ARMA 3 – IDAP Helicopter Pilot

Sometimes a simple, straight-forward, and entertaining helicopter mission is just what the doctor ordered…

Back to basics

Long ago I came to recognize that I am a simple man – with simple tastes. Similarly true for my simulator preferences as well as real life. A recurring habit of mine is to shelve Arma 3 for a few months at a time, then, return and revisit the chaotic Arma 3 Steam Workshop and spend an hour browsing through the newest entries that have been uploaded trying to spy something shiny that grabs my attention. Without question, the Arma 3 Steam Workshop is an absolute mess, but the content within comes from all types of players and designers, all nationalities, and all skill levels, so it should be expected to be a bit of a free for all.

I’m a huge Arma 3 helicopter fan, with a play history back through  the Armed Assault and Take On Helicopters days. A3 is not a perfect helicopter simulator – but it is a great helicopter playground and GAME! And these days, when my time is at a premium, I’ve found myself tilting toward mixing in some great, short, gaming moments into my simulator time instead of spending a large fraction of my time entering INS coordinates into a CDU. Don’t get me wrong – I love that stuff too! – but it does require carving out a time commitment that I sometimes can’t manage.

As I was scrolling through the A3 Steam Workshop recently, I found an older mission that had been uploaded in early 2018 – IDAP Helicopter Pilot. The mission, by user “sunsetbeachparty925”, is a simple, but fun single player helicopter mission using the EH-302 (the same helicopter as the CH-49 Mohawk) to emulate a “day in the life” of a IDAP (International Development & Aid Project) humanitarian aid pilot.

A3 helicopters

We’ve been over this a few times before, so I’ll spare you the gory details – but I find A3 helicopters to be fantastically fun to fly. They don’t have the most intricate damage models, but the flight model is OK and feels believable enough. What really makes A3 helicopters shine is the low altitude scenery, the atmospheric effects, and the ability to get in and out of your helicopter and interact with all of the normal A3 features.

Getting up and running is as simple as climbing in, using the context menu to turn on the lights and start the engine. Then, normal and well adjusted people can pull on their collective, which can be mapped to your HOTAS, and fly off into the sunset. The EH-302 has a nice enough looking cockpit, feels weighty, and seems to get the feel of inertia right. If you choose, you can map auto-hover controls to your stick to make things a bit easier, and I like to map the sling-load controls as well so that I can just use buttons to control all of the sling-load functions.

The mission

(Caution: spoilers!)

In IDAP Helicopter Pilot you will have a short day with a few tasks to accomplish that are admittedly basic. Go fly there – drop off those people, pick up this thing, take it there. It is this simplicity, and the stunning scenery of Arma 3 (in this case – Altis), that just make flying simple “ass and trash” missions so enjoyable. I can fly at my pace, I don’t have to worry about setting up weapons, the global offensive on pancake syrup does not hang in the balance…it is just..relaxing. Try it. You might like it.

In the mission, you start off at your quarters, and drive yourself to the airfield to get your tasking. The first of which is to transport some passengers – easy enough.

Our passengers are waiting near the helicopter. Time to hop in, fire up, and head across the island. Helicopter controls are quite good in A3 – with things like trim, force trim, and trim cancel all being available and mappable to your HOTAS controller. I also appreciate the way the helicopters do seem to react well to reducing the collective while at speed and honoring the pitching up of the nose with the cyclic to bleed speed at a low power setting until power is needed to restore rotor disk energy.

As usual, the fun part of A3 (or any helicopter sim for that matter) is finding that precise spot to land or hover to perform a task. Flying helicopters has its own challenges that are independent of missions or goals, and I’ve always found the act itself of flying helicopters rewarding. After dropping off the passengers our next tasking is to move some pallets and take a disabled vehicle to the dump. Not glorious jobs – but it beats digging ditches!

For those that don’t remember, A3 has a nice little “Sling Load Assistant” overlay that helps you orient the helicopter over the objective. I’ve found this to a be a legitimate aid simply because in real life you’d have a crew chief or loadmaster giving you directions, or a ground based observer giving you hand signals.

With weight and inertia of sling loads modeled, you do have to be careful when flying with items attached to the cable below the aircraft since they can swing and cause things like mast bumping that will kill you.

I found the right side chin windows of the EH-302 provides a fair view of the intended landing or drop off zone. I like to slide diagonally toward the LZ, keeping it in sight as I slowly reduce altitude.

With a few tasks done, it is time to go get some fuel and take a break.

After laying down for a nap, an alert wakes me up and it’s time to go out on a rescue mission! I lightened these images up a bit so that you could see them, but this mission takes place in the dark, dark of night with no night-vision provision, so the front spotlight is crucial to sighting the landing area. Feeling around in the dark for a safe, flat landing spot free of obstacles is always a tense few moments.

With the wreck victims onboard, it is time to head to the hospital. I’m not sure if the helipad on the roof was designed for a helicopter as large as the EH-302, but she can be squeezed on there.

With the patients delivered safely – that wraps up the multi-stage mission. Like I said, not a particularly difficult or complex mission, but a fun mission to fly without a huge time investment required. Nice job by the mission author!

Link to Steam Workshop mission page: HERE!

– Chris “BeachAV8R” Frishmuth

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