• Review: Thrustmaster Pendular Rudder System

    So much for feel. How do these pedals work with the simulation programs to provide a realistic simulacrum of flight? The quick answer is - very well indeed. First of all, the entire system is recognized by all of the simulation programs that I have (FSX, FSX: Steam, X-Plane 11, FS2, FlyInside) so installation is quick and easy. The pedal system is seen as a separate X, Y and Z axis, and you can assign these three axes to anything you want, although of course it is right and left brake and rudder that we are interested in! In each sim, you can select either the joystick or the TPR assembly individually when assigning axes of control. So it is easy to assign all of your joystick axes and buttons, and then switch to the TPR and assign the three axes to the rudder and brakes (there are no buttons on the TPR). All of the sims will save all of these assignments. The one thing you may want to pay attention to would be to determine the effect of having more than one control in charge of a given function - for example, using something on the stick or yoke to activate all brakes. This particular situation does work, and I still have the trigger set up to activate all brakes at normal application, but you can get away with this because all brakes is a separate command from left and right brake. On the other hand, it does not seem to work to assign both the TPR and the twist of the stick to the rudder axis, nor would you probably want to.

    Once all is assigned and recognized, it's time to fly! Of course, I immediately gravitated to jets, and particularly to three that I have flown extensively in real life - the 767, 757 and the 727, all in X-Plane initially. Now unless I had troubled to input a large crosswind (the crosswind limit on a 767 is around 30 knots!) I had little to do with the rudder initially except for trying it out on taxi as rudder pedal steering, which all jets have and which is used primarily for takeoff, landing, and long straight stretches of taxiway. This function was very realistic to the real airplane, part of which is the result of some good coding on the part of Level D and Flight Factor, but a goodly portion of which is the movement and "feel" of these Pendular Rudders. Rudder pedal steering is usually limited, in big airplanes, to around 5 degrees either way, and the TPR felt just like a real Boeing rudder system as I held closely to the centerline, taxiing to and fro. Same thing for takeoff roll, with only very small inputs needed, and pedal movement very much like I remember it was in the real thing. Once you get airborne, of course, your feet retract along with the landing gear and remain flat on the floor until it is time to land, if then!

    Of course if you are going to spend any money at all on rudder pedals, you will want to start playing in the deep end of the pond, and crank in crosswinds and, (gasp!), engine failures. With a crosswind, both the Level D and the Flight Factor airplanes start heading into the wind early on, thanks to very good flight models. I imagine you would find the same behavior from just about any good add-on these days. This is where the rudder pedals come in, particularly with a crosswind at or near limits. It takes a goodly boot-full of rudder to keep the nose going straight in these conditions, and the TPR system makes it all very realistic, especially with the higher forces toward the end of travel - an area you will definitely explore thoroughly when you try this.

    Crosswind landings were a real revelation, for me at least, because over the years I have found the stick-twist-rudder to be less than realistic, even leaving aside the obvious difference in usage. Of course I get all the fun I can stand from crosswind operations in real life, and so it is easy to forgo this particular amusement in flight simulation. But lo and behold, the TPR makes crosswind landings much more doable and realistic. In fact, and particularly with high-end GA add-ons like the 172 and 182 from A2A, the maneuver is so realistic with these pedals that I imagine you could make a decent stab at training private pilot students in crosswind landings. It is almost as good as the Redbird Crosswind Trainer, and that is saying a lot! Pedal travel and the spring feel are both a good simulacrum of real crosswind operations, especially in the Cessnas I fly these days.

    Of course you aren't a real airline pilot unless you can handle an engine out situation, and it is here that the boys and girls are separated from the men and women. For years, while I was flying the real ones, I used to prepare for recurrent training using the Level D 767 and its various predecessors. This work always included engine out practice, which was made 10 times more difficult by the use of the twist joystick, and also the lack of a copilot to hew wood and carry water during the evolution. Although just about totally unrealistic, the practice was valuable because if you could do it with only the twist of a stick, nailing it in the big sim with pedals was a piece of cake. But now, as I discovered, the practice is much more life-like, as your feets get to do their stuff.

