This I believe is the main contributing factor to the demise of RC helis over the last 5 or so years. There are also no longer any cheaper options like Align used to be, Align is now pretty much 'high end'.
I agree with all that's been said but I don't know if Flybarless has been impetus to the slowdown of model helicopters or just the most recent chapter in a story that started decades ago.
That's pretty much how I feel. Performance used to be more about the design and engineering elements of the heli down to the last detail. Tinkering with flybar lengths and weights and paddles types was part of the allure. I used to love it when I would see someone flying something that seemed to fly the way I wanted mine to so, I would investigate on what I needed to do next to get that same performance and aspire to that.
Now? Just change a setting and there you go. No mystery no learning experience. Head design and overall heli design matter very little outside of aesthetics nowadays and a clone will fly just as well as a heli that went through full engineering gambit. Miss the old days.
When I started flying model helicopters, most of us made our own blades. By the time I started, blades came pre-shaped and had a slot milled for lead weight - but there still was a week of gluing, sanding, finishing and balancing. None of us had good scales and Laurel Cole hadn't invented the RotoPro yet so balancing was a little hit or miss. Skill and attention to detail were fundamental to a good set of main blades. I mention all this not to highlight how old I am. I mention this because I distinctly remember feeling cheated when it became possible to buy pre-made, pre-balanced blades. Something that I had worked hard to become skilled at and took pride in, had been erased in a single purchase.
The same goes for AVCS gyros. I worked years to master tail control with mechanical rate gyros. Gone with the CMS, JR and 401 gyros.
Someone years ago, on this forum, asked how long did it take you to do your first loop. With little help and no simulator, it took about 3 years. (Picture my chest puffed out in pride.) Well. Every FNG with RealFlight chimed in to say "3 or 4" flights. Yea? Well where's the challenge? Where is the accomplishment? Where is the sense of pride in a skill mastered?
Something has been lost with Flybarless. No doubt about it. I completely agree that there was satisfaction in getting a flybar mixing ratio just right and hours of reading on head delta paid dividends in a well sorted machine.
But I refuse to believe that things aren't as good or better than before. Certainly they are different and some of us won't adapt. That will be a loss to all. But today we are free to buy a kit that is pleasing to us, for whatever reason, and expect it to fly fairly well.
I've come to believe that the days of buying into a brand for life and waiting for upgrades and next-gen improvements has passed. I flew X-Cell or Thunder Tiger for decades and each new head was better than the last. Switching to another brand and updating my knowledge and (massive) inventory of parts was out of the question.
Today? Buy something you like, install a FBL unit you understand and go fly. Major mishap? No problem. Gone are the weeks of trying to get back to where you were. Today if a bit of bad "luck" comes your way, repair it, if you like, or build another kit - and not necessary the same kit. Take your expensive bits, motor/servos/gyro/etc, and stuff 'em something else.
It really sucks when they discontinue a model you like. But it used to suck a lot more because the model itself defined how it flew. I loved my X-Cell Tempests and without parts support for the state-of-the-are flybar head, I couldn't find a model that flew the same. Today? If they discontinue model X, $800 later and your right back to where you were with another brand.
Today, model helicopters are in large part about aesthetics, price and feng shui. Find something that speaks to you. It's also much more about flying. Tinker time is 10% of what it used to be. All this is OK with me - even if it is different
Just one mans opinion.
"Well, Nothing bad can happen now."