>>"Battlefield 1942 Desert Combat modification has been the closest to what I thought about back when all the true mass market flight games were around"
I couldn't agree more. I had more fun flying in Desert Combat than probably any other game I have played. Ever. I think what made that game so good was how fluid it was and how accurate/fast the weaponing was. I could fly the C130 by myself and even use the canon with a macro on my throttle button.
I really loved the helicopters in Battlefield Vietnam. Being able to set the radio to old 60s songs was genius, even if a rip of Vice City. Even today, every time I hear the Temptations Get Ready, I immediately think of flying fast and low in a Huey, tearing things up. With my Thrustmaster HOTAS the control of the helicopters in BFV was just magic. Maybe flying with a keyboard sucked, but for me I think that would suck in any game.
FWIW, my favorite flying game now is Just Cause 2. Specifically the helicopters. But flying choppers with an Xbox controller is a little meh imho after so many years on a TM HOTAS. Still fun though.