the rotors, err propellers - it won't cost a couple hundred bucks or more.

    Check out the realistic looking rotor blades. At low speed (below) they look just as if they would in real life. Bump the throttle up and the visual model changes (above).

    This Ultimate is fun to fly and will do just about any trick in the book too.

    You can see the complete list of over 75 airplanes and helicopters that comes with RealFlight G5 HERE. In addition you can also purchase expansion packs to add even more airplanes. Great Planes doesn't publish much information on their expansion packs, but you can see some information on them HERE. If you want to tweak any of the airplanes, or even create your own you can do that in the easy to use aircraft editor.

    Multiplayer and Combat

    This version of RealFlight has Multiplayer and Combat flying including Streamer Cutting, Paintball, Rocket Launching and Machine Guns! When you're tired of flying around the patch by yourself, you can log in to the mulitplayer mode and have some fun. This is very addictive and very fun! I would recommend a headset or microphone for the most enjoyment, this will allow you to real-time chat with your friends, err opponents.

    While being able to fire rockets off a P-51 clearly brings this part of RealFlight G5 into the "game" category, I think it adds a great new dimension to the software. Within seconds I can go from doing some serious hover training to adrenaline pumping fun with multiplayer combat. Combat is a lot harder than in looks too! Be prepared to push the reset button allot your first few times in the combat sessions. These guys are serious!

    You have the option of joining an open session over the Internet or even hosting your own session. You can password protect your sessions, or you can leave them open to everyone. On a weekend night, if you host a combat session - chances are you will have 6 or 8 fellow pilots join you within a few minutes. There is also the option to join in a multiplayer session via a LAN network. The multiplayer over the Internet works great. There were a few times that the game would "lag", but only enough to be slightly annoying.

    RealFlight G5 has a built in targeting system that will show you where the opponent that you have targeted is. To change the person that you have targeted, press the up and down arrows. To see a list of other keyboard commands at any time in RealFlight G5 hit the "H" key. You can choose from several views, including the in-cockpit view. RealFlight has detailed a few of the airplanes to make it feel like you are sitting in the real thing.

    The multiplayer aspect quickly became my favorite part of RealFlight G5. You can even personalize your name with your "pilots license" and select an avatar. I really liked that multiplayer wasn't just buzzing around in W.W.II planes. You can also shoot paintballs with 3D foamies or do streamer cutting with W.W.I biplanes and anything in the middle. RealFlight G5 also gives you a variety of places to fly too from the construction site to the boneyard. You can even fly at night! So when you venture into the Multiplayer Menu, make sure your refreshments are well stocked - you'll be addicted for a long time!


    Spending some hours on the simulator can really payoff at the field. RealFlight G5 has some specific training modes that work great. When I first tried the helicopter and airplane hover trainer, I thought it was really annoying. If you get just a tiny bit out of the orange circle on the ground the model crumbles as if hit by a giant invisible hammer. Push the reset button and you're back in the center of the circle hovering. After working on my skills for a few minutes I saw that because the model crashes, it forces you to try harder to stay in the circle.

    Anther cool feature is the ability to put certain channels on "autopilot". This allows you to concentrate on one or two channels at a time, and you can add more channels later. This technique works very well and is the same approach I use when teaching new R/C pilots.

    In addition to the hover training, there is also takeoff and landing training. In this mode the simulator adds some visual cues to help you out in the pattern.



    I think RealFlight G5 is a great product. It covers all the bases from serious training to just pure fun. Excellent graphics and realistic flight models make this a very real simulator. The planes are very detailed and have great effects like smoke trails from the engine. RealFlight G5 has several features to make the flying fields very realistic including depth-of-field, wind, turbulence and several other visual features.

    As an added bonus, Great Planes included the InterLink cable so you can use your actual transmitter to fly the simulation. The InterLink cable will work with a square Futaba and a JR radio trainer port.

    I was surprised to see that you can run this software on slower computers. While having a super-monster gaming computer allows you to use more of the visual features, you can also turn these features down or off to allow you to run this software on a slower computer.

    RealFlight G5 is sold as a package with a controller or you can purchase an upgrade from an earlier version of RealFlight. You can also purchase expansion packs that will add to the 75+ pre-installed airplanes and helicopters.

    I was very impressed with the whole RealFlight G5 package. The software installed easy, and was intuitive to use. The simulation is very realistic and the airplanes fly very close to their real counterparts. RealFlight G5 is a great tool for sharpening your flying skills and it's a lot of fun too!

    Dealer Information

    RealFlight G5 :
    Distributed exclusively by Great Planes Model Distributors

    P.O. Box 9021
    Champaign, IL 61826

    Phone: 800-682-8948

    Web: http://www.futaba-rc.com

    Written: 12/05/2009

    Comments on RCU Review: RealFlight G5

    Posted by: wkevinm on 03/17/2010
    I would buy if it worked on a Mac, without the need to emulate windows. I am looking for a product that will work in the MAC environment and can simulate 3 pole Pylon racing.
    Posted by: cobrajocky on 03/23/2010
    Very very good review! Covers all the bases on this latest release and many of the new features. This is my second version of RF, upgrading from G3.5 (sold it to a newbee) and bought this new version G5. I wouldn't suggest an Upgrade as an option, since the old TX controller is pretty limited compared with this new Interlink controller. The program is a whale of an improvement, though I still have some complaints. I've loaded it on two PC's (a 3GHz Quad Core AMD workstation with 32GB of RAM I do video editing on, and an HP with a 2.2GHz Core2 Duo and a fast video card). No problems on the AMD Quad (for obvious reasons), but the Core2 Duo still see's some "stuttering" video action in flight. It certainly isn't the computer, I feel there are some minor coding issues in RF G5. As for the Mac user, you'll have to get a "real" PC computer, not one of those cute Mac toys, to play the real games and this or other Simulators. It's the price you pay for playing in that <5% "Niche" sub-minority market. ;^P (Hope you can take some kidding - I used to be a Mac user)
    Posted by: batchelc on 03/24/2010
    There is no way the video or the screen grabs do this simulation justice. I had a lot of bells and whistles turned off because my computer isn't a spring chicken anymore and it still looked great. The video was taken with my camera pointed at my computer monitor. I really liked flying G5 with a "real" controller, I used the Futaba 8ch. The only thing was that you have to have the interlink plugged into the "real" controller so the whole thing takes a lot of real estate on the desk. Next I'm going to experiment with designing planes in RF G5.
    Posted by: dubd on 08/15/2010
    G5 runs fine on a intel based Mac running Windows through Bootcamp. Contrary to what cobrajocky says about "cute Mac toys", all of the current Macs have Nvidia graphics processors that can handle RF without a problem.
    Posted by: cynical209 on 09/18/2010
    I just bought the real flight g5[after begging my wife] and it was no problem with downloading. I'm glad I begged for it. Now I can crash my virtual chopper and learn from that while practicing before buying my real bird.
    Page: 1
    The comments, observations and conclusions made in this review are solely with respect to the particular item the editor reviewed and may not apply generally to similar products by the manufacturer. We cannot be responsible for any manufacturer defects in workmanship or other deficiencies in products like the one featured in the review.

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