In order to run a computer-based flight simulator program such as our Private Pilot Course, you need to have the right equipment.
This equipment is necessary to simulate the aircraft’s flight controls, and help you learn in an environment that is reflective of reality.
The specific hardware you need will be particular to your individual learning goals. For those who are new to the flight sim world, here is some basic flight simulator hardware suggestions.
A joystick is one of the most basic tools for a PC-based flight simulator. They are relatively inexpensive, and will enable you to fly just about any aircraft. If you choose a joystick you will need to make sure it has these basic features:
It will need to have a throttle lever to control engine power. It will also need to have the ability to move side to side (roll), backwards and forwards to control pitch, and be able to twist. The twist will enable you to control the aircraft’s rudder to turn.
If you prefer something more advanced, but still want to use a joystick you may consider getting a joystick that has more than one throttle lever, can be customized to your hand, and that has a hat switch to give you the ability to change your point of view. You may also want to consider a hands-on throttle and stick. This is a joystick with a separate unit for the throttle. These two pieces of hardware work together, and usually include buttons for rotary control as well as several other control switches. This unit is a step closer to reality, and is more reflective of fighter jets, helicopters, and an Airbus.
Yoke, Throttle Quadrant, and Rudder Pedals
If your goal is to learn the controls of an aircraft that does not use a joystick, and are wanting something more advanced, you may consider using a yoke with a throttle quadrant and rudder pedals. These more advanced controls constitute a flight system and will allow you to get acquainted with the controls of most general aviation aircraft, private jets, transport and other similar aircraft. These pieces of hardware may be a bit more expensive than a joystick, but are well worth it, as they will give you a much fuller experience.
A yoke will allow you to control the roll and pitch of the aircraft. You can buy one from several companies, but will find a difference in feel, function, price and quality. CH Products, Saitek, and GoFlight are common manufacturers of flight yokes. All three companies make separate throttle quadrants, however you can get a CH Products yoke with a 3-axis throttle on the yoke itself. Having a separate throttle quadrant will only add to the realism to your flight simulation experience, but is not necessary as long as you have one to get power to your engine(s). As you research, you will find that many people prefer one brand over the other, but any way you go, you will still get to practice your skills which is the main point.
Other than the yoke and throttle quadrant to get the most realistic experience, you may want to get rudder pedals. This will require you to use your feet as well as your hands during your simulation which is morerealistic. You can get rudder pedals from different manufacturers, but will again find a difference in feel, function, price, and quality. If you want to go for a more realistic feel, buy rudder pedals where you can adjust the resistance.
Using a joystick will allow you to fly the simulation, but having a yoke, throttle, and pedals will help you become more aware of real aircraft controls and help you with muscle memory. You can get other addons that may make your experience even more realistic, but they are not as necessary. These three items are practically indispensable.
Spending time practicing in your flight simulator will allow you to focus on your learning objectives, be more aware of your surroundings, and listen more attentively to your flight instructor.
Already have a flight control system? What’s your brand of choice? Leave a comment below.