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A Newbie's Guide to Helicopter Piloting


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This is a Quickie Guide to Helicopter Piloting. Flying a helicopter is simple once you have chosen the appropriate controls and have put in some practice. I recommend you use the keyboard to control it - not the mouse or a joystick, but that is merely my advice as this makes it much simpler to operate the copter. You can reconfigure the secondary control options in your control key file to do this. I choose and recommend the following (and for purposes of discussion within this article from this point on will mention only this selection for controls):


NOTICE: the following controls were RECONFIGURED from the default by the user!


U to accelerate

I to decelerate


Cursor Up to go forward

Cursor Down to go backwards

Cursor Left to roll left (turning left)

Cursor Right to roll right (turning right)


Keypad 1 to central axis rotate to the left

Keypad 3 to central axis rotate to the right



To take off, approach the helicopter and take whatever action is necessary or possible to remove a pilot if one is present. Climb in and choose to switch off the radio if you find it annoying (which I do) and then press the U key to engage the accelerator. After a few seconds the rotation of the blades will be sufficient to raise the helicopter up and off of the ground. For those new to piloting I recommend gaining some altitude before experimenting further - but taking off is this simple and foolproof.


TIP: If you are being closely pursued by the police or other parties and wish to minimalize being shot by them, while taking off, press the keys appropriate to rolling the helicopter left or right (normally right as you are sitting on the left) to put the underside of the helicopter towards them. It will act to provide you with some protection from gunfire.



Once in the air you will need to point the helicopter in the direction you wish to travel in order to get there ... to do this first release the U key (terminating your rise) and now press the UP Cursor to move forward. After a few hundred meters you will begin to notice that the helicopter is gradually losing altitude, descending as it flies along in a straight line. This is perfectly normal. To fly along AND keep at a relatively level altitude, you will need to keep the UP Cursor pressed down and then tap intermittently the U key - this will have the effect of allowing you to pursue constant flight. To turn left or right while flying along, keep the UP Cursor key pressed down and then press either the LEFT or the RIGHT Cursors to roll the helicopter to left or right relatively. If you keep the LEFT or RIGHT keys held down the helicopter will travel in a circle in the sky, effectively coming around in its flight. There is, however a simpler way of turning around in flight and that is to do the following. First of all, release the accelerator key - U and any other key you may be pressing. When the helicopter has come to a complete stop, press either the Keypad 1 or Keypad 3 keys to rotate the body of the helicopter around its central axis. This has the effect of turning the helicopter with considerable precision - its as simple as that.



Its been my observation that landing is the one part of flying in GTA-IV that tends to worry people. But its pretty simple once you master the rules and they are to do the following. In order to land, you have to approach your intended landing point, whether it be the ground, a landing pad or even the top of a tall building. Your aircraft is likely to be carrying considerable momentum from traveling at speed so it is best if you lose this first before attempting to land by slowing down. The best way to do this is to fly backwards and reduce power at the same time. To do this while flying, first release the UP Cursor and then press and keep held down (or tap as needs be) the DOWN Cursor until you have managed to slow the helicopter down. Be prepared for the helicopter to rock backwards (sometimes violently) as this is being done, so pay attention and only press the DOWN Cursor as necessary. This has the effect of reversing the direction of flight of the vehicle, but in order to make it work, you must also be descending. To do this, press and keep held down the I key - this decelerates the aircraft, and used in concert with the DOWN Cursor will cause the helicopter to slow down and descend, sometimes dramatically, depending on your usage. Either way, you can with careful and skillful use bring the aircraft to a rest or to a point immediately above your desired landing spot. Then once you are in place, simply lower down until you make contact with the ground.


TIP: You can make use of visual clues such as the relative location of nearby objects relative to the helicopter, or as you approach the ground shadows which will show the relative position of the aircraft to the ground.


