• Review: Thrustmaster Pendular Rudder System

    Thrustmaster Rudders
    The Link Trainer, from the 1930's

    When flight simulation became a tool of flight training, in the 1930's, the yaw axis was included, with rudder pedals in the crude simulators like the famous Link Blue Canoe, known in the nascent airline industry of the time as the Captain Humbilizer! The depiction of rudder pedal movement and airplane yaw became more sophisticated over time, and today the big FAA Level D sims all feature very accurate yaw response as well as yaw motion. On the other hand, the first PC based flight simulator, Sublogic Flight Simulator, had only a rudimentary level of yaw included, and most of us (at least those of us who were real world pilots) ignored it since there was, at the time, no control other than the keyboard that had influence over the rudder. Yaw modeling has gotten better over the years, particularly in add-on airplanes, and eventually controllers were developed to bring access to the rudder away from the keyboard and within our grasp; literally, in the early stages, since the first yaw axis control was a new axis of the joystick, which was constructed to twist left and right in the hand to control the rudder (if selected).

    Thrustmaster Rudders
    Schematic of the Boeing 767 rudder control system

    This actually worked well enough that some of us, yours truly included, stayed with it right up until today. This is, in part, because the first "rudder pedals" for PC flight simulation were execrable -- cheesy plastic toys that slid fore and aft and had no feel and no impression of realism in operation. I tried them early on and was utterly underwhelmed. And so it was that I got used to the twisting joystick, to the point that I occasionally wondered why Airbus did not incorporate that into the A320 and its follow-ons.

    Since I was comfortable with the twisting stick, I was oblivious to the development of more realistic rudder pedal hardware over the last few years. Indeed, it was not until I got involved in this project that I came to realize that there are actually a number of somewhat high end rudder pedal products out there. But since I am not in any sense a cockpit builder (due to lack of computer knowledge and skill, if for no other reason) I was loath to part with any hard earned dollars for anything other than faster and more powerful computers and the actual flight sim programs.

    Now fast forward to the day, around a month ago, that a large box arrived on my front porch, mere days before I was scheduled to undergo long-avoided shoulder surgery. Thrustmaster had, as I indicated in my review of their T-1 Flight headset, also offered to make available their new Pendular Rudder System for my perusal and review. I had seen these units in operation at Oshkosh, at the large and very popular Thrustmaster exhibit in one of the main exhibit buildings, ironically in the very location where, years ago, Microsoft was once a major exhibitor of the various iterations of Flight Simulator. The Thrustmaster booth was so popular, as it turned out, that I did not have time to actually sample any of their products, so long were the lines awaiting a turn. But now I was to have my chance.

    I decided to at least unbox and assemble the TPR rudder pedal unit right away, before I went under the knife and lost the use of an arm for several months. Thus I opened the big box, and after extracting the actual TPR box from the outer protective shipping box I set about assembling the unit. It comes very well cushioned in Styrofoam packing, and is insulated against all but the most determined efforts at shipping sabotage. My unit was in perfect condition, and after gathering all of the pieces I perused the instruction manual for some assembly insights. This manual initially looks to be quite comprehensive, being nearly the size of an old style paperback novel. But like so many others these days, the bulk is deceptive; it is a modern day Rosetta Stone, containing within itself enough languages to keep the entire UN translation staff busy! The actual English portion is a mere 14 pages long, but it is complete enough that even a mechanical tyro like myself can put the unit together without much fuss. They thoughtfully include a full set of tools, so you need not rush out to Home Depot in the middle of putting this together.

    Thrustmaster Rudders
    Connecting the pedal to the brake sensor, with a variety of positions to choose from

    1. flapman's Avatar
      flapman -
      Thank you for the review. I am seriously considering these as I have just bought a Thrustmaster Warthog HOTAS
    1. Sporg9's Avatar
      Sporg9 -
      I saw your review recommend on the Thrustmaster Facebook page.
      However, have you checked out pedals in the same price range?
      There are quite a few, and I think they are better quality than even these Thrustmaster pedals.
      Look for MFG Crosswind (slightly cheaper), Slaw (same price but wastly better), Baur (if you can get these, otherwise check out VirPil in the future).
      I think you will find that there are a few quality offerings out there.
      In this price segment Thrustmaster faces fiercer competition than one might be aware of.
      Only disadvantage is that these pedals are from smaller manufacturers (sometimes single person), so might involve some lead time before you can get them, if they are at all available. I think the MFG are the most available ones for now.
    1. kirk66's Avatar
      kirk66 -

      MFG Crosswinds are great if you want to fly a Bf-109 - but NO aircraft made these days have that type of rudder pedal (feet ON the pedals). TPR is a much better representation of modern (or even US WW2) rudder pedals.

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