Choosing the right joystick, flight stick, and accessories: Microsoft Flight Simulator guide


7 min read

Buy or use the joystick for the flight stick ? Not only do you can fly anywhere you like in Microsoft Flight Simulator but also to fly anywhere you want. The game supports a host of controllers and flight stick repeats and it's difficult to find the required hardware and control system for beginners in flight simulation.

We will show you our favorite control options by flying a regular controller in this Microsoft Flight Simulator tutorial. We will notify you of what to expect when purchasing one or more pieces of equipment for those considering buying a flight stick for Microsoft Flight Simulator.


CONTROLLER USE
If you want to get into the sky fast, you will learn how to drive an aircraft with your own joystick. Regardless of whether you use a Xbox controller or a third party option, you can control most of the operations of an aircraft with a regular game pad.

As described in our beginner guide to Microsoft Flight Simulator, you will first learn how to pull down nuanced maneuvers on a pad. You must still rely on your computer keyboard for more advanced options even after you have mastered the controllers.
It's a fully legitimate choice to play Microsoft Flight Simulator with only one controller. We have used a certain controller to increase the options in our hands in order to make the most of the experience.



2 CONTROLLER XBOX ELITE SERIES
The Xbox Elite Series 2 controller is an excellent choice for flying game pads because of the two special controller features: swapable thumb sticks and interchangeable paddles on the control unit's back.

TALL THUMBSTICK FOR YOKEY OF YOKEY
First, by swapping the left thumb stick for the taller alternative that comes in the package, it's easier to monitor the yoke of the plane. The thumb stick's added height allows for easier and more accurate aircraft control. Since with the left thumb stick you'll do most of your maneuvers, the extra amount of power has made flying even more refined.


MAPPING PADDLE FOR TRIM
It remaps two of the rear paddles to control trim for the second change worth making. You should constantly keep the left thumb stick while ascending, descending, and cruising to keep the right angle of flight. But as you learn during Flight Training, changing trim helps you to set a certain amount of angle to the nose of your plane so that you can fully ease off the yoke while maintaining a smooth ride.
With a joystick, holding the Y button and then holding the D-pad up or down is the way you change the trim. The issue is, you need your left thumb to make changes on the D-pad. To make adjustments on the D-pad, if you take your finger off the left thumbstick, your plane's nose will dip as you slowly adjust the trim. This can add to some jerky flight.

Set two of the rear paddles up and down to counteract this. This way, to keep the correct angle, you can always leave a finger on the left thumbstick while slowly changing the trim with your right thumb and fingers on the paddles. It needs a bit of flexibility, but you'll have steadier flights once you master it.
ARE you going to buy a flight stick?
Many flight sticks are available for aviation simulators. For beginners, it's difficult to choose between them. Not only is it unclear how many pieces of gear you can purchase, but costs can also fluctuate wildly for individual hardware.


Here's what you need to remember first if you're looking to purchase a flight stick setup:
How much space does a flight stick and accessories have for you?
How much realism would you like to simulate here?
What is your Dedicated Hardware Budget?
Let's break down what your hardware choices are, and how unique pieces of gear add to the experience, to address these questions.



The Thrustmaster T16000M FCS Flight Pack is one set we've been using, and it has helped us gain a deeper understanding of what is available in the hardware environment of the flight simulator. We chose this three-piece kit because it provides in a single box the critical selection of accessories simulation enthusiasts look for.

Let's go over what comes in the package and discuss how each piece of gear transforms the flight experience.
FLIGHT PACK OF THRUSTMASTER T16000M FCS
The T16000M FCS Flight Pack from Thrustmaster is a comprehensive kit that comes with three hardware components.

Thrustmaster T16000M FCS Pack of Flights
The T.16000M FCS is a flight stick which controls the pitch and roll of the plane with its handle. It has multiple buttons that can control menus, cameras, and other flight controls, and a "hat switch" called a small joystick on top that allows you to adjust your point of view. A small slider at the base can handle the throttle and, by rotating the stick, you can control the rudder. With a single, out-of-the-way button, you can also lock out the twist feature fully.


Unsurprisingly, the TWCS Throttle is a throttle controller with much more accuracy than the tiny slider on the flight handle. It also has several more keys, several hat switches that can be assigned to anything you want, and a rotary knob that allows you to change the trim more precisely and easily. On the front, there's also a paddle which can act as your rudder.


The TFRP Rudder is a dual pedal rudder device that attaches an old-school-style telephone connector to the throttle or an included dongle to your computer's USB port. It provides much greater control of the rudder of a plane with a precision steering sliding mechanism. To help you steer the aircraft on the deck, it also provides individual toe brakes, one for each foot.


Each hardware piece adds a layer of realism to the experience of flight simulation. Although most of the actions that these specialized accessories can perform can be performed by a regular controller, the purpose of having dedicated hardware is to provide greater control and improved immersion levels.

We certainly found a difference after going through the Microsoft Flight Simulator Flight Training a second time with this new gear. We spent a few hours exploring the planet with our new hardware until we were comfortable with this advanced setup.

