AVSIM Commercial Hardware Review
Publishers: Saitek / Mad Catz
Description: Flight hardware .
FS9, FSX, X-Plane, Flight
|Reviewed by: Ray Marshall, AVSIM Contributing Reviewer - March 24, 2012|
It seems that each new add-on for FSX adds something new and inventive that we have not previously seen. It may be more realistic movements, higher fidelity sounds, better vibrations, or some effect that has been missing due to the inherent limitations of FSX or so we have been told. More and more developers are starting to go outside the FSX technical shroud with custom code. As we close the gap between flying from our desk and flying from a real cockpit we continue to push the envelope, so to speak.
The good news is that these newer products are bringing big smiles to old faces, the occasional Oh Wow!, did you see that?, or I didn’t know you could do that in FSX, or maybe the old standby – well it’s about time someone figured that one out.
Some developers such as PMDG have gone full circle and recently have figured out how to code outside the box without using the add-on drop down feature. Their newer features, previously only on a wish list, are available without ever leaving FSX. This makes for a jam packed FMC (Flight Management Computer).
Recently most of the mainstream developers have been leap frogging each other, or maybe themselves, with near unbelievable add-ons. Case in point is the work of PMDG, A2ASimulations, Milviz, Capt Sim, and Aerosoft for aircraft and FSDT, EarthSimulations, UK2000, and a host of others for the insanely detailed airports and other scenery products. Then there is FTX/Orbx who are totally changing the way we look at our world.
Because I am leading you to one of the most necessary add-ons since the inception of flight simulation. I will show you how to get a setup that is much closer to reality.
Not too many moons ago, the single item that would deliver the most bang for the buck in FSX was more memory, followed closely by a faster graphics card, then more, faster memory on the next generation graphics card, then a faster CPU, then multi-core CPUs, then the latest operating system with the most up- to-date glycol cooled box with oversized power supply. On the edge of all this was a larger, wide screen monitor or two with higher resolution, solid state hard drives, a couple of the newer USB drives dedicated to scenery or such. Terrabyte has become a household word along with a new batch of acronyms, like DVI, HDMI, or just HD. Most everything else that plugs in nowadays has a USB connector attached.
When FSX was introduced, I’m sure the ACES team thought a high end FSX system would be a souped-up 486 or Pentium based CPU with an updated Sidewinder joystick or maybe even a force feedback stick with a flat screen monitor and stereo speakers.
As we may be reaching some sort of plateau with add-ons, this may be the perfect time to look at a major upgrade to our desktop. No matter how realistic the add-ons become, the total experience is missing a big chunk of reality if we are still using a joystick and mouse to fly our airplanes.
While all this was going on and we were wearing the numbers off our credit cards, the hardware developers were moving at an even faster rate, if that was possible.
While CH Products and a few others have been providing basic or generic yokes and rudder pedals since the early days of flight simulation, and Logitech has been hard at work keeping the newest 3D fighter inspired joystick or keypad or HOTAS available, a new startup supplier was lurking around the corner. Well, not really new at all, just new to providing sophisticated aircraft cockpit equipment for the home as gaming hardware.
Saitek has teamed up with Cessna to bring to market a real life sim changer. This is a collection of key components used in the cockpits of our real world airplanes.
Evidently, the good folks at Saitek and Cessna noticed it also. Using the appropriate tag line - closer to reality . . . the Saitek built Pro Flight Cessna controllers and pedals are now available in your neighborhood retail stores and your favorite online supplier. At present, three items display the world recognized Cessna red, white and blue logo as Officially Licensed Cessna Products.
Before we get into the details of the Saitek Pro Flight Cessna products, I would like to express some of my early thoughts. I read the Pro Flight Cessna Yoke was ‘inspired’ by the real world Cessna 172/182. Some reviews stretch this a little and state it is an exact copy of the Cessna 172 yoke. As I have many hundreds of hours with a loose grip on the real deal, I tend to lean toward the description ‘inspired’. The simulator edition does indeed look good and feel good, has the Cessna logo in the middle and is black with a stainless steel shaft and molded thumb grips. It also has several extra buttons, switches and lights that the C172/182 does not have and is a very welcome addition for flight simulator enthusiasts such as myself.
