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What makes the Apache the most difficult helicopter module to fly?


Schmidtfire
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So I have had the Apache since the release and I just cannot figure out why it is so difficult to fly. In the other helicopter modules it is  pretty much just point and trim. Turning is easy.

With the Apache I get this strange "top heavy" wobble effect it, banking from side to side. Especially when coming out of a turn. The collective I don't understand at all. ROTOR RPM LOW! ROTOR RPM LOW! ...yeah, thanks Betty. It's like the helicopter is trying to kill me on purpose 😅  

What am I missing? Or is it known to be a very difficult helicopter to fly IRL? Because comparing it to other modules it is night and day difference in difficulty.

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Hmm... Not my experience at all. I would say it's actually one of the most forgiving helicopters in DCS. 

You probably need to work on setting up some curves/saturations/etc. 

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47 minutes ago, Schmidtfire said:

What am I missing? Or is it known to be a very difficult helicopter to fly IRL? Because comparing it to other modules it is night and day difference in difficulty.

You're not really missing anything per se. The AH-64 is a high performance aircraft, so it handles like a fighter plane, but the flight model of the DCS: AH-64D is still Work-In-Progress, to include its overall stability.

I know that a lot of you are probably tired of hearing me say that, but it really is the truth.

I can assure you the devs have never stopped working on the flight model since even before initial release. The complexities of what they are doing cannot be overstated. I will tell you there is noticeable progress, but nothing quantifiable to share at the moment.

But based on the quality of other helos in DCS like the Ka-50 and Mi-24, I'm not worried. We'll get there.

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1 hour ago, Raptor9 said:

DCS: AH-64D is still Work-In-Progress, to include its overall stability.

I know that a lot of you are probably tired of hearing me say that, but it really is the truth.

You've been very clear on the point, too many times to count... and people keep asking why "early access aircraft" act like "early access aircraft".  You're a patient man.  

Although I hate those little screens that you have to anxiously wait on while opening a game and can't ESC out of, I think they need to be used in this case.  While loading into an early access aircraft, there should be a single paragraph disclaimer about how the flight model and functionality of subsystems may be lacking or erratic.. etc.  The screen should remain for 30sec.  Maybe an animated parts breakdown of the aircraft and a voice stating the disclaimer would be more friendly... but anyone who actually reads this forum will instantly understand why it was necessary.  Or... you could apply the supplemental disclaimer screen to any user who reposts this question lol.

Here's what I wrote about it on one of the 100s of other posts on this exact same subject.  I'm not as patient as you, but I do try to be helpful rather than condescending, which is a quality that was once the standard on these forums.

On 5/27/2022 at 1:17 PM, StrongHarm said:

I've not found anything that would make me say "this isn't ready for me to fly yet".  It's just rough edges, which can be expected for very early access.  I'm personally weary of giving any game studio money for early access, but it's important to remember what we're paying for.  A helo in an FPS game may have (let's just say) 300 function points which require code.  The FPS helo is basically a reskinned player object which is flying and has different weapons.  The early access DCS Apache on the other hand might have 250,000 function points which require code.  When it's complete it might have 300,000 function points.  These are arbitrary numbers of course, meant only to provide contrast.  My point is that for an aviation enthusiast like myself, a meticulously and lovingly modelled aircraft, complete with functional subsystems which aren't even visible like hydraulic lines, holds more value to me than to someone who isn't an aviation enthusiast.  If I were just "a gamer" I would probably wait until Apache launch to make the purchase... but I'm that guy who goes to visit his son on the Army base, but ends up spending all his time watching the Apaches play.  In other words; the value of this module is subjective, and it's purchase is completely optional.  In practical terms, early access to this module is, from my perspective, a generous move by ED which also allows me to contribute feedback and bug reports.  That payment of $65 was my confidence that ED is going to provide a great final product, and that I'm interested in helping them do it.

I'm just glad they didn't charge what it's worth to me... it would have gutted my bank account.

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It's a good thing that this is Early Access and we've all volunteered to help test and enhance this work in progress... despite the frustrations inherent in the task with even the simplest of software... otherwise people might not understand that this incredibly complex unfinished module is unfinished. /light-hearted sarcasm

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8 minutes ago, StrongHarm said:

You've been very clear on the point, too many times to count... and people keep asking why "early access aircraft" act like "early access aircraft".  You're a patient man.  

