You've got a helicopter. You've fixed it. It's ready to fly. So what buttons do you press?

Flight modelEdit

Flying options
ArmA 3 has some pretty accurate helicopter handling. By default, it's restricted to the standard flight model which is a much-simplified handling model. Stick to this.The advanced flight model makes helicopters much more difficult to fly.

If you come charging in towards a landing zone, then nose up hard and shove the rudder pedals over whilst rotating around the LZ, you'll execute an amazing deceleration and landing (with a lot of practice) in the standard flight model. In the advanced flight model, you'll over-stress both the rotors and they'll probably fall off.

If you want to play with advanced flight controls, this isn't going to be the guide for you. You either already know how to fly or you can read one of the many in-depth flight guides online.

If you think you're an ace pilot, try the advanced flight model and start crying.

Basic controlsEdit


It's not even damaged. I'll have it out of here in a minute.

There are two aspects to flying a helicopter: the collective and the cyclic. The collective looks like a handbrake/parking brake and it increases and decreases how fast the rotor turns. The cyclic controls the tilt between the rotor and the helicopter. Effectively, the collective makes you go up and down and the cyclic points you where you're going.

To raise the collective (go up), press the Shift key. To lower the collective (go down), press the Z key. If the helicopter engine is off, then pressing Shift will start the engine. You can also start and stop the engine from the action (mousewheel) menu.

There are a number of ways to control the cyclic (pointing direction). You can use the mouse, but it's not recommended. I'd suggest using the cursor(arrow) keys. It's all about being gentle. When flying a helicopter for real, pilots normally hold the cyclic very gently (perhaps just with a couple of fingers) and use subtle motions. This is what you should do. It takes time for the helicopter to react to your motions (moreso if it's a big heli), so give it time to do what you want. Do the same when applying opposite control input. So maybe your helicopter is drifting to the left. Press the right arrow to tilt the helicopter the opposite way. As soon as the helicopter starts to respond, cancel out the effect of the right input, by pressing the left arrow. If you wait for the helicopter to be moving right, by the time your correction takes effect, the heli will be driting to the right and you'll have to correct that. Many crashes are caused by too much control input.

The tail rotor is controlled using the pedals. These are activated by pressing Q and E to increase and decrease the tail rotor speed. What this does, in effect, is to point the tail of the helicopter. The tail rotor is only effective at low speeds.

Helicopters are designed for going forwards and are shaped to do that. Try taking off and moving backwards. As soon as your speed gets above a certain point, aerodynamic forces will start to push the tail round and the helicopter will pivot in the air to face in the direction it's going. This is why the tail rotor pedals don't really work at high speeds.


Nailed it

The right way to land

Most people land helicopters the wrong way. They hover over where they want to land and drop straight down. Helicopters should actually be landed with some forward movement. This is for a number of reasons. The main one is that you can more easily lift away if something goes wrong. Forward motion can be turned into altitude just by lifting the nose. Likewise, you can lose height (and increase forward speed) by tilting the nose down.

In the advanced flight model, you have a readout showing your vertical speed. But even in the standard flight model you should try to land in a forward direction. Helicopters have skids or wheels for a reason.

Pick your landing spot and anticipate the glide slope you need to get there. Adjust the controls gently to stick to it. Practice.


Getting your helicopter damaged is almost inevitable. A heli can take a surprising amount of damage from small arms fire without any problems, but sooner or later you're going to break something.

Hull damage is not important. That's just the metal skin and the windows. You might find it harder to look out through a cracked bit of glass, but the helicopter will still fly the same. If it's completely red, you're going to take damage to other systems more easily. Instrument damage (INST in the picture) is also unimportant. Sure, you can't see the readouts, but you can still fly. The effect may be intermittent, allowing you to see the displays flickering on and off.

Sling damage (SLG in the picture) means your winch is broken. The only effect is that you can't use the winch.

ATRQ is the tail rotor (Anti-Torque Rotor). If that gets damaged, you'll have intermittent periods where the tail rotor stops working. If the ATRQ is red, you may have complete tail rotor failure (look and see if it's turning). When this happens, the tail will tend to turn in the direction of the main rotor, swinging the tail around and spinning you out of control. Remember what I said about the tail rotor only really being effective at low speeds? This remains true. So if your tail rotor takes damage, you'll be able to continue to fly at normal speeds. As soon as you start to slow down, the aerodynamic forces holding the tail in line are no longer in effect and you'll spin round uncontrollably.