    Thrustmaster Rudders
    Boeing 767 rudder pedals - very close to the size and spacing of the TPR

    The spring loaded TPR system is not quite as much of a leg-full in an engine out situation, but overall it is still very good. In the real airplane, your leg might well start shaking from the exertion of holding near full rudder deflection, at least until you got around to cranking in some rudder trim. If the "airplane" was heavy, this might not be soon. Indeed, the reason that simulator check rides became part of most airlines' interview process in the 1970's was the advent of women applicants at the airline level. There was, initially, some uncertainty in the minds of the men doing the hiring that the "gals" could handle something like a 707 with an outboard engine out. As it turned out, they could; and eventually the sim check turned into more or less of an instrument check, although it still involves an engine out approach.

    Thrustmaster Rudders
    Cessna 172S rudder arrangement

    After I had tried and mastered V1 cuts and engine out approaches in 757's and 767's, as well as the 727 (X-Plane only), I turned to the small plane world and the Cessna 172 and 182 from A2A in FSXSE, as well as the enhanced 172 in X-Plane. Now things were more interesting, because although the engine out approach actually involves no rudder at all (!), just about every other maneuver does. Takeoffs became the pedal dance that they are in real life, with the TPR's providing just about a perfect imitation of the travel and feel of Cessna pedals, if not exactly the same construction and geometry. Throw in a crosswind and the TPR's get a real workout, back and forth as the left turning tendency battles with the weathervane tendency in crosswinds. Very life like indeed. The same on steroids for landings. I cranked in a 15 knot direct crosswind (the limit for small Cessnas) and found that the stick and pedal work was remarkably realistic, with the resulting flight path and landings ranging from a near crash to perfection, just as they do for me in real life! (OK, no near crashes in real life, but a few ugly landings, to be sure!)

    One thing about these, and likely any other computer rudder pedals, is that the way you set them up is important. The TPR's weigh around 15 pounds, as I said before, and although you would think that would be enough for it to stay put, it is not so. They will move around under your inputs unless you have a way to anchor them firmly in place. Serendipitously, placing them in front of my computer at the foot of my desk left them firmly against the front of the desk, unable to move backward, which is what they may do if not restrained. This was OK for the pedals, but my office chair, with wheels, ended up doing the moving! I had to replace it with a seat that would not move so readily - an actual jumpseat from a 727 that I had liberated from the boneyard several years ago. Thus equipped, I had no more trouble with anything moving around. But most of you will want to permanently mount these, quite likely in a home cockpit. The large base plate is equipped with a variety of holes for this purpose, so that you can bolt the assembly in place in your rig. Thus fastened, it will serve you well, and probably for a long time if the appearances of rugged construction reflect reality.

    Thrustmaster Rudders
    I was fortunate that my desk has a solid bottom, against which the TPR can rest motionless. My chair, however, was a
    different matter, and I had to use instead a 727 jump seat that I got a few years ago.

    The time has come, the Walrus said, to talk of many things...such as -- how much do these cost? The answer to that is a few cents shy of $500 at MSRP. This is not a small amount, although it pales in comparison to such widely coveted niceties as a screaming graphics computer or the one-sided 737-800 cockpit rig from Flight Deck Solutions, to say nothing of the nose section of a real airliner. Is it worth it? Well, you might as well ask if flight simulation is worth it, or if thousands of dollars of add-ons is worth it. Compared to the low end rudder pedals that you can have for more or less of a song, these should improve your "flight" experience considerably. Compared to a stick that twists, you will be in another universe, one that is orders of magnitude more realistic than what you have been doing, and this is particularly true if you are also a real world pilot. Real pilots can stop making excuses to themselves about certain unrealities in flight simulation if they step up to something like the TPR system. Cockpit builders, especially airliner cockpit builders, will find that these are just about the most perfect looking (and performing) rudder pedals they can get at any price. Oh, if your nose section comes with a pair of real Boeing pedal sets, then you can turn your nose up at us mere mortals! But for anyone who will, for whatever reason, forgo the delights of a real airliner nose section in the bedroom or garage, the Thrustmaster TPR rudder pedals are a perfect way to go. Worth it? My guess is that you will know the answer to that once you get them.

    Thrustmaster TPR

    Happy (crosswind) landings.

    Tony Vallillo

    Learn More Here


    1 Comment
    1. flapman's Avatar
      flapman -
      Thank you for the review. I am seriously considering these as I have just bought a Thrustmaster Warthog HOTAS
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