So let's consider the cost, the desk space needed, and the learning curve, to find out if a substantial difference is made by individual pieces of flight simulation hardware.


STICKS FLIGHT
The largest shift in experience is from the entry point to the hardware of the flight simulator: the flight stick.

A flight stick will do much of the heavy lifting if you are on a budget or lack space. Controllers such as the T.16000M FCS of Thrustmaster (which is the same stick comes bundled with the kit above) or the Extreme 3D Pro of Logitech will perform all the maneuvers you need to get the plane off the ground and soar quickly. With a slider at its base, a good flight stick will also have a mechanism to control the throttle of the aircraft. Not only that, to manipulate the rudders, most flight sticks will twist, making it easy to guide your plane as you move around the runway.

The biggest difference in the experience that you can find is how much a stick helps you to monitor the nose of the plane accurately. Guiding your aircraft up and down gently for a smooth landing or slowly drifting into your turns with a flight stick feels more precise and realistic. When comparing your thumb on a controller to using your hand, elbow, and shoulder to move a flight stick, there's a valley of differentiation in fine control.

The extra buttons on the handle and base of the flight stick also give much more customization than your regular game pad.
Any of these buttons are automatically mapped for you by Microsoft Flight Simulator settings, shifting vital commands such as unlocking the parking brake or controlling the in-game camera closer to your side. The plethora of extra buttons helps you to customize how you operate your aircraft to where the flight stick alone can handle almost every important command.

THROTTLE AND STICK (HOTAS)
It would be like playing a racing sim with only a steering wheel just using a flight stick. You'll want fine velocity control for a more precise flight. You'll need a unique piece of hardware to power your throttle in order to do that. A throttle is the driving force behind a plane's engine, just like the pedals that power gas and brakes on a vehicle.

For flight simulator controllers, most of the choices you can find are of the HOTAS (hands on throttle and stick) type. These come with a flight stick and a throttle (detached or connected).

With dedicated control surfaces, a HOTAS setup lets you control both your speed and your direction. A dedicated throttle's precise manipulation and the extra buttons they bring amplify what you're capable of. Instead of relying on a flight stick's tacked-on slider to manage speed smoothly, a throttle imitates the power delivery accuracy required by real aircraft.

The choices for HOTAS configurations differ. The T16000M FCS Flight Pack from Thrustmaster comes with a separate throttle controller, and the Logitech G X52 does the same. A HOTAS configuration benefits from having two individual devices share the duties of holding your plane in the sky, regardless of which choice you select.

A throttle handle makes the process easy when dialing in the correct speed for a smooth landing or maintaining the required airspeed for cruising. The wide sliding surface of a throttle lets you easily control how much power your aircraft generates. As you see in the movies, you can aggressively slam it forward when you're about to take off or you can softly pull it back to float to a flawless landing.




Any of these buttons are automatically mapped for you by Microsoft Flight Simulator settings, shifting vital commands such as unlocking the parking brake or controlling the in-game camera closer to your side. The plethora of extra buttons helps you to customize how you operate your aircraft to the point that the flight stick alone can handle almost every important command.
THROTTLE AND STICK (HOTAS)
It would be like playing a racing sim with only a steering wheel just using a flight stick. You'll want fine velocity control for a more precise flight. You'll need an original piece of hardware to power your throttle in order to do that. A throttle is the driving force behind a plane's engine, just like the pedals that power gas and brakes on a vehicle.

For flight simulator controllers, most of the choices you can find are of the HOTAS (hands on throttle and stick) type. These come with a flight stick and a throttle (detached or connected).

With dedicated control surfaces, a HOTAS setup lets you control both your speed and your direction. A dedicated throttle's precise manipulation and the extra buttons they bring amplify what you're capable of. Instead of relying on a flight stick's tacked-on slider to manage speed smoothly, a throttle imitates the power delivery accuracy required by real aircraft.

The choices for HOTAS configurations differ. The T16000M FCS Flight Pack from Thrustmaster comes with a separate throttle controller, and the Logitech G X52 does the same. A HOTAS configuration benefits from having two individual devices share the duties of holding your plane in the sky, regardless of which choice you select.

A throttle handle makes the process easy when dialing in the correct speed for a smooth landing or maintaining the required airspeed for cruising. The wide sliding surface of a throttle lets you easily control how much power your aircraft generates. As you see in the movies, you can aggressively slam it forward when you're about to take off or you can softly pull it back to float to a flawless landing.

In Microsoft Flight Simulator, the throttle customization of a Thrustmaster controller
There are a surprising number of buttons and thumbsticks on the throttle. Image: Asobo Studio/Microsoft Corporation via Polygon
To further customize your flight experience, a separate throttle will have additional keys, toggles, and occasionally additional thumbsticks. Some throttle controls also let you use paddles you control with your fingers to control the in-game camera, certain flight functions, and even the rudder. Throttles with dials on them will tune trim, which is an important flight control that maintains the level of your plane without changing your flight stick continuously.

More sophisticated throttles are also on the market, such as the Logitech G Flight Simulator Throttle, which gives you different power controls on twin-engine planes for your left and right engines.


