Microsoft Flight is a PC game that lets players jump into the challenge, fun, and freedom of flight with no special hardware or past experience.
Whether players want to fly freely or choose to master real instruments and controls, Microsoft Flight scales easily so that flying is easy both for a beginner while maintaining a challenge even for the most accomplished PC pilots.
The game immerses players in the flying experience with realistic graphics and accurate physics, and will continually evolve with new terrain, aircraft and challenges that can be downloaded via expansion packs. You can use a mouse to play this game but the use of other flight controllers to utilize the full effect of the game is recommended.
You have 2 choices with flight controllers, you can either buy a joystick or buy a yoke. However, If you’re the type of pilot–virtual or otherwise–who can’t suspend disbelief and get into the game without something realistic, then a flight yoke coupled with other peripherals (eg Throttle Quadrant and rudder pedals) is the real way to fly! After all, finding the right flight controller is the best and biggest thing you can do to really maximize your virtual flight experience.
Although buying flight controls has been an expensive hobby for a while (since it was always been a small hardcore niche market), recently this has changed and a lot more companies are starting to create products aimed at the more casual gamer. Ever since Saitek have joined the game, the choice of finding a better and more realistic Flight Sim Yoke has become a much more affordable option for even the casual armchair pilot.
For those unfamiliar, a flight yoke is geared generally towards those who prefer to fly civilian aircraft in flight sims. One of the nice things about a yoke is that it is generally pretty intuitive, you tug back to raise a plane and push forward to make the plane pitch down. If you fly a plane with your body behind it, it makes sense. As you lean forward and look down or lean back and look up the plane mimics that in real life. Having 2 handles also means that you can fly with two hands and not only one, ala a joystick and it doesn’t natter if you are left or right handed. Two hands also gives you that extra bit of control and personally, I find that a yoke always tires me out less than a joystick.
At last count the newest addition to the flight yoke line up is the Saitek Pro Flight Cessna Yoke System. With its design based on a real Cessna, it is as close to the real thing you can get bar stripping a yoke out of the actual plane itself. Incidentally it is one of the first commercially available yokes at its price point to offer a true 90 degree turn rotation left or right!
In terms of construction you have 2 choices, either go with a steel shaft or a plastic one. Although their are advantages and disadvantages of using a steel shaft compared to a plastic one, in general most users feel that a steel shaft provides the smoothest movement. By using steel shafts and high quality bearings it is possible to get a really fluid and responsive controller. Currently only Saitek offer steel shafts.
Your recommended choice for an affordable flight yoke are:
Another great thing about dedicated controllers are the amount of onboard buttons and switches you get. You can assign those to other flight actions such as landing gears, flaps etc. Which means (hopefully) never having to reach for that keyboard again to hunt for obscure shortcuts.
In addition to the main flight controller, you should look to expanding your flight controllers to also include a rudder and a throttle controller.
Luckily, if you buy any yoke from Saitek, eg Saitek pro flight yoke system you actually get as separate throttle controller for FREE!.
The throttle unit attaches to your desk simply and securely using a screw type clamping system. Although there aren’t enough levers to cover you if you fly any 4 engine type plane such as a 747, 3 levers is adequate to get you going in most flight simulators. It surely beats controlling throttle using key press. The current list of throttle quadrants I have reviewed on this site are,
- GoFlight GF-TQ6 Throttle Quadrant
- Saitek TPM – Throttle/Prop/Mixture Axis or Saitek Pro Flight Throttle Quadrant
- CH Products Throttle Quadrant
Finally, you need flight rudder pedals.
This allows you to control the rudder on your plane in the air and also to taxi your plane on the ground. Although YES, you can get a long by assigning your rudders to a spare axis or even buttons eventually you should look at a set of pedals if you truly want realism in your set up. Currently, the most popular rudder pedals on the market are,
- Saitek Pro Flight Cessna Rudder Pedals or Saitek Pro Flight Combat Rudder Pedals
- CH Products Pro Pedals
The sky’s the limit! Now anyone can enjoy the fun, freedom and adventure of flight. Just be sure to chuck in a few flight controllers here and there and before you know it, flying over Hawaii is truly more than just a keyboard push button experience.
If you are new to flight simulation then I suggest you head over to my aptly titled page Best Flight Joystick 2011 to get the low down on the best flight joysticks and flight yokes from last year.
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