Review by Doug Horton. I was particularly interested in reviewing these controls because I fly a real Cessna Skylane 182S airplane. I wrote this article a few months before rejoining AVSIM Online, and noting that Ray Marshall had previously reviewed Saitek’s Cessna controls for AVSIM in March 2012, I questioned whether publishing my review made sense.
Fortunately, Reviews Editor Robert Whitwell suggested, “Any hardware review will be welcomed with open arms, even if it's a revisit of something we covered last year. There are always new readers and our dedicated readers who appreciate a view from different eyes.” So, here it is.
Saitek Pro Flight Cessna Yoke
In comparing the Saitek Pro Flight Cessna Yoke, Pedals, and Trim Wheel with the real controls in my partnership airplane, Saitek has done a great job in modeling the look and feel of the real controls. There are some similarities and some differences in the buttons and switches between the Saitek and real yokes, but these are likely because of differences in real Cessna yoke options in different airplane models and generations. Happily, there are enough buttons and switches on the Saitek Cessna yoke and accompanying throttle quadrant to satisfy most users. There are also some small differences in size between the real and flight simulation products, but these are not an issue.
Saitek Pro Flight Cessna Yoke
According to Saitek, their Pro Flight Cessna Yoke System “is engineered to meet the exacting needs of the most demanding flight simulation enthusiast, providing a smooth, authentic, and realistic flight simulation experience.” Features include:
- Accurately scaled yoke handle, as found in Cessna light aircraft
- Durable stainless steel shaft with precision bearings, to provide smooth and predictable elevator and aileron control
- 8-position POV Hat Switch; 3-position Mode Switch; 3 axis levers on throttle quadrant; two buttons, and other switches, as shown in the accompanying diagram
The Pro Flight Cessna Yoke and Throttle Quadrant include many realistic buttons, levers, and switches.
In comparing the Saitek Cessna with a competitor’s model that I’ve been using for years, there’s a great difference in the construction, as well as the “look and feel.” One of the greatest differences has to do with the yoke shaft and bearings, which seem much better engineered in the Saitek product, as well as the shaft being polished metal with the Saitek product, compared to plastic with the competitive model.
Saitek Throttle Quadrant
The Saitek Cessna Yoke package includes the three-lever throttle quadrant, the features of which include:
- Additional switches to configure any combination of throttle, flaps, mixture, or prop speed/pitch
- All three control levers have detents for minimum settings, with below-detent contacts that can be set for actions such as thrust reversing or prop featuring.
- There are also three two-way switches below the quadrant levers that can be set for various functions.
The Throttle Quadrant included with the Cessna Yoke product appears to be identical what has been available separately for purchasers of the original to Saitek yoke product. It’s provided with levers, and its authenticity depends on what model of Cessna airplane is considered. For example, Cessna aircraft such as the Caravan and Citation models do have lever controls for throttle, prop, and mixture, but the numerous Cessna 172, 182, and similar models have push-pull controls, some of which, such as prop and mixture, also have Vernier adjustments.
Saitek Pro Flight Throttle Quadrant
Saitek’s TPM product, which is discussed below, might be a better choice for those who prefer push-pull controls, but I’ve kept the lever-type product connected because I simulate flying many different aircraft. With the lever controls, I particularly like using the included switches. I have the throttle’s below-detent switch, instead of default F2 key, set for reverse thrust [Throttle (decrease quickly) in the controls settings], and I have the prop lever’s below-detent switch set for Propeller (feather), which does not have a default setting. The three rocker switches below the levers are easily programmed for landing gear and flaps, among other options.
Saitek Pro Flight Cessna Rudder Pedals
Saitek’s Cessna Rudder Pedals are inspired by designs found in Cessna light aircraft. Construction is solid and robust, and authentic except for slightly smaller size than in real aircraft. Features include:
- Authentic Cessna pedal design
- Self-centering pedals, with adjustable damping
- Independent braking axis for each pedal, for precise control when braking, and for differential braking
Saitek Pro Flight Rudder Pedals
Saitek Cessna Trim Wheel
According to Saitek, their officially licensed Cessna Trim Wheel “brings flight simulation enthusiasts closer to reality than ever before, using the actual trim wheel found in Cessna® 172 Skyhawk and 182 Skylane aircraft.” Well, not quite, but close, as described later. Its features include:
- Unique, two–position desk clamp keeps the trim wheel securely fixed, no matter how extreme the flying conditions,
- Nine turns of revolution, to recreate the genuine Cessna control movement
- Trim Wheel can be mounted either on top or in front of desk or table. it can be attached below and outward from the throttle quadrant, sharing the throttle quadrant’s bracket
Saitek Pro Flight Cessna Trim Wheel
Though the Pro Flight trim wheel is similar to the real Cessna trim wheel, it lacks the pointer and scale found on real elevator trim wheels in real Cessna aircraft. The pointer and scale are important, particularly prior to takeoff, to ensure that trim is set in the proper, marked range. Otherwise, the aircraft might be inadvertently trimmed nose up, which might be left over from a nose up trim setting for landing. If not reset to the indicated range of trim for takeoff, this might contribute to a power-on stall on the next takeoff.
The good news is that the default Cessna 172 in FSX, and the Cessna 182S from FS2004, which can be copied to FSX, have fully functioning and realistic trim scales and operating pointers displays in 2D and virtual cockpit views. In my FSX installation, the elevator trim pointer moves appropriately in both 2D and virtual cockpit views when I move the Pro Flight Cessna trim wheel.