TIP: Try not to hit the ground too hard. On landing the landing gear may flex under the weight of the helicopter, but if you hear the sound of breaking glass it might possibly mean that you have landed so violently that the aircraft is out of commission - possibly for good. If you strike any object while in flight it may cause damage to the engine, which in turn will trigger a constant master alarm sound. In the very worse instances the aircraft will not let you fly it - or the tail assembly and rotor blades will fly off.


If you practice and become good at piloting, you can easily maneuver around the canyons of the city, even under bridges and in and out of close spaces with little or no trouble at all. If you wish to finish GTA-IV it will become necessary for you to learn how to precision control a helicopter in order to do all of the "under the radar" missions, one of which means you have to hover just above water under a bridge.

Edited by Karjerker
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Good stuff Karjerker. Some people have a lot of trouble with helicopters, it doesn't help that through the course of the main game there is only minimal compulsory need to use one (ulpaper and the final mission bassically). With a bit of practice Helicopters are very useful. A good way to understand controlling a helicopter is getting your head round spatial awareness..


X - up down along a central axis (Accelerate and decellerate), your going up and down.


Y - Turn on a point along a central axis (I don't know what this is on PC but on PS3 you use R1 and R2 to turn left right respectivally, what I'm saying is it's not the direction pad).


Z - tilt into/against a direction (use the direction pad to tilt the propeller).


To practive go to higgins helitours in Algonquin, Nick a copter and just dick about taking off and landing.

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  • 1 month later...

I'll have to post some video at some point of my piloting a helicopter in and out of the canyon-like city streets in Algonquin, and the equally cavern-like undersides of bridges and underpasses of Liberty City in order to show that with a little practice its quite possible to make a helicopter act the way its supposed too.

Edited by Karjerker
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Something I found is, while turning, use the L1 or R1 buttons based on which direction you're going. This makes for a sharper turn. Just an observation

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Sounds as if you are running the console version, PJ Awesome. Do you think you can add a console version (stating which console it is) of my basic guide to this thread for the benefit of console users for me? Thank you. I extend this request to anyone who has a version of GTA-IV other than the PC version which I've already covered, so this thread can be used by users irrespective of what platform they are running.

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Hi I use the PS3 and the controls are pretty basic, they are as follows


R2- Ascend


L2 - Descenf


Left Toggle tilted forwrd (not too much) for movement and turning.


L1/R1 Sharp turns.


Right Toggle - Camera movement, especially usefull when cornering to catch up with your view as you can hit blind spots when turning quickly.


Hope it helps.

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Okay, here's the basic format of Seagulls's post with a bit more detailed Explanation with XBOX controls!


RT - Ascend.


LT - Descend.


Left Analog Stick - Allows to Tilt angles of the helicopter up to around 90 Degrees, But is possible to tilt farther.


LB/RB - Quick left/right turns and helpful during turns and advanced combat.


Right Analog Stick - Camera movement, especially useful when cornering to catch up with your view as you can hit blind spots when turning quickly. Also works as view slider in Cinematic mode as of any other Vehicle.




Y - Exit Vehicle (Means almost certain doom if mid-air in GTA4 Regular or TLAD)


X - Shoot Machine Guns (Annihilator Gta 4) or Explosive Machine Gun Rounds (Annihilator TBOGT & TLAD only) OR Shoot Missiles (Buzzard TBOGT)


A - Shoot Machine Guns (Buzzard TBOGT)


LB+RB - Center Helicopter to dead middle (Horizontally)


(With parachute) Y, then A or RT - Jump, and then open the parachute for a safe landing.


(Only with Buzzard) Do not get off ground, and press X - Self Destruct


(Only with Buzzard) Press A and X at the same time - Rocket and machine gun mass destruction combo!

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Thank you both, gentlemen, Waffleperson337 and Seagull1971 (and others who have added narratives) - these comments have greatly assisted. I'll see fit to integrate them into a re-writing of the guide when I get a chance and credit you two accordingly. In the meantime, if anyone has any other helicopter piloting controls or tips, please feel free to add them.

Edited by Karjerker
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