I spent some time loading various Cessna add-ons that I have installed in my FSX program. None seem to be a ‘spitting image’ of the Yoke but many are really close. Not that it matters a whole lot, but the Saitek designers did such a good job the yoke looks like it belongs in practically all the Cessnas and several other aircraft.
If I were to judge, I would pick the Milviz Cessna 310R for FSX as the winner of the yoke look-alike contest. Without the buttons and switches, the Milviz Cessna 310R yoke is a dead ringer. If you replace the 310 badge with the Cessna logo it appears that Milviz used the Saitek Pro Flight Cessna Yoke in their simulated version.
This Pro Flight Cessna Yoke will be at home with any of our simulator add-ons from the Cessna 152 to the newest Citation. This includes all those non-Cessna airplanes like Beavers Boeings, Comanches, Twotters, Piper Cubs, etc. I was flying one of our newest add-ons, the Baytower Studio RV-7 and I was just as comfortable as with any of my Cessnas. The newest Cessna Citation Ten yoke looks as much like this Saitek Cessna Yoke as any of the smaller siblings.
You must keep in mind this Pro Flight Cessna hardware is not marketed specifically for FSX and FS2004, but also X-Plane, Lock-on 2, Black Shark, Falcon 4, real world flight schools and now Flight.
The Pro Flight Cessna Yoke has a total of 13 switch positions just on the left grip that are actuated with your left thumb and one finger, and that is while using only one Mode position. That is the 8 position POV (point of view) hat switch, a unique 4-way dual horizontal/vertical switch immediately below the hat switch and a red button for your left trigger finger.
The right grip houses two 2-way sliders, one horizontal and one vertical, the 3 position illuminated Mode switch, and a black button for your right hand trigger finger. The right rear of the box houses a USB 2.0 hub with 3 extra receptacles for additional Pro Flight modules or for general use. This is a great location for a USB thumb drive or a convenient place to plug in a camera storage card.
The yoke is powered from your PC with one USB connection. The Quadrant module has a dedicated cable that plugs in near the USB hub using a PS2 connector. The yoke also has a 6v receptacle for external power in case the one USB doesn’t deliver enough juice.
The Pro Flight Cessna Rudder Pedals are advertised as Authentic Cessna Pedals with independent toe brakes, self centering mechanism and adjustable tension. They even have a foot rest extension. These guys look like the real deal to me, except for the spacing between the pedals. They were evidently designed for a wide bodied Cessna like the Caravan family. Most of the Cessnas that I flew had rudder pedals almost touching.
I think I have flown every general aviation model that Cessna produced, including radials, tail draggers and military editions. I know for sure none had a tension adjustment dial between the pedals. This is not to be interpreted as a bad thing in any way, just a little twist on ‘authentic’.
I haven’t tried the tension adjustment yet. Like most things, the default or standard settings work for me most of the time. But should you have an aircraft that you think requires a different tension level, it is there for you at the turn of the large graduated knob. Turn one way for more tension, the other way for less tension. The individual toe brake operation is smooth and precise. I really like the extended foot rest feature. This will be handy with my shoes removed during those long flights in my 737NGX or B377 or the anticipated DC-6B.
The Pro Flight Cessna Trim Wheel just might be the sleeper in the bunch. This is a seriously nice instrument. If I didn’t know better, I would take it as a real world equivalent. This adds so much to the simulation with 9 full rotations (4 ½ in either direction) making it extremely accurate.
The sensitivity and null adjustments can be made on the fly in FSX. Some planes react differently, so if the fine tuning is a little jumpy try lowering the sensitivity and increasing the null values. There is a sweet spot to be found.
There is absolutely no comparison to the click up and click down presses on a typical joystick or keyboard. This is one of the pieces the simulator tube drivers should appreciate. I think many, if not most, flight simulator pilots are not aware of how much the trim wheel is used in real flight. Turn off that autopilot and the trim wheel is your best friend in the cockpit for sure.
The PMDG 737NGX has gone outside the standard FSX design parameters with so many items they may have precluded the use of the FSX settings and controls for this one. Let’s hope Pete Dowson or one of those simcheck thinkers can come up with a tweak for this.
Now the Pro Flight Throttle Quadrant. This is also a quality instrument. It looks good, feels good, and has the 3 separate and necessary controls for Throttle, Propeller, and Mixture. The throttle lever has a black smooth round head, the propeller pitch is blue and the mixture is red. These shapes and colors may not be a true standard but are what one would expect to see in many real aircraft. The design is such that the pilot should know using tactile feedback which lever is at their fingertips based only on the shape of the knob and the location.