Well it's also possible that some users may be new to DCS, or have just joined the forums, or haven't seen the other posts yet.

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Thanks for all the replies! I know it's an Early Access module. However, I have not seen this "wobble" issue mentioned. At least not officially.

Several players that I have flown with has mentioned the "wobble", but Im pretty sure that they think it's part of how the aircraft behaves in real life. I just find it very strange that it is less forgiving than older helos... Anyways, glad to hear that the FM tuning is in progress.

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36 minutes ago, Schmidtfire said:

Several players that I have flown with has mentioned the "wobble", but Im pretty sure that they think it's part of how the aircraft behaves in real life.

It's not. The DCS AH-64 should hopefully behave closer to a lightly-loaded DCS Ka-50 when it comes to roll stability. But that is just a very loose analogy, don't quote me on that.

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4 hours ago, Schmidtfire said:

So I have had the Apache since the release and I just cannot figure out why it is so difficult to fly. In the other helicopter modules it is  pretty much just point and trim. Turning is easy.

With the Apache I get this strange "top heavy" wobble effect it, banking from side to side. Especially when coming out of a turn. The collective I don't understand at all. ROTOR RPM LOW! ROTOR RPM LOW! ...yeah, thanks Betty. It's like the helicopter is trying to kill me on purpose 😅  

What am I missing? Or is it known to be a very difficult helicopter to fly IRL? Because comparing it to other modules it is night and day difference in difficulty.

As mentioned, what you are experiencing is common at this stage and the FM/SCAS is WIP. That said, some manage better if they have a helo friendly setup - stick extension/floor mounted (finer stick displacement resolution), rudder pedals with a damper, no springs (helps with trim reset issues). But most have a regular setup and axes tuning with curves of about 20 (pitch) 30 (roll) 15 (collective) and saturation Y values of about 90 (pitch) and 80 (roll) can help. This is just an example and is what I use for a regular Warthog hotas (on table). But you'll have to experiment to see what works best for your setup. Also, just to check, make sure your power levers (sliders next to the collective) are not past "FLY" when flying. There is a "detent in lockout position" setting in the Special options which allows it to go past FLY without depressing the fingerlifts to release. I avoid checking that option but use "depress fingerlifts to release" instead. "Rotor RPM low" (from my general understanding) means your collective pitch angle is too much and causing drag, and that is causing the RPM (which needs to remain at a certain constant) to drop. So you need to lower/reduce collective to bring up the RPM. To make things easier for the Apache, I set the mission environment to have low temperatures (like 5-10 deg C with little to no wind) and choose places with low MSL (near the sea for example). This makes the air denser and aids lift. I don't do this for the K-50 but I find I need to do it for the Apache esp if carrying a full load. You may struggle with transitioning to OGE hover at times and find your helo all over the place and the SCAS doing strange things to fight you. That's quite common at the moment. Just take it slow and wait for the updates. Have fun!


Edited by GrEaSeLiTeNiN
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59 minutes ago, GrEaSeLiTeNiN said:

As mentioned, what you are experiencing is common at this stage and the FM/SCAS is WIP. That said, some manage better if they have a helo friendly setup - stick extension/floor mounted (finer stick displacement resolution), rudder pedals with a damper, no springs (helps with trim reset issues). But most have a regular setup and axes tuning with curves of about 20 (pitch) 30 (roll) 15 (collective) and saturation Y values of about 90 (pitch) and 80 (roll) can help. This is just an example and is what I use for a regular Warthog hotas (on table). But you'll have to experiment to see what works best for your setup. Also, just to check, make sure your power levers (sliders next to the collective) are not past "FLY" when flying. There is a "detent in lockout position" setting in the Special options which allows it to go past FLY without depressing the fingerlifts to release. I avoid checking that option but use "depress fingerlifts to release" instead. "Rotor RPM low" (from my general understanding) means your collective pitch angle is too much and causing drag, and that is causing the RPM (which needs to remain at a certain constant) to drop. So you need to lower/reduce collective to bring up the RPM. To make things easier for the Apache, I set the mission environment to have low temperatures (like 5-10 deg C with little to no wind) and choose places with low MSL (near the sea for example). This makes the air denser and aids lift. I don't do this for the K-50 but I find I need to do it for the Apache esp if carrying a full load. You may struggle with transitioning to OGE hover at times and find your helo all over the place and the SCAS doing strange things to fight you. That's quite common at the moment. Just take it slow and wait for the updates. Have fun!