If you've got a helicopter on the ground with tail rotor damage, take off, going straight up only. If the tail rotor damage is intermittent, wait for it to stop, then start flying normally. If it doesn't, you're going to have to fight it. Push the opposite pedal (if you're spinning to the right, hold Q) to get whatever power there is left in the tail rotor to help. Then try tilting the helicopter in the opposite direction to the spin and puch the nose down. Keep going until the helicopter is moving in a direction. Once you've got some speed, the wind will keep the tail behind you can you can fly just fine. To land with a completely broken tail rotor is hard, but you can do it. Plan for a normal forward landing, but keep your forward speed up. When you're just a couple of metres from the ground, pull the nose up and lower the collective (Z) so you drop gently onto the ground and skid to a stop. You'll fail 99 times out of 100, but you can get the hang of this through practice.

Alternatively, turn on auto-hover (X) and try to nudge it down to the ground whilst spinning madly. This will make you feel sick.

It the main rotor (MROT) or engine (ENG) get broken, you're heading for the ground. It's not a problem if you know what to do. See the Autorotation section for details.


If you learn to fly a helicopter in real life, the first lessons will all be about hovering. It's a lot harder than it looks. Staying stationary over a point on the landscape requires constant tiny inputs.

ArmA 3 has an auto-hover function that will slow and stop the helicopter. It's not magic and it won't keep you locked over a landmark. Press X to turn auto-hover on or off (you can also use the mousewheel menu). You'll see an icon showing this in the top left with the other status readouts. Whilst in auto-hover, you can still point the helicopter, but the auto-hover will fight you.

If this seems a bit of a cheat, realise that some advanced real-life helicopters include an auto-hover function, so it's not quite as cheat-y as it appears.

The winchEdit


The old putting-the rope-through-the-rotors trick

Some helicopters have winches fitted and you can use them to pick stuff up. This is quite tricky initially, but you'll soon get the hang of it.

Press Right CTRL + B to bring up the sling radar. This opens a little window in the bottom right of the screen that shows concentric distance rings around the helicopter and any neaby objects you can pick up. Move over the object to be picked up and press B to lower the rope. The rope isn't very long, so you need to be pretty low (20 metres, I think). When the rope touches the object, it will begin to be attached. You'll see the progress of the attaching in the bottom of the sling radar.

Once the object is attached, you can lift off and fly normally. Note that you do have a pendulum weight beneath you, so be more gentle in your flying. In the picture, you can see what happens if you manoeuvre suddenly - the object rose above the heli, the rope when through the rotors and now all systems are red and you're not going to have a gentle landing.

Press B again to drop the object. You don't have to be slow or low to do this, so you can have great fun dropping things like they're bombs. Winches aren't magic and there are limits to what they can lift. Pretty much any winch will lift a car, but you need a really big helicopter to lift a bus.


Heli fire
Some helicopter are armed. Usually, the pilot does the flying and the co-pilot does the shooting. Pilots can often fire the co-pilot's weapons by opening the action (mousehweel) menu and selecting "Manual fire". Press F to cycle through the weapons. Point at what you want to kill and press the left mouse button to fire. For missiles that require a lock-on, point at the target and press T to start the lock. Fire as usual when lock is achieved.

Rockets and machine guns can be a bit tricky to aim accurately. First person view (Enter on the numeric keypad) helps a bit.


Counter measures
This probably won't come up as counter measures are only effective if you're being targetted by tracking systems. No one's going to fire a missle at you in Ravage, so you probably don't need counter-measures. Press C to launch chaff and flares. Flares burn hot to distract heat-seeking missiles and chaff is little bits of tinfoil that throw off radar-guided missiles.

Counter-measures aren't magic and it's a good idea to change course or perform some other evasive action at the same time.



Actually survivable crash

Another of the very first things you'll cover when learning to fly a real helicopter. Just because the engine stops doesn't mean you're going to crash. You'll see some flying type insist on referring to helis as rotary wing aircraft. The rotors are wings. So just because you run out of engine power doesn't mean they stop working. Autorotation is just a case of gliding.

As soon as you lose the main engine, look for a place to land and go towards it. Lower the collective (Z) and keep it held down. Lose as much horizontal speed as possible without stopping (keep about 20km/h). Steer the helicopter towards your chosen spot. When you read about 20m, raise the collective (Shift), raise the nose (S) and drop gently onto the ground.

A broken main rotor is not necessarily fatal either. As long as the rotor can turn, it's the same procedure as for engine failure. If the main rotor is locked in place, then you're almost certainly going to die. You can try landing with a high horizontal speed and pitching the nose up at the last possible second, but good luck to you.

Practice is the key to getting autorotation right. There's a dedicated autorotation mission for ArmA 3 which you can download. It allows you to simulate random engine failures.