RCU Review: Great Planes G4 RealFlight Simulator

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    Contributed by: Nathan Maat | Published: January 2008 | Views: 136400 | email icon Email this Article | PDFpdf icon

    Nathan Maat
    12 Years R/C Experience
    About the Author

    Web: RealFlight.com


    • Realism
    • Virtual Instructor
    • Multiplayer
    • Training Tools


    • None


    Model ........................ RealFlight G4
    Price ......................... $199.99
    Type .......................... R/C Flight Simulator
    Included..................... 4 Installation disks
    Connecting Cables

    Minimum Recommended System

    • Some graphical features may be disabled.

    • Aerodynamic Calculations will still be high quality.

    • Windows 98* SE, Windows ME, Windows 2000, Windows XP or Windows Vista

    • Intel Pentium 1.0GHz or equivalent

    • 512 MB RAM

    • 3 GB hard drive space

    • 3D accelerated video with: 32 MB dedicated video memory, full Windows DirectX 9 compliant (Pixel Shader 1.4 support)

    Optimal System
    • For best graphical performance
      Dual Core 2.4GHz CPU
    • 2 GB RAM
    • 3D Accelerated Video with: 256 MB dedicated video memory, Pixel Shader 2.0 support


    There is so much information online about flight simulators and in particular RealFlight's G4. I'm not going to cover each and every detail, rather explain what I like and how I use it in my every day life. I'll start with my computer. While it does meet the minimum requirements, it's a long way from meeting the optimal system specs. My computer is a P4 with 1gig ram and a 128mb graphics card. It's not exactly current. I'm curious to see how this goes.

    Installation is the first step to enjoying G4. The cd case contains 4 disks and they must all be installed. Everything went very smooth as the menus prompt your actions during installation. After installation, plug in your interlink controller and fly.

    The controller works and acts very much like any 6 channel transmitter. It has switches you'll need for helicopter idle up and throttle hold settings, dual rates, flaps and smoke. It also offers a reset button, and a menu selector. Basically, everything within the G4 program can be found and selected by the controller. Of course, you can still use your keyboard and mouse, but it's not necessary.


    The main screen offers a few choices on the left which can be selected by clicking the MENU/SELECT button on the transmitter. These are shortcuts to things you'll use most often and they disappear during flight. It starts at the top with an icon to select aircraft, then airports, a navigation guide, transmitter view, binoculars for a close up view, video preview and a variometer for sailplane flying.

    Selecting an airplane or field is very simple. Click the menu/select button on the controller and you'll see highlighted the airplane icon highlighted in blue, the other icons will be shaded in gray. Click the menu/select button again and a list of airplanes appears, or scroll down one to select airports. Use the scroll selector on the right side of the controller to choose your airplane or airport, then click the menu/select button to fly.

    Many r/c pilots would love to have a pro at their field to watch them fly, pick their brain and learn from their advice. Well want no more, G4 brings a few of the pros to us in there Virtual Instructor. Not only will a few of the top pilots in the world show you how they fly, they'll talk you through the maneuvers so you can learn how to do them yourself.

    It's no secret if you want to get better, learning from someone better than you is a good start. No better training aid has their been than learning from a pilot and G4 brings it right to your very own screen. Absolutely fantastic! I've seen Pete Niotis fly in person, in fact I've seen him fly quite a bit as we belong to the same club. Not everyone is fortunate enough to have that advantage. Having Pete and the other pro's on G4 showing and telling us how they fly is probably my favorite feature on G4. Now everyone with G4 has access to these pilots.

    I also love the competitions and multiplayer modes. Just because I'm grounded in the winter months doesn't mean I can't still fly with the guys in my club. Hooking up to multiplayer allows me to chat and fly with the guys I normally have fun with throughout the summer. We've even had club meetings where we hooked up the simulator to a projector and had flight competitions with each other. It's a great way to keep the club active during the winter months.

    And just for kicks, you can experience a little night flying. Beware, it can be addictive.


    Next are the navigation links at the top of the screen. Using the mouse you find options to calibrate the controller, participate in events, multiplayer, recordings, training and views. it's from these menus the G4 world opens up and lets you in.

    As you can see in the pictures G4 is not a game. It's also not just a simple "here's an airplane, go fly" program. It is however a tool to that can be used to have fun, teach, learn, compete, design and build.


