• Getting To Grips With A Yoke

    Getting To Grips With A Yoke

    By Bob May

    This article is really for those who are contemplating buying a yoke for the first time. If you already use one you will have already gone through the experiences that I had but you may find it interesting anyhow.

    A few words about my starting point. I have been simming for 14 years from FS98 through FSX and for all this time I have used a joystick. At first it was the Microsoft Sidewinder and then about six years ago when the old Sidewinder got a bit sloppy in the springs I changed to a Saitek AV8R which I love. The AV8R introduced me to the two lever throttle, very handy when taxiing a DC3 or docking a Twin Otter seaplane. Mostly I fly light twins and small turboprop airliners and for those a yoke would be more realistic.

    My real world flying experience is limited to one summer with a gliding club and an uncompleted flying course in a Cessna 150. This was many, many years ago, I was then, and still am, a wannabe pilot.

    I have not counted the hours of simulated flight that I've done but it must amount to a thousand or more and I reckoned myself to be pretty good. Bad weather flying? I take it in my stride. Crosswind landings and wind shear? I learned how to to cope with them. Difficult approaches? Bring 'em on!

    However, from my earliest flight simming days I envied those who had a yoke. I hankered after one. The main reason why I didn't have one is the obvious one, they are not cheap, but there were other reasons. Not all FS models suit a yoke, what about the helicopters that I like to fly now and again? What about the jet fighters? Would having a yoke installed on my desk prevent me from ever again flying these?

    Being now retired and having more time on my hands, and also having less financial pressures now that my two kids have flown the nest I thought it about time to take the plunge and invest in a yoke. What if it turns out to be no good, or I don't like it, or I miss my helicopters and jet fighters so much that I want to revert to my AV8R? Well, I figured that it would be sad, but not the end of world, I could always sell the yoke on eBay.

    After looking at the available yokes I chose the Saitek Pro Flight system which comes with a nice looking throttle quadrant. The reason for my choice is not of major relevance to this article, I'm not plugging or dissing any particular make, as far as I know they all do the same job, but I suppose my previous satisfactory experience with the Saitek AV8R swayed my choice. The Saitek Pro Flight package does not include rudder pedals but I had committed myself to just over a hundred pounds worth of kit and a set of rudder pedals would double that so I decided that setting the FSX control option to 'auto rudder' would be a satisfactory alternative. Big mistake!

    I ordered it online and waited.

    Three days later a big box arrived. A word of warning guys, this is not something you can smuggle into the house without the wife noticing! Somehow I had not expected it to be so big and so heavy. On opening the box I was confronted with something resembling a giant egg box with moulded compartments. It contained the yoke, the throttle quadrant, various cables, a packet of small screws, a CD and a little blue book.

    The book was a bit of a let down, its 74 pages contained only 16 pages in English. I had expected something like that sheet of instructions that you get when buying a flat-pack bookcase but the assembly instructions were limited to a few words and two small pictures. However, assembly turned out to be a pretty straightforward business.

    The yoke itself was already assembled and ready to go and the bracket that fixes it to the desk slots easily into the front of the yoke and is fixed by turning a large thumbscrew under the desk until you can turn it no more. It's just a fancy G cramp really. The yoke has soft rubber feet which squash down to give a really firm fixing, if you pull hard back on the yoke your desk will move before the yoke housing moves.

    The throttle quadrant takes a bit more time to install and you need a cross head screwdriver, this is because you have a choice of positions to mount the quadrant, either on top of the desk or lower down with the top of the quadrant level with the edge of the desk. After trying both I chose the former position. I had given some thought to the positioning of the throttle quadrant even before it arrived. I wanted a realistic layout so the throttle must be on my right side where it is in real planes.

    The rest of the set-up was simple, the cable from the quadrant plugs into the yoke and the cable from the yoke plugs into the nearest USB port. Job done. No calibration is required, the default settings suit FSX and FS2004. I was impressed, there is nothing flimsy about this package, it looks and feels solid.

    So, there I was sitting in the captain's seat with the the yoke in my left hand and the other hand resting on the throttle lever ready to go flying. I was a little concerned that the clock/timer display on the yoke was blank but I discovered a bit later that this function comes to life after the installation CD is run for the first time, and I was impressed to see that it showed exactly the right time, obviously the program on the CD links the yoke to the computer clock. In case you're wondering, the clock cannot display FS time.

