I've recently been working on my actual IFR rating after being a private pilot for about 2 years, and I wanted to dust off my simulator for practice as I can't fly as often as I'd like. I only had a Saitek X52 previously which worked ok, but seemed impractical as a Cessna 182 simulator controller. So I went looking for a more Cessna-like yoke and stumbled on the Saitek Pro-Flight set of products, and went a little crazy... here's my experience if anyone is looking into using these products.
The hardware: (everything is Saitek Pro Flight)
-Yoke and Throttle quadrant. (These come together, the throttle quadrant is a "Piper" style which I didn't use)
-Cessna throttle quadrant.
-Multi Panel (Autopilot, flaps, and pitch trim wheel)
-BIP (Annunciator panel)
-8x Instrument Panels.
Unpacking everything and screwing them all together took about 3 hours. Everything but the Yoke came with screws that could be twisted by hand, which was nice as getting a screwdriver into the tight spaces would have been a challenge. Mounting the instruments to the yoke requires a hex wrench.
Everything needs a USB port, and everything draws power from the USB port only. With this setup I needed 15 powered USB ports.
There is an optional power supply for the Yoke, which is essential as it will power the 3 ports on the Yoke. The switch panel, rudder, and BIP were plugged into the Yoke. The yoke was plugged directly into the PC.
Throttle quandrant plugged right into PC
1 Instrument panel plugged right into PC
5 instrument panels and the Radios/Multi panel plugged into a powered 7 port USB 2.0 hub.
I was unable to power the other 2 instrument panels even though I had two more USB ports on my PC they just wouldn't power up, I'll need yet another powered hub. (They do power up, they're not broken, they just wont power up with everything else plugged in)
Overview of the components:
-The Cessna style throttle quadrant is really amazing. You can't "twist" the prop or mixture controls like you can in the real plane, but the movements are "Heavy". There is significant drag when you pull and push on the rods and it feels really great. The quandrant also has 9 switches that can be assigned to anything, I'm thinking of setting the up to control the speaker settings for the radios. FSX initially mapped the controls for this to the ailerons and elevator, it has to be configured manually.
-The yoke is quite popular and most of you have probably already used one, I have yet to get it set up properly for flight. Small movements in roll are basically ignored, and moderate movements result in way too big a response, it's very uncomfortable to fly with currently, but I'm sure it can be adjusted better.
-The rudder pedals were a little frustrating to configure, you have to tell FSX the controls are reversed and set up the sensitivity just right so FSX doesn't think the brakes are always on. Now that I have them configured well I love them. They are adjustable to any size of feet. Actuating the brakes and controlling the nose wheel/rudder is very close to real.
-The BIP is nice, but I think it's an unnecessary item for a Cessna 182 simulation. My plane doesn't even have an annunciator panel, and when you're simulating vacuum failure for IFR training it feels like cheating to a have it light up vacuum failure, instead of just noticing your vacuum instruments are gradually failing. The BIP comes with dozens more indicators that can be swapped out by unscrewing the panel open and replacing them, and it's easily programmable with the provided software. Each indicator can be red/yellow/green.
-The switch panel is fun, FSX will not read the state of any of the switches until they are actuated at least once. This means you have to have the switches set correctly before you begin your flight or the sim and your panel will be out of sync. Everything you might need is here, master/alt, av master, all the lights, pitot heat, etc. There is a cowl flaps switch on here. The magneto switch is here too which is fun. Everything just worked out of the box for this one, no configuration needed. Landing gear level and 3 gear indicator lights are here too, but unused for my needs currently.
-The multipanel is also really great. The AP functions just as you would expect it to, and the flaps and pitch trim wheel feel great. This also worked right out of the box, no configuration needed.
-The radio panel is amazing and I'm considering getting a second one. It has a few quirks however. Fine tuning the station is very difficult. IE: Going from 123.05 to 123.075 is a very very very slight movement on the dial, and I frequently go right past it and struggle to get it in. There is also a dial for selecting which radio you are currently controlling. These are COM1, COM2, NAV1, NAV2, and XPDR. This dial is ridiculously hard to turn. So if you are trying to set the NAV radios and change the XPDR signal after your IFR clearance it's a lot more work then you would assume. Switching off the AV master will not turn this panel off. It will just stop working, as the radios are off in the sim. Changing the squawk is a bit strange, the dial will only change the right two numbers of the code. You then have to press the button you would normally press to commit a station change to control the left 2 numbers. There is no indication of which set of numbers you are currently controlling until you turn the dial.
-The instrument panels, are really really cool, but so expensive that I'm not entirely positive they are worth the investment. With the latest updates from Saitek you can set each one to one of about 11 gauges. They are from memory: VOR+LOC, VOR, HSI, Engine Gauges (Fuel flow, EGT, Oil Press/Temp, Fuel Qty), Turn Coordinator, Airspeed (The airspeed indicator is a "steam gauge" but it goes up to 360 knots. It is possible to change this but it's some manual work and configuration changes), Attitude, Altimeter, Vertical Speed, Heading indicator (With HDG Bug).
Each panel has two knobs for controlling various things. Each also has 5 multi-function buttons. The most useful of which were the ATC buttons on the VOR+LOC instrument which let you call up ATC and choose responses/requests without using the keyboard.
There has been much a-do about the delay between what is represented on these gauges vs the sim, and for my setup at least that hasn't been a problem. They are a tiny bit laggy but certainly usable as primary flight instruments.
These just worked as well, however, be careful to install the software for this *last* as the software for the other panels is older and it overwrote the software for these. I had to re-install it after they didn't work.
With FSX showing me *only* MP and RPM and controlling everything with this setup. I was able to make three or four trips around the pattern touch and go's, and one ILS approach to mins perfectly, (Except for the aileron controls being so crazy).
All said and done, I was flying within about 4.5 hours of the boxes arriving at my door, and I really felt like I was in the cockpit of the 182.
This setup is very accessible, minimal assembly time, and seems competitively priced with the other home cockpit solutions available. It's also easy to build it up one piece at a time if you don't want to make the investment all at once.
For anyone thinking about these products, I highly recommend them for what it's worth. My experience could have been much worse given how much hardware I was setting up.
Windows 7 Pro 64bit
Core i7 4Ghz(Overclocked)
Dual ATI Radeon 5700HD (Crossfire linked)
Sorry for the long rant, but information for this stuff was hard to come by so I thought I'd share my experience.