Flying the Mi-8 for the first time

I feel like a newbie all over again as I’ve now taken my first steps into piloting a virtual helicopter. The DCS: Mi-8 MTV2 Magnificent Eight is a beast of a Russian transport helicopter that can sling some impressive loads and back up any situation with a ton of firepower. This is my first experience with the DCS: Mi-8 and my first experience piloting a virtual helicopter. Hilarity ensues!

Big and magnificent

An incredible 17,000 Mil Mi-8 NATO reporting name ‘Hip’ helicopters have been constructed since its introduction in 1967 being flown by governments and organizations all over the world with dozens of different sub variations. The Mi-8 is still in active use and, according to Wikipedia, is the third most common military aircraft in operation in the world as of 2015.

The Mi-8 was to the Soviet Union in the 1980s Afghanistan conflict as the UH-1 Huey is to the United States and the Vietnam conflict and the Mi-8’s employment was, at least in part, inspired by the UH-1.

Able to carry large numbers of troops, equipment, or be equipped with bombs, rockets, and gun pods, the Mi-8 TV2 in DCS World can be setup as a potent gunship. Albeit… a large one!

Flying a helicopter… or maybe crashing one

The huge benefit of simulation is that you can crash, start over, crash again, and eventually get the hang of it. Flying a helicopter is immediately like and unlike flying a regular fixed wing aircraft and it’s those familiar moments that get you most into trouble with a helicopter.

You have to learn words like what a “collective” is (you use it in place of a throttle in essence though its operation is more like adjusting the angle on a propeller) and you need to understand some helicopter physics.

Terms like ‘retreating blade stall’ enter into your vocabulary quickly. This is a situation where the retreating rotor blade has a lower relative blade speed and an increased angle of attack. What does that mean? Essentially you’re in a dangerous situation where part of your helicopter’s blade is in a stall and you’re in danger of loosing speed or altitude or both.

How about vortex ring state? This is another dangerous situation in a helicopter where a helicopter starts descending into its own downwash and can lead to a rapid loss of altitude. Not a good situation.

DCS World ensures that you can experience all of these situations and it makes flying a helicopter a challenge.

Beyond that, helicopters are already a challenge on their own as they tend to drift, require constant trimming to tweak the flight parameters. You feel like you’re riding on the back of a wild beast that requires a lot of stick work just to keep stable.

Eventually I was able to get the hang of it after several crashes and a lot of trial and error. My message newbie virtual pilots of both fixed wing aircraft and helicopters, this is a normal way to experience a flight sim. There are no consequences with these pixels so when it comes to learning to fly… don’t sweat crashing the aircraft. It happens and it can happen a lot.

To illustrate my point… here are some of the many crashes I had at first.

Just getting started

Flying the Mi-8 feels a bit like driving a bus. Albeit an armed one that can carry several dozen rockets and 23mm gun pods. It’s a huge, hulking presence and I think that adds to the appeal as a big, tough helicopter.

In a fun multiplayer scenario created by Jon Coughlin, creator of Roger Meatball, we took off from a base in the Caucasus to chase down armed speedboats. Though not everything went to plan, I was able to take off in the Mi-8, fly to the boats, and use a combination of 23mm cannon fire and rockets to blast multiple boats before taking some ground fire and being forced to return home.

It was an auspicious start to flying the Mi-8 in a more combat oriented scenario.

Combat is not all you can do with the Mi-8 as it can be operated with logistics in mind with both single and multiplayer scenarios offering opportunities to fly the helicopter in non combat or supportive combat roles.

In servers like Blue Flag or Georgia at War, the Mi-8 and UH-1 can be flown into a combat zone to deploy troops to capture a FARP or drop off forward deployed SAM sites. It’s a cool role that I hope to check out sometime soon as an alternative to the fast jet combat that I so often partake in.

I’m looking forward to flying the Mi-8 more as time goes on!

14 Comments Add yours

  1. Sérgio Costa says:

    Nice you’re enjoying her! Big Bertha is a blast!

    Liked by 2 people

    1. ShamrockOneFive says:

      Tons of fun!

      Like

  2. E says:

    I’d recommend you to check both the Spring tension campaign and the Oilfield one.

    Spring tension is the stock campaign and it is quite fun. It will teach you to fly visual through valleys and mountains, do a lot of logistics travel and also combat.

    Oilfield is just a civilian campaign. The premise is that you are a military Mi8 leased to russian oil companies to build new oilfields north of Caucasus range. Lots of civilian missions, navigation, sling load and radio chatter. Really fun to play and the voice overs are excellent.

    If you want to dig the gunship rabbit hole… pick the Kamov.

    Liked by 2 people

  3. Warlock says:

    Mi-8 is probably in the top 3 aircraft I enjoy flying the most. When I wanted to get into helicopters, it was very clear to me that it is the Mi-8 I want, despite the warnings to not take it as a first helo. The systems which may have the most overwhelming look in the game are actually SO nicely organized that once you get a little familiar it’s very easy to find your way around. The flying itself is pretty difficult (talking about precision landing, hovering, using the weapons with the manual scope, landing on a small landing pad of a ship, transition from high speed to low speed, etc) and takes probably more practice than anything in the game. When people don’t believe me when I say helos are harder to fly than planes, I just let them try to fly this guy…

    Liked by 2 people

  4. Huckle says:

    DCS got me into helicopters, never found them interesting prior to the Ka-50. Note that Mi-8 has a control “assist” option that I found very unhelpful in the special features, didn’t realise it was there for a while.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. ShamrockOneFive says:

      I noticed there’s a couple of assist options in there. Do you have them all off or some of them off?

      Like

      1. Huckle says:

        I don’t have the page in front of me to refer to, but the only control option I have ticked is the rudder pedal trim, as my CH pedals self-centre. I’m fortunate enough to have the MSFFB2 as a cyclic, so it holds trim position.
        The menu option I’m thinking of was Control Helper (I think), and once I turned it off I found the Mi-8 much more predictable and stable to fly as I wasn’t fighting against an unseen assistant.
        Note that I’m not referring to Autopilot Adjustment, which is where you request the flight engineer to finetune the trim for you.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Warlock says:

        The stability assist is great. Actually, the reason I didn’t go for the Huey is because I know that the praised style of flying you get in the Huey is quite similar to flying a Mi-8 with SA off. I gave it a couple of tries, seen why people like it, and moved on.

        Like

  5. Michael Dwyer says:

    Nice to see you are finally flying a helo. I think you will enjoy it a lot, it’s totally different from fixed wing and does take a lot of getting used to.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. ShamrockOneFive says:

      It is very different and it made me feel like a newbie all over again. Fantastic experience though!

      Like

  6. Along and Between says:

    My DCS career in a nutshell: Come for the jet planes, spent 90% of my time trying to master the Huey.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. ShamrockOneFive says:

      There’s certainly lots of love for DCS’ helicopter modules. I’m very impressed by the interest and the time people put into them.

      Like

    2. Boris_CRO says:

      I came for MiG-21 because its ultimate jet fighter. But mi-8 took my heart.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. ShamrockOneFive says:

        Both are fantastic modules to have some very interesting DCS World experiences that are different from the usual.

        Like

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