 


I have an extended Virpil HOTAS setup (with curves) and a MSFFB so should be good there. Thanks for info on the collective and past FLY. I will look into it 🙂

Compared to other DCS helicopters the Apache is very easy to PIO and get into a dangerous jojo-type situation when trying to recover from "Rotor RPM low". Hopefully the FM/SCAS tuning will result in a more enjoyable flight experience (that is accurate ofc.) 

 


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I don't really think there is a "wobble" per say, the thing that is hard to get past is that the engine torque percentage seems somewhat erratic. So take offs/hovers/near hovers you add a bit of collective, which increases torque, which makes you increase pedal, which decreases torque, which makes you add a bit more torque, which makes you add a bit of cyclic, which may raise or lower torque and all the while its jumping up and down erratically.

Add a bit of pilot induced oscillation and you have one wobbly and hard to control aircraft. Then you go shoot off your load of hellfires/rockets/guns and come back to land, but guess what? Now you burned off fuel and the weapons load so the helicopter is lighter and the muscle memory you learned for take off does not apply, it has changed and now its worse because of less weight and even more sensitive to input.

I spent hours upon hours offline to learn how to perform quite stable take offs and landings at different weights, altitudes and windspeeds in different directions. At least now when I record videos of my take offs and landings, it looks very much like it would in real life and is very stable.

As I have mentioned in other posts, I started holding the joystick with my middle finger on the trigger and my pointer finger up the right side with the finger tip at the center of the stick. This gives me much more leverage to break any stiction and also gives me finer control since I might move the stick the same, but the stick is only moving a little less than half the distance it would by holding it from the proper position.

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the only wobble problem i realy have is when you are flying forward compleatly stable and exeed about 110 knots and with no input it starts to roll left/right back and forth.

as for now, i dont like doing long flights mostly since i dont wanna do a 30nm flight at 100 knots but otherwhise the FM isnt compleatly horrible if you get used to it

 

however, just like everyone else here, i cant wait for the day we get a FM update that acualy makes the ah64 a joy to fly

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On 8/26/2022 at 9:41 PM, Schmidtfire said:

So I have had the Apache since the release and I just cannot figure out why it is so difficult to fly. In the other helicopter modules it is  pretty much just point and trim. Turning is easy.

With the Apache I get this strange "top heavy" wobble effect it, banking from side to side. Especially when coming out of a turn. The collective I don't understand at all. ROTOR RPM LOW! ROTOR RPM LOW! ...yeah, thanks Betty. It's like the helicopter is trying to kill me on purpose 😅  

What am I missing? Or is it known to be a very difficult helicopter to fly IRL? Because comparing it to other modules it is night and day difference in difficulty.

To help you, I will give you an compare to work from. 
Flying Apache is like balancing 5 eggs on each fingertip, while under the influence of 18 vodkashots....Blindfolded. 🙂

Even with curves it just takes a lot of small corrections. 
If you have the controls windows up, in my finding, if the red cross is more than two crosses width from the perfect control input, it feels like a massive over correction. 

Also compared to a fighter jet, A helicopters control surface is really really small. 
Some call it agile , some will call it out of control :).

I find that the curves can compensate for my lack of skill but if too much the helicopter feels like flying a brick.   
One of my things is predicting the moves of the apache. 
Practice a lot 🙂

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On 8/26/2022 at 3:41 PM, Schmidtfire said:

So I have had the Apache since the release and I just cannot figure out why it is so difficult to fly. In the other helicopter modules it is  pretty much just point and trim. Turning is easy.

With the Apache I get this strange "top heavy" wobble effect it, banking from side to side. Especially when coming out of a turn. The collective I don't understand at all. ROTOR RPM LOW! ROTOR RPM LOW! ...yeah, thanks Betty. It's like the helicopter is trying to kill me on purpose 😅  

What am I missing? Or is it known to be a very difficult helicopter to fly IRL? Because comparing it to other modules it is night and day difference in difficulty.