At the base of the quadrant are 3 well engineered and nice feeling rocker switches.
Depending on the user, these six 2-position switches (18 if you count the Mode multiplier) can be assigned to anything you desire. For starters, I use the lower left one for Flaps down one increment, and the upper part for full Flaps up. The middle one I assigned the lower switch as the F12, View down key and the upper part as my EyePoint reset. The right upper is my Heading Bug Select and the bottom right corner is assigned the Landing Gear up/down toggle.
I have them set up slightly different in Microsoft Flight because some of what we have long thought of as standard key assignments in FSX are not available in Microsoft Flight.
I was surprised with the choice of a quadrant for single engine Cessna controls. I can count on one hand the number of single engine Cessnas that I remember having a power/prop/mixture quadrant. That would be the Cessna 305 and Caravans. Now if it had dual controls it would make perfect sense to me.
Dual controls are available, and fairly easy to configure. Simply purchase an additional quadrant, assemble them together (adjacent), then rearrange the colored and shaped knobs to suit your need.
It could look like this one or you could assign four throttles, one prop and one mixture for A2ASims B-17 or Boeing 377 Stratocruiser or the PMDG DC-6B for a more realistic simulation. Some users might prefer one throttle, four propeller controls, and one mixture control for 4 engine controls. Or naturally, if you have the space you could connect 4 quadrants together and have 4 of each.
This was not an afterthought of the Saitek design. Notice the near perfect spacing between the levers when joining two Quadrants. The colored heads just pull off for rearranging.
Saitek also markets a conventional push/pull Throttle/Prop/Mixture panel (with a cluster of additional switches) that replicates the throttle configuration found in a majority of single engine Cessnas. It should be noted this TPM panel does not carry the Cessna endorsement and logo but is appears to be a nearly exact copy of most single engine Cessnas.
Now let’s look inside the boxes.
I was totally surprised at the enormous size of the shipping containers. The boxes are huge, but that’s a good thing. I doubt UPS or FedEx has ever accidently damaged a single Saitek Pro Flight Cessna product. These things are seriously professionally packed.
Your first indication that these are quality products is when you read the outside of the boxes. Whatever is in one of these boxes is described in great detail, including the full specs along with life sized high quality photos. As soon as you open one of the boxes and check the contents, you confirm the visual quality of the products. As far as I can tell, no corners were cut in the design and manufacturing of these products. They all exude quality.
Setup and Installation
Now I would like to explain the difference between setup and installation. For this review, let’s arbitrarily refer to the physical placement of the products as the installation and the loading of the drivers and plugging in cables and switch and axes assignments as setup.
I gave some serious thought to exactly where and how I was going to place these units in my simulated cockpit. I have an oversized desk in a private study that is all mine. My wife has her own personal space around the corner. Fortunately, I only need permission from our two Papillons to do anything in my study as they take turns as my copilot – the other is usually asleep in the jump seat. Case in point.
The Saitek provided mounting brackets are heavy duty plastic with some rubber parts and pre-drilled mounting holes and one big hole for the really big plastic screw. The chances of someone having a computer desk for flight simulation at home that can make direct use of all these mounting brackets must be rare. I say this because practically every desktop that I’ve ever seen has a keyboard, usually on a slide out tray and a mouse adjacent to the keyboard or on the desk.
These brackets can interfere with your keyboard tray or mouse pad area. A little forethought is in order and I suggest you test several locations or positions. In many cases your existing desktop may have to be altered after installing the yoke, quadrant and trim wheel.
The more I flipped, turned, twisted, and just generally moved the pieces around, the more I appreciate how clever these mounting brackets designs really are. I have changed mine a couple of times already and still not sure what the final position will be. Keep your layout flexible. A new Saitek panel or two can change everything.
Before starting the installation, I had decided that I wanted the Yoke and Power Quadrant removable for short durations. This is because I desire a cockpit look at times and a conventional computer desk at other times. I’m a little picky in my old age. It was quickly obvious to me that the yoke would have to be mounted on top of my desk surface in order to free up the keyboard tray that also doubles as my mouse pad area.
