Hardware

The enjoyment of flight simulation and/or the effectiveness of its use in training is directly correlated to how well controls are replicated: A HOTAS (Hands on throttle and stick) setup and solid rudder pedals will allow you to effectively pilot everything from a small Cirrus to a supersonic jet fighter. That said, there is a point of diminishing returns when it comes to purchasing such equipment–which is to say the most super high-fidelity joysticks, throttles, pedals, etc. are well outside the budget of most consumers (several thousand dollars for functioning military-grade replicas). However, here are several options available on a budget that are not only realistic, but durable, and both are key. It’s easy to bite off on products that are a bit cheaper that others, look cool, and have a sweet marketing approach. Yes, they’ll work well for the first month or so (usually); but eventually, they will wear out. Gimbals will break, buttons will stop functioning, and the plastic parts that were supposed to glide around smoothly simply won’t anymore, and the money you thought you saved will be long gone if you want to keep flying. Trust us: there’s a golden expense threshold when selecting the right set of HOTAS (hands on throttle and stick) controllers and rudder pedals. We’ve tried just about every option available–and by tried, we’re talking about hundreds of hours of civilian style general aviation simulation, large multiplayer combat exercises, and precision formation and aerobatic flying. Below are the best all-around flight control options, in order:hotaswarthog

HOTAS

  1. Thrustmaster HOTAS Warthog
  2. Thrustmaster HOTAS Cougar (These are getting hard to find. Awesome quality, but no longer in production!)
  3. CH Products Fighterstick with CH Products Pro Throttle USB

Rudder Pedals

  1. Saitek Pro Combat Rudder Pedals
  2. Saitek Pro Flight Rudder Pedals
  3. CH Products Pro Pedals
  4. Thrustmaster TFRP Flight Rudder Pedals

saitekprocombatpedals

Head tracking is an essential part of a realistic flight simulation experience. The technology is well-developed, and cheap. If you don’t want to pursue a full virtual reality setup such as Oculus Rift, making use of TrackIR 5 will enhance both the effectiveness of your setup as a training tool and your effectiveness in a multiplayer environment. Head tracking allows you to look around the cockpit intuitively and frees up joystick hat switches to be used for their real and important, such as trim. Especially in a combat or formation flying environment, you will simply be ineffective without some sort of head tracking hardware. It’s a relatively inexpensive way to greatly increase the fidelity of your home cockpit setup–don’t ignore it!

Finally, a solid gaming headset, while not absolutely critical to a flight simulator, is a must-have if you intend to do any multiplayer flying. You’ll want something with a wide audio range and drivers created to take full advantage of the audio experience modern day simulation software offers, a quality microphone for clear, professional communication with other players, and durability so that your investment lasts. Additionally, TrackIR’s trackclip pro is designed to be mounted to a headset platform, and the combination will take your setup light years beyond where most end up. We recommend the following:

  1. HyperX Cloud Revolver Gaming Headset for PC & PS4 (HX-HSCR-BK/NA)hyperxleadin-620x350
  2. SteelSeries Siberia 350
  3. Logitech G231 Prodigy