Since most flight simulators are fairly realistic nowadays, you’ll find that it isn’t enough to pilot your plane simply with the keyboard or just a game-pad. Flight-sims almost always have an endless array of buttons since taking to the skies is a complicated thing, and apart from the headache of memorizing all the controls keyboard buttons do not offer the same sensitivity as a yoke, joystick or similar device.
In this article we will look at how you can make your virtual-flying experience more fun by transforming your rig into a virtual cockpit, making it into something old Richtofen himself would be envious of, no doubt.
Controlling your plane
As mentioned, it isn’t feasible to just use your keyboard to control your plane; you might consider investing in one of the following for optimal control-sensitivity and to avoid crash-landings:
Saitek Aviator – The Aviator isn’t an expensive solution for flight sims, and apart from the normal axes it offers twist-rudder controls; this means that apart from being able to move your plane on the X and Y axes you can also move your rudders (the tail) by twisting the joystick. The Aviator also features many buttons and leavers which you can assign to any function, such as launching bombs, rockets or lowering flaps.
CH Products Pro Rudder Pedals – If you just fancy having a standard joystick, without twist controls, you can get these rudder pedals by CH products who also manufacture other flight-sim accessories. Although expensive (try e-bay perhaps), these pedals feel amazing and feature a self-centering sliding mechanism to control your rudders (can also be used in racing games). Recommended if you are serious about PC-flying and have some extra cash to spend.
Saitek Pro-Flight Rudder Pedals – The Saitek pedals are slightly less expensive than the CH Products, and do not have the same feel. They still offer the same precision but the CH Product pedals feel much more realistic due to their design and material used. However they are equally good if you are on a budget.
Yoke System – There are many available by both companies listed above and others such as Elite instruments (highly expensive!). Most are good for controls and the CH yokes come in a variety of prices and features.
‘Foxtrot to Charlie…over’: Comms devices
You might also want headphone that vibrate, offer 5.1 surround and most importantly offer a microphone with which you can communicate the all important formation or issue your ‘mayday’ call.
Audio FX Force Feedback set – Featuring a full 3D sound, bass boost and microphone, these are pretty amazing to own and you can immerse yourself in your favourite flight simulation without discomfort due to the comfy padding. The sound is very clear and the microphone only picks up your voice with no noise or disturbance.
Cyborg 5.1 – Also featuring dolby surround and you can detach the mic should you wish to use them as normal headphones. These are a little flimsy however, but it is to be expected since the price is lower and more accessible.
Pulse 7.1 – Force feedback headphone which make you feel right in the middle of the action, with microphone, flashing lights and comfortable padding. These are recommended as value for money and they offer customisation as well.
There are many other things you could buy, from entire control panels to Air-traffic control instruments! These were not included in this guide however, since they are incredibly expensive and are only recommended for the most serious fanatics of PC flight.