I’m not sure how the Saitek mounting hardware designers were able to accommodate the almost endless desk and table designs, but they have come up with some rather nifty solutions that have many alternate installation themes. Turn this, flip that, put this next to that, mount this one here, that one there, mount these two or three units on top or on the bottom. It just goes on and on.
I have some woodworking tools in my garage and fancy myself as a bit of a handyman with saws, drills, etc. First thing I did was to make a small box out of some 2 x 4 scrap and a small piece of 3/8 inch plywood. A quick layer of glue and, voila, I now have a base for the yoke that sits on top of my desk with the supplied mounting bracket wedged to the desktop but not low enough to interfere with the keyboard tray movement. A picture is worth a thousand words, so I’ll quit writing about it. Suffice it to say, it’s a simple solution that works like a charm for me with my setup.
I am using two small plastic wedges to lock the base securely. One day when I’m done fiddling around with it I might make a more permanent base, then paint or stain it to match the desktop.
A key element in my installation is that the yoke be removable and reinstall-able with ease using no screws. Sometimes I just want to click at the keyboard without the yoke being in place. But, if I read something interesting at the forum for instance, I want to be able to grab the yoke, slide it in place, plug in the USB cable and go flying. I also tend to make a lot of notes and sketches and that is almost impossible with the yoke in place.
I did something similar with the quadrant. See the pictures. I used a cut of wood to fit a piece of that same 2 x 4 to make a wedge of sorts that binds the quadrant tightly in place from underneath the desktop. Should I desire to remove it, I can remove the wooden piece.
I plan to build a custom holding unit for the yoke and quadrant when not installed on my desk. I haven’t thought much about the design just yet but something simple, from scraps in my woodshop/garage. I envision something along the lines of a docking station of sorts to minimize any damage to either unit while they are waiting to fly again.
I installed the rudder pedals on a 3/8 inch thick piece of MDF. This required drilling six holes, finding two bolts with washers and nuts and two rubber water hose washers so not to scratch the shiny new pedals unit.
The four holes in the front were to screw down the two foot rest extensions. Two 9 inch strips of Velcro are included with the Rudder Pedals to assist in keeping them in place.
The final item for installation is the Pro Flight Cessna Trim Wheel. This one got a location just to the right of the joystick that will remain in place for the time being. It is a slight reach for the trim wheel but not uncomfortable. I use it a lot already and will use it more in the future. I think I actually used the mounting bracket as the design intended. I screwed it to my desk.
After a few minutes of mouthing sounds like a kid flying his first airplane, my puppies asked if I would go ahead and do the setup. This is where I put the CD into the tray and tap the enter key. I think I got an installation CD in each box. I have Windows 7-64 so driver installation was a snap with no snafus.
Here are a few screenshots from the Saitek.com/support website. I found a link to a user forum but was unable to register. I keep getting a message that new registrations are closed. I will check back from time to time as I’m sure that will be corrected soon.
In a matter of minutes, the Smart Technology (ST) Programming Software had properly checked all my USB connections and asked that I confirm a few things and I fired up FSX and assigned a few custom keys, checked that most things worked properly, which they did, and went flying. It was a very pleasurable day for me. This used up about 4 or 5 hours total time from opening the first box until shutting down FSX after flying 3 or 4 of my favorites. Much of this time was in my garage with the woodworking or waiting for the glue to dry.
When I clicked on the support tab during installation to verify that I did indeed have the latest version drivers, I noticed a banner announcing the Cessna bundle was Microsoft Flight compatible. As a veteran MS Flight user, about 10 days now, I instantly logged on to MS Flight and configured the new Pro Flight Cessna products. Only the throttle was installed by default, but the Prop and Mixture axes were just a click away.
Most of the view selections that I am familiar with are keyboard selectable in MS Flight, therefore, it is simply as matter of key assignments.
While at the Saitek.com/support website I also downloaded several prebuilt profiles. I haven’t looked at all of them yet, but the profile feature enables you to have unique setups for individual aircraft if desired.It appears to be along the lines of point and shoot and type a unique name as you assign keys. I would venture to guess that if you can imagine it, you can make it happen with the buttons/keys assignments and profile programming.
Saitek products have a constantly increasing user base on our forums and between the Saitek web support and our talented online friends, most anything will be achievable. I also found a link to download some video tutorials on using the Smart Technology programming.
How does it feel?