    OK, time to choose a plane for my first yoked up flight. I love the Carenado Cessna 337 Skymaster so that was my choice. I chose an airfield at sea level with no nearby mountains and set fair weather with no wind; well it was my first try with a yoke.

    Sitting on the runway with the props ticking over I tried out the controls. I had read reviews saying that the yoke was sticky in the pitch axis so I gave it few pulls and twists. It was a bit sticky. I have some very light oil that is used to lubricate hair clippers so I put a few drops on the metal yoke shaft and tried again. That fixed it.

    I was a bit worried that the auto rudder setting might affect taxi control so I cracked open the throttle and rolled slowly down the runway to try a few turns. It worked OK, she weaved and turned as I turned the yoke like a car steering wheel and, after I had fumbled around and located the brake button, she stopped OK too but in spot view the rudders did not move visually, a pity but not a show stopper.

    At this stage I thought I had better study the button layout illustrated on page 10 of the little blue book. Including the POV hat switch there are six switches on the yoke, three of them are dual purpose up-down so there are nine functions. I tried to memorize them and didn't do a very good job of it, but hey, that will come with familiarization. Time to drill some holes in the sky!

       

    The Carendo Skymaster has a good view from the virtual cockpit so I adjusted my seat height, put my left hand on the yoke, right hand on the throttle. I had planned a simple left hand circuit and landing, easy peasy.

    Throttle smoothly forward, off we go. No torque swing to worry about in the Skymaster and no crosswind so this will be an easy take off run, or so I thought.

    Tags: saitek, yoke

    23 Comments
    1. BobK's Avatar
      BobK -
      One comment to the author: if you have the USB ports available, leave both the joystick and the yoke plugged in all the time. You'll find they both work fine.
    1. bobmay's Avatar
      bobmay -
      It's now about six weeks since I wrote the above article and a postscript is due....
      Firstly, BobK is quite right, there is no need to unplug the your joystick when using the yoke.
      Secondly, I have now bought the Saitek rudder pedals. Installation was pretty straightforward but I had to retire my beloved high back executive chair (on castors) because using the pedals entails twisting and pushing motions of the body that move the chair around ! The pedals are accurate and well made and the toe brakes work fine.
      Back to my flying lessons ...
    1. clutchcargo's Avatar
      clutchcargo -
      Just a tip, if you use up the USB ports on the Yoke make sure you have the AC adapter for the yoke. Otherwise, over time, you will blow your board inside your yoke. Didn't get one inside your box? Contact Madcatz and request/order one.

      I have two yokes blow on me. When to Madcatz in person and talked with the service manager. He confirmed that was the culprit. You need that AC adapter. Service there was great by the way. They shipped out two new units to me free of charge (one was out of warranty), no questions asked.

      Nice article.... remember my first time.
    1. maukanet's Avatar
      maukanet -
      Quote Originally Posted by bobmay View Post
      I have now bought the Saitek rudder pedals. Installation was pretty straightforward but I had to retire my beloved high back executive chair (on castors) because using the pedals entails twisting and pushing motions of the body that move the chair around ! The pedals are accurate and well made and the toe brakes work fine.
      Back to my flying lessons ...
      Enjoyed your review!

      I just received my first yoke as well, the Saitek Cessna model, and have only had one 15 minute session - so far so good. I have been debating which pedal set to purchase, the Saitek Cessna pedals are at least $75 more than the Saitek "Standard" model, and I believe the only difference is styling.