".yeah, thanks Betty. It's like the helicopter is trying to kill me on purpose"............. I'm crackin' up here:) That is definitely an annoyance BUT I suspect in real-world flight with real-world gravity it's appreciated.

Just my personal observations to follow........ first on the list of sometimes excessive difficulty is the collective. At some point above ~40% of the throw length of my collective slider, there's a point where the collective literally GRABS control. It's taken some months but I've found how to use that to my advantage when (often enough) yaw turns to chaos. Like the urge to slam on the brakes in a car in moment of panic, I find I'm trying to generate enough lift to bale me out of the chaos....... but instead being spun to starboard, with total loss of recovery UNTIL I DECREASE collective, always bringing it back to manageable. I cannot recall which flight simulator or aircraft but I'd seen advice to go hands-off stick; nature and design stand a better chance of restoration to sanity than my brain and hands.

Summary: learning to make the collective's radical curve into a useful condition....... if yawing hard right, back off collective. If beginning to yaw hard left, use very small increase in collective to get to that "sweet spot". It's kinda like using jet engine thrust to control your altitude on approach to landing, and NOT the pitch.

Thought I'd add this, in case Pilot takeoff learning curve is steep........ in CP/G seat, takeoff using George to ascend and fly forward in FLT mode, then jump to Pilot seat, taking control from there. The only way control surfaces work in flight is with air moving across them.

In the first week of Apache Hell, I was considering a request for refund........ that entire week was a whole lotta regret and hate 🙂 However, a tech support request yielded one of the last solutions I'd have expected...... set DCS World to REALISTIC flight, not GAME mode. The latter was true because I was having troubles with the Blackshark 2 in realistic mode. I've NO idea if your system is set for game flight mode, but in my experience it was a world of difference. This was also the case for the Mi-24P helicopter. Turns out that on a few DCS aircraft, game mode is a ticket to insanity.


Edited by salsantana
adding suggestion to use CP/G's George then Pilot seat
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On 8/26/2022 at 10:28 PM, Raptor9 said:

…. The AH-64 is a high performance aircraft, so it handles like a fighter plane, ….

Is it though? I mean avionics, weapons systems and such - yes.

But from an agility point of view? Power to weight/ Inertia….. is it really a „fighter plane“? Especially the D? 

I don‘t have the numbers, and I don’t want to start an argument, but my impression of the Apache D was always, that it is more like a heavy armed truck than a sports car…..🤔

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Posted (edited)

It seems very strange that old helicopters like the Mi-8 or Mi-24P are much more carefree in their handling. Trim it and there is no nasty surprises. Throw the cyclic around. Abuse the collective like there is no tomorrow. If I was a Boeing engineer, I would be very disappointed seeing my flying supercomputer being less safe and have worse handling compared to soviet bicycle chains and steelrods.  But again, the FM is in progress. Also it might be that the older modules FM is not as complex as the Apache FM. But I don't think there is any doubt that the Apache is hard to fly in it's current state. But Im all for it, if it's realistic and how the irl pilots perceives it. Keep it sim 🙂


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When you say wobble, what do you mean?  The reason I ask, is that almost no matter how I trim, I cannot establish a fixed heading.  It almost always starts to bank to one side or the other.  I use the attitude hold to work around this, but I was wondering if it was just a lack of practice on my end.

In regard to the difficulty, I own all the helicopter modules, and this is the only one that hasn't clicked with me yet.  When I crash any other helicopter, I usually know what I did wrong, but not with this one yet.  I definitely need more practice, and enjoy the process, so I'm not complaining.  It took me a long time to figure out the black shark, and the mi8 took even longer.  They both feel easy to fly now, so I'm hoping the Apache will too one day.

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52 minutes ago, Hiob said:

But from an agility point of view? Power to weight/ Inertia….. is it really a „fighter plane“? Especially the D? 

Well if you're comparing things like speed and acceleration like an F-16, then of course that analogy would seem silly since NO helicopter can accelerate like such fighter planes.

But yes, from an agility point of view, absolutely. The amount of stress the airframe is designed to handle during aggressive maneuvers is analogous to a fighter jet. But agility isn't just about stopping on a dime. It's the fact that despite it's heavy weight it is still able to perform the maneuvers it can that makes the fighter plane analogy hold true. But again, it is just an analogy, and as such is subjective.