It feels great. Not necessarily like the real thing, but certainly good enough for realistic flight simulation. I think any limitation is with the simulation and not the yoke, pedals and quadrant. Maybe the Trim Wheel feels like the real thing. The results sure look more like real world flying.
The Pro Flight Cessna Yoke is self centering on both elevator and aileron axes. There is no built-in detent, the spring design returns the flight controls to neutral, just like a real world Cessna.
The quadrant has a smooth, firm feel with plenty of throw distance and a very nice detent position for each lever. I realize the Mixture is not normally reversed but keep in mind all these levers can be assigned a different function or use.
As mentioned earlier, all three of these levers could be power or throttle levers for the MD-11 for instance.
The Pro Flight Cessna Yoke feels like a real world yoke in your hands. The molded thumb placements are really nice and well designed. The slides and buttons have a nice quality feel to them. The stainless steel shaft replaces the plastic shaft used by competitors.
It should be noted that as I spent more time with the yoke, I noticed that I was flying much more smoothly. I guess I was trying to use the yoke like I have been using the joystick for the last couple of years. Slow and deliberate movements will reward you. You cannot bang it around from stop to stop like a cheap joystick and expect a smooth flight.
Using the yoke in flight is an absolute pleasure. I have the left red trigger finger button assigned as the Virtual Cockpit (F9) and the right black finger button as the Outside view (F11).
The hat switch is setup for left thumb operation and underneath it is a dual 2 horizontal 2 vertical position slider. I have these two horizontals assigned for EyePoint adjustment fore and aft.
I actually missed the vertical side of the switch in my setup. Don’t worry; you can never have too many switches or sliders, especially under your thumb.
The right side of the yoke has a matching horizontal slider with a vertical slider in the equivalent location of the hat switch of the left side. I am still playing around with various assignments for these two, but using the horizontal slider as the Increase/Decrease feature sounds like a keeper.
Forward of the right hand side grip and above the black trigger button is the 3 position Mode switch. This has 3 small high visibility green indicators. One green light illuminated for Mode 1, two illuminated for Mode 2, and 3 for Mode 3.
The mode selector triples the number of useful switch assignments and is most practical for multiple users of single machines. This is another case where the profiles really shine. Different games, different setups, sophisticated timing issues, multiple users are all accommodated with profiles and modes.
A single user, like me, could use Mode 1 for startup and takeoff operations, Mode 2, for climb, cruise, and descent, and Mode 3 for approaches and landings, for instance. I think your imagination would be your only limitation. But one thing is clear, using all 3 modes will triple the number of available switches. Fortunately, the active mode cannot be misinterpreted. It is either 1 light, 2 lights, or 3 lights illuminated.
The right rear of the Yoke box has three USB connections. I did not test them but they are USB v2.0 and backward compatible to V1.1. Like switches and sliders, you can never have too many USB connectors, this is especially handy for temporary connections. Each of the four individual units has a single green power on light with the exception of the yoke, which has either 1, 2, or 3 smaller green lights indicating power is on and which Mode is active.
Overall, I give the full system very high marks. As stated earlier, Saitek has a quality product and should represent Cessna well in the simulator and flight training markets.
On a personal note as an old Cessna pilot, retired charter pilot and flight instructor, the addition of the full complement of a quality yoke, quality rudder pedals, power quadrant and the ever important large trim wheel makes a wonderful improvement in my home desk simulator. The difference is almost like night and day.
All my flights, whether in FSX or MS Flight are much more enjoyable already and I would bet my old trusty joystick is closer to the closet shelf than it knows. I guess that depends on how I react to authoring a promised future review of one of our premiere fighter add-ons.
Sometimes, especially with some of the advanced fighters, a flight stick would obviously be the choice controller. But for my day in and day out flying of single and twin engine general aviation type add-ons it will be with the Pro Flight Cessna bundle.
I also enjoy spending hours in my PMDG 737NGX and I’m sure my approaches will be smoother and much more realistic with my new cockpit hardware.
Big addition – Even Closer to Reality
As I was going through my photos to select just the right ones for this review, I looked up to see the FedEx delivery man walking up to my front door with a couple of boxes. To my amazement were two more Saitek add-ons for my growing cockpit.
I decided to leave the review as written and just continue with my good fortune. I have now added the Pro Flight TPM Panel and the Pro Flight Switch Panel. Adding just these two boxes makes a tremendous improvement to my already improved system.
