Fly to Win: Vaelor’s suggested Keyboard / Mouse control map
After some positive feedback from my control input recommendations on the review page, I’ve created this guide to serve as a long-format, more detailed discussion of optimal Heliborne control mapping and basic Helicopter flying theory. As the community has already discovered, effective control of the aircraft in Heliborne is a bit of a challenge – but I believe that a few changes to your inputs will make life easier, especially after a bit of practice.
Is this guy qualified to make these recommendations?
Great question. As a currently serving AH-64 Aviator and Attack Helicopter Instructor Pilot with the United States Army, I believe that the control modifcations listed below will result in greater overall control of the Heliborne aircraft and weapons systems. Although this is ultimately a game intended for entertainment, there are some control and gunnery philosophies that survive the translation from tactics to entertainment, and I have attempted to recreate them with my control map.
Fair warning! – effective use of the controls as I’ve outlined below takes time to master. Use of the “advanced” control mode and some remapping of keys and mouse axis will lead to greatest success, but this does require several hours of practice. You may have to unlearn a few habituated control inputs, but once your brain has adapted to the new scheme, I’m fairly certain you won’t want to go back.
Basic Flight Control Mapping and Theory
USE “ADVANCED” CONTROLS from the Settings menu and map the following:
Cyclic pitch (foreward / aft aircraft pitch input): Mouse Vertical.
Cyclic tilt (lateral / roll input): Mouse Horizontal
Yaw (left / right pivot input): A/D keys
Collective pitch Increase (power setting): W key for Increase
Collective pitch Decrease (power setting): S key for Decrease
Fire weapon 1: Mouse 1 (left click) – guns for most helicopters in game
FIre weapon 2: Mouse 2 (right click) – rockets for most helicopters in game
Fire weapon 3 / Gun pod: Mouse 3 (thumb button, mouse wheel, etc.)
(Making these Fire changes allows you to engage with multiple weapons simultaneously regardless of which system is “selected” – quite useful.)
NOTE: Your weapon symbology will be that of the “selected” weapon, but you will be able to utilize any weapon regardless of master selection! This requires a bit of added mental agility to keep track of but is highly useful once you’re familiar with the concept. Keep this in mind before getting confused by different targeting symbologies.
Next / Previous weapon: Mouse wheel up/down scroll
Binoculars (Scout Helicopter “enemy spot” feature): Remap to any free mouse button or keyboard key (your choice) that you can reach without losing your hand contact on the WASD keys. For me, this is a middle mouse button just below the wheel. Doing so allows you to spot while continuing to proactively fly the helicopter. The “B” key is just a bit too far offset on most keyboards to for allow this, which will lead to more impacts with terrain over the long term.
BASIC FLIGHT CONTROL THEORY:
Train yourself to use pitch attitude (cyclic – Mouse Vertical) for airspeed and power setting (collective – W/S keys) for altitude control. Seems slightly counterintuitive, but results in much greater control of the helicopter (and happens to be how real-world aircraft are flown).
Here’s how it works (very generally) in real life: An aircraft under power which receives MORE POWERwill want to CLIMB – not accelerate! Correspondingly, an aircraft which sees a pitch change will want to ACCELERATE or DECELERATE – not climb or descend! There’s many mixed aerodynamic reasons for this, but it’s true. Therefore:
When you want to climb, hold the Collective Increase (W) key.
When you wish to descend, hold the Collective Decrease (S) key.
While making tight turns, power (W) will be required to maintain altitude or minimize altitude loss.
To accelerate, pitch the nose of the aircraft down (Mouse Vertical). Apply power (W) in an accelerative pitch attitude to gain speed more rapidly.
To decelerate, pitch the nose of the aircraft up (Mouse Vertical). Remove power (S) in a decelerative pitch attitude to lose speed more rapidly.
NOTE: Observe that if you maintain a perfectly level pitch attitude and add/remove power, the aircraft will simply climb or descend without changing airspeed more than a few KPH. The sooner you master this concept, the easier it will be to fly, fight, and win!
^Different combinations of these inputs will result in complex actions, such as accelerative climbs, decelerative descents, pitchback turns, and the like. Overshooting your LZ? Apply full nose-up pitch (Mouse Vertical) and hold down the Power Increase button (W key). This maneuver, commonly called a “woah-boy” in slang use, applies full rotor system thrust in a tail-stand and essentially causes the rotor disk to push against your forward travel, resulting in a very rapid deceleration. Any initial climb resulting from the kinetic energy of your airspeed will quickly reverse and become a rapid descent as well, so time this maneuver carefully!
At low speeds (very generally below 25kph):
Low speed turns: Yaw (A/D keys) to slew the nose of the aircraft about and change heading.
Low speed / hovering displacement: Cyclic tilt (Mouse Horizontal input) will cause the aircraft to displace laterally without changing heading until you have a fair amount of airspeed.
At higher airspeeds, a helicopter controls much the same as a fixed-wing airplane. Primary input for changing heading is the Roll attitude (Cyclic tilt – Mouse Horizontal), with application of Yaw (A/D keys) to increase rate of turn or fine-tune heading during weapons employment.
Turreted / Articulating Weapon Mapping and Theory
Many Scout and Attack helicopters feature turret-mounted or articulated weaponry to allow for off-axis engagements. In the real world, best use of these weapons systems requires multiple crewmembers and / or head tracking technology, but there are a few control tweaks that will allow you to use gunship turrets with greater effect in Heliborne despite being a single-pilot operation.The following changes will essentially turn your Left Shift key into a toggle that swaps you into the CoPilot-Gunner’s seat when held down, allowing you to fire certain weapons off-axis.
SET FREE LOOK TO MAKE USE OF TURRETS:
Step 1: I recommend remapping the Left Shift keyboard key to “Look Around” in advanced control settings.
Step 2 (IMPORTANT!): Now choose the General Settings tab and make the following change: ensure that the field labeled “Advanced controls: looking around” has a CHECK MARK next to “Block controls”. You want the Shift key to lock out control inputs temporarily so you can engage enemy targets without affecting your helicopter’s orientation in space.
Step 3: Map “Look Horizontal Full Axis” to your Mouse Horizontal input.
Step 4: Map “Look Vertical Full Axis” to your Mouse Vertical input.
NOTE: You may have to invert this (vertical) axis in order to match up / down look movement with your flight control inputs. Experiment briefly with inversion and go with what feels most natural to you.
By making these four changes, holding down the left shift key will decouple your mouse inputs from the flight controls and allow you to slew your viewpoint around the aircraft. Any turreted weapons onboard will continue to follow your mouse (to the limits of their mechanical ability), and their current aim point will be reflected by the gun crosshair symbology (if your turreted weapon is the currently selected system). You can now engage enemies off-axis without having to make dramatic pitch and roll changes to the helicopter, which is the primary advantage of such systems to begin with. Releasing the shift key will return control authority to your mouse – the delay before the camera snaps back to flying view from the tail can be adjusted with the “Auto-centering cooldown” slider in General Settings. Adjust this to your taste.