Reviewed by Doug Horton. Like many fight simulation enthusiasts, I began the hobby using a small inexpensive joystick as my only controller. The joystick was connected to now obsolete computer though a game port connection, which is also obsolete. Later, I moved to a yoke system with built-in throttle, prop, and mixture levers.
When I began private pilot training, I added rudder pedals and finally disabled the “auto-rudder” setting I’d used for many years. These controls provided sufficient realism at the time, but later, I changed my yoke and pedals to newer designs that are quite similar to the controls in the real Cessna 182 aircraft I fly and own with four other partners.
Having visited several “advanced” flight simulator users over the 23 years I’ve been in the hobby, I’ve seen several home cockpits, and I’ve known that there were “professional quality” controls that are specially designed emulate controls in airliners.
This review features an example of this category, and it’s the GoFlight NG 737 Yoke System, which was introduced in mid-2013. GoFlight is well known in the community for making professional-quality controls and modules for flight simulation.
Oblique view of GoFlight GF-Pro yoke system
According to GoFlight, the GF-Pro Yoke System is built with precision manufacturing to ensure the most authentic flight among desk top yoke systems. The product includes a sturdy cast aluminum yoke handle, and the chassis is constructed with heavy-duty steel sheet metal. Both the yoke and its chassis are finished with a long lasting powder coat, and interior components are manufactured by GoFlight or sourced locally in Oregon. As usual, the yoke system is connected to the user’s computer by a furnished USB cable.
Front view of GoFlight GF-Pro yoke system
The yoke handle is modeled to match a real Boeing 737 NG yoke, including two identical bi-directional spring-centered switches in the left handle. GoFlight recommends that these two switches be programmed for pitch trim and view selection, or the user’s choice of other functions. The left handle also includes a small, thumb-operated hat switch, which is designed for its usual flight simulation function of eight-point view selection in 2D cockpit or panning in virtual cockpit mode.
Left handle, with two 2-way switches, right-facing switch, and trigger switch (not visible)
The button switch on the right side of the left handle is realistically suggested for the “disengage autopilot” function, which is shown as “Autopilot master (on/off)” in the FSX/Controls/Buttons/ assignments list.
On the back sides of both the left and right handles, there are identical trigger switches, which are wired in parallel. These are recommended to be programmed as microphone press-to-talk switches, though again, it’s the user’s choice.
Right handle with Thumb Joystick for controlling the user’s mouse cursor
The right handle also includes what would intuitively be the main hat switch. When I tried it before reading the Manual, I noticed that the mouse cursor was jumping around the screen. I was surprised to learn that it’s called a “Thumb Joystick” for controlling your mouse.
I suppose it could also be called “mouse hat switch,” as moving it moves the mouse cursor on the screen. Pushing it performs the usual function of clicking to select what’s being pointed to.
A checklist placard, nicely printed on durable, powder coated metal, is mounted in the center of the yoke, with sections for Before Takeoff, Cleared for Takeoff, After Takeoff, Descent - Approach, and Landing. Presumably, this matches the checklist placard on a real B737 NG yoke.
Checklist on yoke, printed on metal placard
The chassis is somewhat streamlined and very heavy duty. The total of weight of the product is about 20 pounds (~9 kilos). The chassis is provided with two mounting clamps that extend downward from the front corners of the chassis, to provide an opening of about 1¾ inch (~46 mm) and rearward projection of about one inch (~25 mm).
Step by step installation instructions are nicely explained in the Manual, and it’s quite simple. As there is no driver to load, the first step is to connect the furnished USB cable between the yoke chassis and the computer. Here are the simplified steps.
- With Windows 7, click the Windows Start button and then click Devices and Printers.
- Next, place the mouse cursor over the icon for the “GoFlight YOKE” and right click to expose the seven item selection list, from which you select “Game controller settings.”
- The last action will cause a standard UI to pop up, with a drop-down list of currently connected controllers, one of which will be the “GoFlight YOKE.”
- Click to highlight the “GoFlight YOKE” and then click Properties.
- Check that the Settings tab is active and click “Calibrate.”
- The standard Windows 7 calibration Wizard UI will pop up, which should be followed to calibrate the yoke.
- The calibration Wizard may call for moving the Z axis while you’re calibrating the yoke. Ignore this step, as the Z axis is assigned to another axis, such as rudder pedals.
- After calibration is completed, click the Test tab, after which the Test UI will appear
- Test pitch and roll axes, buttons, and switches, including hat switch, which is selected in the image above for a right side or “three o’clock” view, as depicted by the red arrow. It’s helpful for making assignments in flight simulator program controls interfaces, to map the numbers to the buttons and switches on the yoke. Note also that this Windows 7 interface provides lights for 13 buttons or switches, but only numbers 1 though 6 are used with this product.
Experience and Comments
- Using this yoke provides a very professional look and feel, compared to competitive products, and I would expect it to be especially popular with home cockpit builders. It’s big, it’s beefy, and it’s designed and constructed to be very durable. The arrangement of the usual buttons and switches is very realistic in comparison to a real airliner yoke, and the additional buttons are useful for flight simulation, including the innovative thumb joystick for controlling mouse actions.
- For readers considering purchases of this product, the price is significantly higher than typical “flying your desk” yokes, though it is larger, heavier, and more durable. For home cockpit builders and simulator enthusiasts looking for ultimate realism, it’s likely reasonable compared to the costs of other home cockpit accessories. There’s a lot to like about this product, and I offer a few miscellaneous information items to close this review.
- Users will find the clamping design more effective, and also more protective of a mounting surface such as a table edge, if they use the small rubber pads that are included in the small plastic bag provided with the product. The pads should be placed under the four bottom corners of the chassis and on the upper sides of the horizontal clamping arms. The Velcro strips in the kit should be used under the chassis end away from the clamps, to keep that end of the chassis from lifting if too much downward force is inadvertently exerted on the yoke.
- For alternative and perhaps more durable mounting, it would be nice to have the chassis bottom provided with pre-drilled mounting holes with PEM nuts pre-installed in the holes, such as found on one manufacturer’s lower priced yoke products. If mounting holes were added, a corresponding dimensional drilling template could be furnished, along with identification of the applicable bolt size to fit the PEM nuts.
- I found the left handle view hat switch to be uncomfortable to operate with my left thumb because of its small size. I also had trouble pointing the hat switch precisely to each of the eight view sectors, with the right quarter view the most difficult for me to select for some reason. A slightly larger hat surface would be better.
- The thumb joystick mouse controller is quite innovative, and I would think this would be very popular with home cockpit builders. In relation to my usual mouse’s cursor speed, the thumb joystick device moved the cursor much too fast on my system. Its speed can be adjusted by selecting the Windows Control Panel, and then Mouse, on the Pointer Options tab. Unfortunately this adjustment will also affect (slowdown on my system) the cursor speed of the user’s default mouse if it’s also connected. It’s probably best to connect only one or the other.
- Finally, real pilots nearly always complain about the need for spring centering of pitch and roll control with flight simulation yokes, because there are no centering springs in real aircraft yokes. We accept the need for centering the yoke for simulation, but we don’t necessarily like it. The centering spring forces of this product are significant in comparison to typical lower-priced yokes, though this certainly provides “heavy metal” feel. For users of smaller yokes, it will take some time getting used to. Looking under the cover, it appears that concerned users could change the springs to meet their personal preferences.
Overall conclusion: nice product, heavy-duty, realistic for airliners, well-equipped with buttons and switches, and a worthwhile addition to GoFlight’s product line.