The first thing to go was my old trusty joystick. I then moved the Pro Flight Cessna Trim Wheel up to the desktop alongside the Quadrant.
My oversized keyboard tray with the recently vacated joystick created an instantly accessible location for stacking the Switch Panel on top of the TPM and securing the two with a couple of small metal corner brackets.
When the keyboard tray is pushed in, the stacked TPM/Switch Panel fit snuggly in front of and below the Trim Wheel/Quadrant combo.
Little did I know yesterday, the two remaining USB receptacles would be used for two additional Saitek units - the TPM Panel and Switch Panel. I now have a full house of connections. I have been alert to see if I will need to buy the external power adapter, but so far, everything seems to be working just fine.
Going back in time to midmorning. (Photos of the retail boxes.)
The Pro Flight TPM Panel, is an acronym for Throttle, Propeller, and Mixture with an additional nine, 2-way chromed assignable switches.
A single CD is included with a small multi-language booklet that basically says run the setup program. This fully automated setup program installs the necessary files and drivers for FSX to recognize the unit. I used the standard FSX controls and axis tabs to complete the setup. This amounted to a click or two and moving each of the three levers to assign to the proper axis for FSX.
A quick search at the Saitek.com support site will lead you to a specific setup instruction sheet for each unit. These will walk you through the final steps for selecting the proper axis, where checkmarks should or should not be, and recommend some sensitivity and null values.
It is important that you spend a few minutes reviewing these settings and instructions to avoid any conflicts or initial disappointments. You will need to click each specific tab at the Settings/Controls window in FSX. A common mistake seems to be not checking in the drop down box that you are indeed setting the controls for the proper unit.
The Pro Flight TPM Panel mimics most of the single engine Cessnas and many other single engine models. There is just something special about pushing that throttle straight in on the takeoff roll. It’s hard for me to put in words.
Just so you know, the TPM Panel is a hair wider than 11 inches, it’s 3 inches tall and 4 ¼ inches deep. The aluminum shafts are a full half inch in diameter and the throttle extends 6 inches from the front of the box (3 inches of throw for each of the 3 levers). The nine 2-position switches, labeled G1 – G9, have a solid, quality feel to them and have a nice loud click if desired or a full muted sound if flipped slowly and deliberate.
The Pro Flight Switch box sits nicely on top of the TPM as I have chosen for my installation. This one is jam packed with many of the knobs and switches found in most cockpits.
Here is a close up, but I would like to walk you through some of the individual switches or knobs.
This left side turn wheel is great for startups and pre-takeoff checklist routines. Engine starts and magneto checks become much more realistic when you are using physical movements rather than mouse clicks. Speaking of clicks, each of these switches are pre-assigned and labeled. Once you use the included CD for the setup, FSX will expect input from the hardware.
The Saitek Knowledgebase at the support site has a long explanation and description of the L , R and Both/All positions on the magneto and start knob. Evidently a lot of flight sim pilots are not aware of dual magnetos and routine mag checks prior to takeoff. Many unmistakably thought this was for the engine locations and selection. I suppose that could be a conclusion if you haven’t spent any time reading about airplanes and such. Should you need to brush up on magnetos, the Saitek Knowledgebase would be a good source of information.
The resets sometime require a double throw of a switch or knob to get in the proper position for use and to match what you are seeing on your monitor in FSX. If you quit FSX while flying with some of the switches in the ON position but then load a new flight as ‘cold and dark’, you will need to reset those switches that are no longer in the proper position.
This is where those checklists start to really make sense. Make certain you reset the Landing Gear position knob, master switches and engine start knob and set the throttle lever to full out or full down (start position).
I want to state this one more time to make sure you understand that these knobs and switches are not assignable by the user, they are already assigned and labeled for us. Each of these switches gives you plenty of aural feedback and have that high quality feel to them.
Neither of these two units have the small green Power-on Light like the Cessna Logo products. The TPM Panel does not have any lights whatsoever and the Switch Panel has the Landing Gear status indicators that convey the power on or off status. I suppose you have guessed the N, L, and R in the triangle are for the Nose gear and the Left and Right landing gear.
The three landing gear indicators, whether red or green are large and bright. No more excuses for gear-up landing because you could not see the indicator lights for whatever reason. A lot more than a few of my add-ons have partially hidden gear status indicator lights. These three are most definitely not ‘hidden’ and are very bright.