HOTAS AND RUDDER PEDALS
Rudder pedals are the last move (pun intended!) in filling out a complete flight configuration.

Rudder pedals, despite their presence, do not power the throttle of your aircraft. The rudder flap at the back of your aircraft is manipulated by these car-like pedals, and they also control the brakes. We cannot steer your plane in the air by the left and right motions of the rudder. Instead, to fight undesirable trajectories again, they apply counter-motion.

Thrustmaster's rudder pedals
These are not pedals for gas and brakes. Picture: Thrustmaster.
Your rudder pedals on the ground monitor the side-to-side movement of your aircraft, such as when you are driving around the airport. This takes a bit of getting used to as it feels natural to want to move just to veer off the runway instead of from now on on the right pedal of something like Thrustmaster's TFRP Rudder.

One downside of the TFRP pedals is that they are narrow and fragile. Look at picking up the Thrustmaster TPR Pendular Rudder Pedals or the MFG Crosswind v2 if you're a larger guy, or you just want a more stable solution overall.

The Thrustmaster T16000M FCS Flight Kit, along with its throttle and flight stick, comes with rudder pedals in the box. Most HOTAS settings, however, allow you to command the tail of your plane on either the stick or throttle, so you will not feel the need for them unless you lean into the immersion.


FLIGHT YOKEE FLYING

In Microsoft Flight Simulator, very few of the virtual cockpits actually have a stick. The rest have a yoke, like the Cessna 152 that you learn to fly in the tutorial. They take up a little more space on your desk, but for civilian aviation, they are much more authentic. Right now, there are a couple of decent options on the market and we have checked two of them with significant results.

Honeycomb Aeronautical Alpha is the most highly recommended one. Not only is it an amazingly solid piece of gear, it is also fully compliant with the Flight Simulator plug-and-play. There aren't even drivers to be paid. Right out of the box, even the ignition, power, and lighting switches operate.

Although the Alpha comes with a conventional clamp, it also comes with a nifty adhesive plate that is non-marring, which makes it ideal for almost any desk. It's in short supply, at $249.99, and costly. In order to maximumly use it, you'll also need pedals and a throttle.

The Logitech G Flight Yoke System is our second recommendation. Although far more fragile than the Alpha, at $169.99, it is much more affordable. It also comes with its own throttle quadrant, ideal for twin-engine aircraft control. However, you will always need to invest in pedals.

From CH Goods comes another well-regarded flight yoke. At 149.95 dollars, it's also inexpensive and comes with its own built-in throttle. We haven't tried it with the Flight Simulator yet, but they've got a fantastic track record.

TRACKIR KIRK
Black bears in the Microsoft Flight Simulator inside Yosemite National Park
Image: From Polygon, Asobo Studio/Xbox Game Studio
Microsoft Flight Simulator has plenty of choices, both inside and outside the cockpit, to adjust your view. On a setup like the Thrustmaster T16000M FCS Flight Kit, you'll end up dedicating at least one of your different hat switches to help you look left, right, up, and down before long. But if you're an in-game pilot with a functioning neck, that will make it much simpler. Enable us to introduce you to the head-tracking system on TrackIR.

At $199.99, TrackIr is pricey, but it improves the flight experience. The same sort of infrared technology used in the Wii motion controllers is used by TrackIr. You mount to your headphones an infrared emitter and to the top of your monitor a receiver. You can then convert slight movements of your actual head into large movements of your pilot's head in the game using the calibration program.

You can quickly line up your plane for the last approach using TrackIR, find your mates in the sky during multiplayer sessions, and take in the sights while they hunt elephants and grizzly bears. In order to reach all the controls, including the fuel shut-offs and parking brakes concealed under the dash of some aircraft, you can also lean down and over. You can also stick out the window with your head and look down when you are soaring. It's the closes before that feature is launched later in 2020 that you will get to travel in virtual reality.

5 TRACKIR
You can lean forward to see over the nose during landings with TrackIr in Microsoft Flight Simulator, bend down to get a close look at your height and heading, and even position your head outside the plane entirely to get a better look at the scenery.

Amazon / $199.99 Buy
How you ride up to yourself
Although you don't need a fighting stick or a racing wheel to play battle or racing games, veterans of both genres know that the experience is enhanced by dedicated controls. It's no different to flight simulators. Microsoft Flight Simulator's magic is that everyone can jump in, learn the fundamentals, and discover the world at large. It is up to you how far into the simulation you want to go.

If you're not ready to step into a dedicated set of flying buttons, but will consider upgrading your controller, then it's a perfect option to use the Xbox Elite Series 2 controller. The customizable thumbsticks and four rear paddles not only give you the flexibility to fly your plane, but you can also play hundreds of other games with the controller.

You can use what we learned on the Thrustmaster T16000M FCS Flight Pack when you're ready to take the plunge into dedicated hardware. This three-piece kit has all you need to transform a cockpit into a desk. The flight stick, throttle, and rudder controls are much more flexible than what you will encounter with a joystick. The number of additional buttons leaves your customization experience wide open. This flight pack is a fantastic starting point if you want to really dive into flight simulators and the immersion that dedicated hardware provides.


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