      For many years I used "gameport" CH pedals and a CH Flightstick. So I know the pedals add to the realism, but since they only control one axis and the toe brakes I keep thinking the standard set will me fine. Your thoughts?
    1. Dean Talbot's Avatar
      Dean Talbot -
      Great article. I too used a stick for ages (Saitek X45 HOTAS) for military flight sims, but have had the Saitek Pro Yoke and quadrant for about 4 years, and the rudder pedals for around 3 yrs. I totally agree - the Yoke is not easy to use without the pedals - with the pedals, it is a dream. I can't now remember the transition from stick to yoke, but it is a different mindset. I fly helos with the yoke and whilst it feels strange, it's perfectly doable. I also love the programmability of the Saitek gear. As with my X45, the yoke and throttle quadrant are extremely versatile. I have the 3 modes divided into 1 - take/off and landing; 2 - autopilot; 3 - engine controls.
    1. Jimmi_Swe's Avatar
      Jimmi_Swe -
      Very entertaining article, but I don't really agree with this:
      My joystick had suckered me into believing I was a hot shot pilot but as soon as I was confronted with a control set up that resembled and acted like a real plane's controls I had turned into a bumbling beginner.
      Many real airplanes have joysticks - it's not limited to just jet fighters and arcade games... Don't forget the Piper Cub, Citabria, most new light sports aircraft, Diamond (DA20, DA4x, DA5x)., Cirrus SR2x, Cessna 162, 350/400 etc.
      Personally, I use a Saitek X52 Pro for those planes. It has larger, smoother range of travel but the feel is similar to using a simple, cheaper joystick. For planes that have a yoke in real life, I use the excellent Saitek yoke.

      Flying with a yoke is very different in the beginning, but once your brain makes the connection, it's as effortless as the joystick. I agree that rudder pedals are a must, though.
    1. alanmerry's Avatar
      alanmerry -
      I have flown with yoke and pedals almost since I started FS. My CH Products yoke and pedals are now over 10 years old (and several hundred if now thousand hours flying) old and still performing without any problems. Yoke rather than joystick as I tend to fly heavies.
      Also an interesting picture of your hardware setup. This might form an interesting thread. In addition to the yoke and pedals my hardware includes two Saitek throttle controls set up as air brakes + 4 throttles + flaps.
    1. yarba's Avatar
      yarba -
      Enjoyed very much reading your article. I used to use a cheap joystick at the very beginning. after discovering the Saitek yoke set, I continued using it as a rudder and tiller on the ground. I hope you could also learned how to set up throttle parts, i.e, using one axis in reverse action as flaps or another one in speed brakes.
      I am not sure if others will agree but the precision in joystick was a bit better then yoke.
      Enjoy your big boy toys !
    1. 3strokes's Avatar
      3strokes -
      Quote Originally Posted by bobmay View Post
      It's now about six weeks since I wrote the above article and a postscript is due....
      Firstly, BobK is quite right, there is no need to unplug the your joystick when using the yoke.
      Secondly, I have now bought the Saitek rudder pedals. Installation was pretty straightforward but I had to retire my beloved high back executive chair (on castors) because using the pedals entails twisting and pushing motions of the body that move the chair around ! The pedals are accurate and well made and the toe brakes work fine.
      Back to my flying lessons ...
      I had he same problem. Desk chair on wheels.
      I bought two elastic straps with S hooks which I tied to the chair
      and hooked left and right to the inner edges of open drawers.
      They're a bit short but when I have my feet on the pedals and
      push, the chair moves back a couple of inches and a perfect positions.

      I had though of placing a block of wood behind my chair's wheels but
      found that only screwing it into the floor would have kept it steady.
      A 200 Kgs bag of cement would have done the trick.
    1. al280nm's Avatar
      al280nm -
      Quote Originally Posted by clutchcargo View Post
      Just a tip, if you use up the USB ports on the Yoke make sure you have the AC adapter for the yoke. Otherwise, over time, you will blow your board inside your yoke. Didn't get one inside your box? Contact Madcatz and request/order one.

      I have two yokes blow on me. When to Madcatz in person and talked with the service manager. He confirmed that was the culprit. You need that AC adapter. Service there was great by the way. They shipped out two new units to me free of charge (one was out of warranty), no questions asked.

      Nice article.... remember my first time.
      Hi there all!

      I have been using the Saitek yoke and two throttle quadrants together plus rudder pedals and the expirience has been fanstastic.
      what you wrote i found to be very interesting, question? using a 4 usb external port with AC adaptor is fine too?? or should i just buy an AC adaptor for the yoke.

      thanks all and happy flights

      nuno
    1. bobmay's Avatar
      bobmay -
      You will see in the picture in my article above that I have a 10 way USB hub on my desk which was not expensive. This has it's own AC adapter and more than copes with all my USB needs without using the USB ports on the yoke.
    1. btwallis's Avatar
      btwallis -
      I have the same, the yoke, throttles, pro pedal but also added the trim wheel which again adds a little more emersion. And this winter I added a 40" monitor and now run two monitors the 40" for flying and the 23" for running plan G, showing charts and other supporting stuff.