If like me, you will find yourself spending an inordinate amount of time sitting in the cockpit just flipping switches, opening and closing the cowl flaps, wing flaps up and down, changing views, taxi or landing lights on, then check the outside view to make sure. Try turning the Fuel Pump on and off a few times and listen to the great sounds.
I don’t know who designed the gear up/ gear down knob but they should win a medal. This is one nice wheel with the expected sound and movement and leaves no-doubt about your intentions.
The installation time was only a few minutes; the setup was quick and easy. The final check for axis assignments was click, click, and click. Now let’s go fly.
My wife recommends a good headset. Each time I started the engines, I turned the volume up a little louder. I guess I reached her threshold when she stopped by to close my study doors with a nice positive thud and gave me her “boys and their toys - is that really necessary” look.
As mentioned earlier, although these last two items are part of the Saitek Pro Flight series, they are not endowed with the Cessna logo, but make a great addition to the Pro Flight Cessna bundle.
Each flight now approaches that of a real flight or at least as real as our developers can make it using FSX with the Saitek Pro Flight system. As mentioned, all phases of flight are more deliberate and realistic with the joystick in the closet. Adding the Switch Panel practically guarantees all flights will now start as ‘cold and dark” with full use of checklists. Full immersion is near.
Now I have to experiment with the 3 Modes available and find that sweet spot of switch assignments. This will take some time, but it is so easy to open the FSX Controls/Buttons tab and try something new or different.
I created some diagrams to record my switch selections in the various phases of flight. I will use these to record and prioritize my selections. I used the Snipping Tool and the cut-n-paste technique to capture all 425 assignable keystrokes for FSX – 12 full pages worth. I never noticed how many keystroke combinations are associated with Look or Views – 94 total. Wow. Modes and Profiles here I come.
I have to close up now so I can practice flying. My ‘show and tell’ demo sessions will be much longer and much louder in the future. The immersion factor is now light years ahead of the old joystick days. I can’t believe it took so long to trash that joystick.
And, should you desire to elevate your home cockpit to an even higher plane (pun intended) add either or both Pro Flight TPM Panel and Pro Flight Switch Panel.
My personal installation … I timed the breakdown and removal of the Yoke and Quadrant to convert my cockpit back to a conventional computer desk. It takes less than two minutes either way.
I found a nice temporary storage space that does not even require me to unplug the USB connection. I carefully stow the two units over to one side when I’m not flying. Nice.
Now I have to come up with something a little more permanent. That could be something as simple as a small piece of foam board standing against the wall to protect the painted wall and the yoke from scratches.
The above photos were prior to receiving the Pro Flight TPM and Pro Flight Switch Panel. The joystick was immediately removed and added to the closet inventory. I relocated the Cessna Trim Wheel to snuggle up to the right side of the Quadrant and added the TPM and Switch Panel in the space made available by the joystick.
My new and improved cockpit.
Only the yoke and quadrant/trim wheel will be removable. I have the TPM Panel and Switch Panel screwed to my keyboard tray. Now I look forward to those days when the house is empty, except for the puppies, so I can crank up the volume and let that subwoofer rattle.
MAD CATZ, INC., Online Marketing, San Diego, CA provided the Saitek Pro Flight Cessna Controllers and Pedals, the Pro Flight TPM and Switch Panel for this review.
A big thank you to Milviz Flight Simulations for providing their excellent Cessna 310R for FSX add on.
All close-ups of Yoke buttons and switches, Steve Blackwell at Dreamware Computers where you will find an additional review. Also two of the retail box photos are from Steve’s review. Used with permission. Pages 4, 8, 15, 16.
Milviz Cessna 310R photo from Used with permission.
Cessna 172 flying and Caravan panel screenshots. Multimedia use.
Old photo of Clyde Cessna from 1917 with first airplane built in Wichita, KN. Caption is a joke by author. From Used to promote Cessna. Clyde is 4th from the Left.
Cockpit photo of Cessna turning left is from the Learn to Fly promotion by Cessna. Student or photographer is not identified.
Airliner throttle quadrant photo is from a Boeing 737 by Aviafilms.com. Incidental media use, no copyright found.
Any aircraft panel screenshot or photo not specifically identified was found on the world wide web with not enough information available to give due credit.
All other screenshots and photos taken by author.
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