A Cessna 172 is much lighter and has a much tighter turning radius than an F-16, but no one in their right mind would say the F-16 is less of a fighter plane than a Cessna 172.

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I think we need to keep the Ka-50 out of most of these "difficulty-to-fly" comparisons.  It's a totally different animal.

If we use bicycles as an analogy, traditional tail-rotor helos are your standard bicycle.  Some have different handling characteristics than others, like maybe the difference between a road bike, a beach cruiser, or a stunt bike, and maybe the Gazelle is more like a Victorian bicycle with the huge front wheel and a tiny rear wheel.  Then the Ka-50 comes along and is more like a tricycle than a 2-wheeled bike.

You can master each of them with enough practice, but the Ka-50 is a very different flying experience.

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6 minutes ago, Floyd1212 said:

I think we need to keep the Ka-50 out of most of these "difficulty-to-fly" comparisons.  It's a totally different animal.

That's why I kept both Ka-50 and Gazelle out of the comparison. For different reasons.

31 minutes ago, Scofflaw said:

When you say wobble, what do you mean?  The reason I ask, is that almost no matter how I trim, I cannot establish a fixed heading.  It almost always starts to bank to one side or the other.  I use the attitude hold to work around this, but I was wondering if it was just a lack of practice on my end.

That's not the wobble Im on about. Your issue has to do with crabbing. There are guides how to go about it. The "wobble" I'm describing, is when the helicopter oscillate/swings back and forth. Think of a child playing with a simple RC helicopter toy. Or like an apple hanging from a tree - swinging side to side in the wind.

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47 minutes ago, Raptor9 said:

Well if you're comparing things like speed and acceleration like an F-16, then of course that analogy would seem silly since NO helicopter can accelerate like such fighter planes.

But yes, from an agility point of view, absolutely. The amount of stress the airframe is designed to handle during aggressive maneuvers is analogous to a fighter jet. But agility isn't just about stopping on a dime. It's the fact that despite it's heavy weight it is still able to perform the maneuvers it can that makes the fighter plane analogy hold true. But again, it is just an analogy, and as such is subjective.

A Cessna 172 is much lighter and has a much tighter turning radius than an F-16, but no one in their right mind would say the F-16 is less of a fighter plane than a Cessna 172.

No, you misunderstood me. That you didn‘t really mean it flies „like“ a F-16 was obvious to me. 🤗

I meant in comparison to other helicopters in DCS. Especially the Mi-8 and -24. They are all more or less in the same ballpark with the AH-6D, regarding power and weight - depending from the loadout.

I meant „I don’t see it handling like a fighter plane compared to other similar helicopters“. And why should it - given its power and weight.

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26 minutes ago, Hiob said:

I meant in comparison to other helicopters in DCS. Especially the Mi-8 and -24. They are all more or less in the same ballpark with the AH-6D, regarding power and weight - depending from the loadout.

The Mi-8 and Mi-24 are both much heavier than the AH-64D; and can be anywhere between 30% to 50% heavier than the AH-64D depending on relative payload loading.

Of course, the AH-64D is much closer in gross weight to those helos than compared to something like the Gazelle, but the AH-64D is also much more nimble than the Mi-8 and Mi-24, and was built more for low-speed handling versus sustained high speed flight like the Mi-24.

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2 hours ago, Floyd1212 said:

I think we need to keep the Ka-50 out of most of these "difficulty-to-fly" comparisons.  It's a totally different animal.

TBH, from what I've heard it should be a lot like a light Ka-50 with a tail rotor. 

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11 hours ago, Raptor9 said:

Of course, the AH-64D is much closer in gross weight to those helos than compared to something like the Gazelle, but the AH-64D is also much more nimble than the Mi-8 and Mi-24, and was built more for low-speed handling versus sustained high speed flight like the Mi-24.

So much this. 24 was designed to swoop in, expend all the ordnance and get the hell out. Try weaving fully loaded 24 between the trees and you'll see how nice Apache is, even with all the problems current FM have.

Don't get me wrong, I absolutely love 24, but 64 is just a different beast to start with.

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