FS2004 Cessna 182S, operating in FSX, with elevator trim wheel, pointer, and scale highlighted
An added bonus is that the Saitek Pro Flight Cessna trim wheel connects with other aircraft models with pitch trim indicators and/or trim wheel displays, such as with the trim wheels of most FSX default aircraft, including with the Boeing 737-800 throttle quadrant, as shown in the accompany image. Moving the Saitek trim wheel causes the 737’s dual trim wheels and pointers to move. Note the green sector for the allowable take-off trim setting.
FSX default Boeing 737-800 throttle quadrant, showing dual pitch trim indicators in the green sector for take-off
Cessna Controls Settings
All Saitek Cessna series controller are compatible with FS2004, FSX, X-Plane, and most other flight simulation programs. They are all compatible with Windows 7, Vista, and XP, 32-bit and 64-bit.
Both the yoke and pedals include an installation disk and brief installation instructions, which include installation of applicable drivers, as well as optional installation of Saitek’s Smart Technology software, which allows precision calibration of the Cessna controls products.
After installation, you’ll find icons for each of the controls in your Windows Notification tray, on the right-hand side of your Taskbar, if you’re running it at the bottom of your screen. Right-clicking each of these will enable you to open controls interfaces for each respective controller, which provide for testing all functions, such as shown in accompanying image for the yoke and throttle quadrant. Note that the throttle quadrant plugs into the yoke and shares its USB connector; hence, a combined settings display.
Controller test interface for Saitek Cessna yoke and throttle quadrant
My real yoke has a microphone press-to-talk button on the front of the left hand grip, and there is a corresponding button on the Saitek Cessna Yoke that could be set for this purpose. In slight contrast, there are two differences on the left-hand grip, from my real yoke, as the Saitek Cessna Yoke has a small eight-directional hat switch, which of course is not part of real Cessna controls, and there is a 4-way rocker switch that could logically be used for control for two axes, to simulate my real yoke, which has only a two-way (fore and aft) rocker switch that is used for elevator (pitch attitude) electric trim control. The Saitek Yoke has both left/right and fore and aft rocker switches on the right hand grip, while my real yoke only a mic button, with no switches on its right-hand side.
I’m very impressed with the designs, functions, and quality, which is very welcome at the current selling prices. Setting up the controls for FSX was simple, because installation of yoke and pedals drivers added appropriate controls settings sections to FSX's Standard.xml file, which were immediately utilized by FSX. On the other hand, I needed to download a driver from the Saitek website for the Trim Wheel, and after running the driver setup file, I verified that moving the wheel was visible on its Game Controllers setting display. Using the usual procedure to set a control axis function, I was unable to see the trim wheel pitch axis detected and appearing in the settings box. Finally, I found an FAQ for setting this function, in the Support section of Saitek’s website, which suggested the following procedure:
- Connect the Pro Flight Cessna Trim wheel and launch FSX.
- Go to Settings > Controls > Control Axis.
- Select "Cessna Trim Wheel" in the Controller type drop down menu.
- Scroll down to "Elevator Trim Axis" and click on "Change Assignment."
So far, so good, and this is the point in the procedure where I was not seeing results. The key is the next step:
Rotate the trim wheel 3-5 times in the same direction until the word "Trim" appears in the assignment box, and then click Okay.
My problem with this setting was that I was moving the wheel up and down, without continuing in the same direction for 3-5 times. After I moved it downward a few times, it registered “Trim” in the assignment box, I clicke Okay, and I was done – another confirmation that it pays to “read the manual,” or in this case, “read the FAQ.”
The FAQ continues with “Depending on how your previous axis assignments were configured, you may need to make additional changes, like making sure that there is not a key assigned or a joystick function assigned to the same axis, (and) delete any conflicts as needed” though I did not need to change or delete any assignments
Saitek TPM System
For those concerned with the accuracy of levers versus push-pull controls, Saitek sells a so-called TPM (throttle, prop, mixture) System. Its push-pull controls seem to be slightly larger than the real controls, and they lack a fine screw (Vernier) adjustments on the prop and mixture controls, as found in real Cessna airplanes.
The TPM also includes nine toggle switches, labeled G1 through G9, which share and extend the control enclosure. I wish that some of these were rocker switches (On-Off-On) instead of toggle switches (On-On) to allow more flexibility in settings, such as for gear and flaps.
Saitek TPM (throttle, prop, mixture) System
Because the TPM System sells for about 75% of the price of combined Cessna Yoke and Throttle Quadrant package, at time of writing, the latter would likely be the choice of most users, particularly in view of the detent and rocker switches that are provided with the quadrant product. An alternative would be for Saitek to package and sell the Cessna Yoke in two versions – one with the throttle quadrant and the other with the TPM.
The Saitek Pro Flight Cessna line of controls, including yoke and throttle, pedals, and trim wheel, are well-designed and very well constructed assembled. The “look and feel,” as well as the steel shaft and bearings on the yoke shaft, are significantly better than on the long-popular competitive yoke. There are an abundance of buttons and switches on the yoke and throttle quadrant, which can be programmed as desired. I particularly like the detent and associated switches that are activated by moving the throttle, prop, and mixture levers below the detents. These can be programmed easily for setting features such as thrust reversing and prop feathering.
Though it may not have been intentional in the design of the yoke, the flat surface on top of the yoke enclosure is great for placing a mini or even full size keyboard on top. My only wish, as related to modeling accuracy of the trim wheel, would be that Saitek had provided the pointer and scale function that is provided with the real Cessna trim wheel. These are extremely important for setting the proper range of elevator trim for takeoff and other flight regimes. On the other hand, the fact that the Saitek trim wheel operates trim wheel displays in other FSX cockpits, is an added bonus.