    This is also a good place to talk about the physics behind G4. I actually know very little about how they get the airplanes to fly so closely to the real thing, but should I decide to learn G4 will let me build aircraft to my exacting design parameters. How much time and money would that save a guy trying to do it in his workshop with the real thing? With G4, the scratch designer and builder can see his idea and fly a very close simulation prior to ever touching a piece of wood or foam.

    What I do know is how the aircraft on G4 feel compared to the real thing. I can honestly say the dynamics of each aircraft are closely matched to the real thing. Of course there is no substitute for flying the real thing, but this does serve as an incredibly accurate tool in experiencing what it's like to fly r/c. If you've never tried one, find a local hobby shop that has a display and give it a go. It's pretty incredible how they've figured out and duplicated r/c flight so closely. It's quite impressive for a $200 program.


    I put together a quick video to show a few aspects of G4 which should give you a feel for what it's like if you've never used or seen it before. You'll see me attempt to fly a few aircraft I wouldn't fly in real life (part of why I really like G4) and show you what will happen in different situations. For example, I'll crash a helicopter, fly right at myself, fly into the sun and experiment in the water.

    It's extremely difficult to capture video of G4 as I see it on my computer, so you'll have to judge the graphics by looking at the still pictures below and use the video as a demonstration of what it might be like to fly with the software.

    Keep in mind as you look at the video and the pictures below. My computer is not the latest and greatest, so I can't reach the full potential of the software's abilities. I did however grab a few screen shots for you to get an idea of how it looks on a computer likely to be less powerful than yours. In the shots below, I have G4 graphics set very basic so as to keep the frame rate higher and allow my computer to keep up with the software. For those of you with a decent processor and a good graphics card, G4 should be absolutely stunning.

    On the surface it appears this is a very simple and basic program. If you dig a little deeper however, you'll quickly realize it's incredibly advanced for all levels of r/c flight. Whether you're just beginning to fly or you've been flying for years, G4 will keep you busy.

    As an experienced airplane pilot, I love that I'm able to try new area's of R/C without risking financial loss. I've flown helicopters in the past, but never enough to consider myself experienced. G4 helps keep my skills fresh so when I do decide to return to the heli scene, my thumbs are ready. I also really enjoy the way it helps keep me flying during the winter months. Michigan winters go from about November to March so having G4 keeps me flying year round. And for the most part the only thing missing from this experience is a scratch-and-sniff card so I can smell the nitro or gas as I fly and a fan to simulate a windy day. The rest is pretty darn realistic.

    All this for the price of a 40 size ARF. If it helps prevent one flight disaster, it is worth every penny. Training on G4 as a beginner or simply keeping those old veteran thumbs fresh is worth the price of admission. This truly was a surprise to me as an experienced pilot that I would enjoy it as much as I do. It allows me to try new things, the things my nervous thumbs don't let me try in real life. The result is the building of confidence that allows those thumbs to move the sticks when flying for real.

    This really is a tool to be used by beginner and experienced pilots alike.


    Comments on RCU Review: Great Planes G4 RealFlight Simulator

    Posted by: Old Sloppy on 01/16/2008
    I like the ability to download models for free. Knife Edge.com I downloaded a Trex 600e heli to learn to fly while I am building the real one. Harry
    Posted by: Big Green Machine on 01/28/2008
    It would be nice if the review contained some comparisons with G3.5.
    Posted by: Nathan on 01/28/2008
    That would have been helpful I agree. Unfortunately, I didn't have 3.5 to compare.
    Posted by: t1954r on 02/09/2008
    This Is a wonderful tool that will help anyone who enjoys RC aircraft to gecome a pilot or a much better one. I purchased one with all of the extras and am super happy with it!!!!!!!!!!!! T1954R
    Posted by: F4DevilDog on 02/26/2008
    I would like to a comparison of the various sims. There are a bunch of them on the market, and it is difficult to sort out the apples from the oranges. This was a good review. For future projects, maybe a software comparison review would help out us newbies. Thanks
    Posted by: WILL FELLENZ on 03/06/2008
    Wonder-full review Nathen!!
    Posted by: RCGlens on 06/01/2008
    Great review i love this sim!
    Posted by: ptarp on 06/29/2008
    At this stage of the game, about the only thing worthwhile in a review of a sim is comparisons...everyone knows the Realflight product is pretty darn good...but is it worth an upgrade from G3.5 (or switch from Phoenix, Reflex, etc.)
    Posted by: prevert on 11/12/2008

    Posted by: prevert on 11/12/2008
    Sugestion for the next version, an altimeter on the right upper corner of the screen will be very appreciated. Best regards
    Page: 1 2 >
    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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