      I still use the joystick for helicopters of course.

      I want to add the set of light switches and gear lever - the Saitek Pro Flight Switch Panel.
    1. crezipp's Avatar
      crezipp -
      I have the Saitek Yoke for 6 years now. After 2 years the display went blank. After 3 years i added the seperate throttles. After I think 4 years the original throttles weren't working that well anymore [spikes, points with no output] The same for the extra quadrant. Bought a new quadrant. At the moment I'm waiting for my order at the cheapest shop for a complete new Yoke+ throttles [ordered over a month ago at SiComputers Rotterdam NL]
      I realy like the Saitek Yoke but the internal regulators aren't realy good enough, Saitek should do something about that. I have setup the Yoke with it's software and by editing the controls XML of FSX.
      Does it feel like a real plane like the author suggests? No - actually a real plane is easier to handel! [is it due to "X" or the yoke?] Does it give ME the feeling of handeling a real plane? Yes!
      @ BobK: The new Yoke won't be in the USB ports all of the time because i think that is what killed the display.
      One more thing Nels, get yourself the Saitek rudder pedals as well it's worth it!
    1. henri5's Avatar
      henri5 -
      It is more difficult to land with auto-rudder than using the rudder keys with your fingers. The main reason is that you cannot slip without turning when a bit off to the side. Add wind and it becomes practically a roller coaster. My advice is to NEVER have auto-rudder on. Of course now that you have rudder pedals you won't have that problem. I just imagine that my two fingers are my feet...

      And BTW, all the Airbus aircraft have joysticks instead of yokes.
    1. shermank's Avatar
      shermank -
      Hi Bob....glad that you are enjoying the yoke, and I urge you save up and get rudder pedals. They add to the immersion immeasurably, and really will allow you better control, especially in cross wind landings and takeoffs. since you like the twin engine round engines, please accept my invitation to join similar pilots at www.dc3airways.com Take a look around, and if you like what you see, I hope you will sign on. You will find a very helpful group of people, loads of information about the DC3, and great opportunities for online multiplay flight if that is your choice. We have several pilots who live in the UK, and I think you will feel right at home. and, for anyone reading this, it is an open invitation.

      Sherman Kaplan
      dca662
    1. max_gradient's Avatar
      max_gradient -
      Buying a yoke without rudder pedals is quite pointless. Furthermore the failures on your first flight were more related to uncommon controls than to realism. In the end its the same control inputs as with the stick, you just need to get used to it. Most of the planes I fly have a stick so realism isnt an an issue, just depends on what you fly.
    1. DCA996's Avatar
      DCA996 -
      I would second the comments made by Sherman above as a fellow member of DC3 Airways.


      I also strongly recommend configuring the axes for aileron, elevator, toe brakes and rudder via FSUIPC to adapt it to get th enull zones and reaction to your inoputs as realistic and fine tuned as possible. Also, with regard to the chair, somewhere on the internet is a tutorial as to how to create a wooden board to tape the pedals to (CH in my case) with a small 2" x 4" hole for the leading castor wheel of the chair so that when using the pedals the chair won't move.

      I am about to create a new one to better fit my height (6 foot) as the dimensions supplied better fitted someone who was 5' 9" and therefore I am always uncomfortably close to the pedals.
    1. betelgeuse's Avatar
      betelgeuse -
      Anchor your chair by cutting slots for the front wheels in a piece of old carpet. Works for me.

      John
    1. jamminjames's Avatar
      jamminjames -
      I bought a Saitek pro yoke and really enjoyed it. Only problem is it quit working within 9 months of purchase. Lost vertical axis and could not get anyone to fix it.
    1. graemecarrellis's Avatar
      graemecarrellis -
      Hi Bob,

      I've been using the same Saitek yoke for about two years now, along with some cheap(ish) rudder pedals. Love all the switches, throttle and the timer! I've found that using an old VNC chart in conjunction with the timer makes watch-to map-to ground navigation immensely satisfying and fun. One thing that I absolutely, positively cannot stand about it, however, is the lack of "feel". With a joystick, it didn't really bother me, but with such a large yoke, it is just too easy to over-control. I have some time in a 172, and I know that you really do have to push and pull to get the thing to do anything! I'd say the tensions should be ten times what they are presently to give me the sense of realism I'm looking for.

      Best of luck, and happy flying!