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Helicopter Simulator Flight Controls Catalogue

In order to use simulation software, you need controls that provide input to it. These must resemble real controls as much as possible if you want the simulator to reflect real experience. On this page, you will find an overview of the helicopter flight controls commonly used with simulation software.

Configuration & settings

When using controls, it is important to configure your software in a way that is best suited to flying helicopters. Because they are inherently unstable, helicopters need continuous input from their controls. They should therefore not have a zero zone (configured) because you want them to act immediately. Helicopters are also controlled simply by applying pressure instead of moving the control around. Accordingly, the sensitivity should be set to between high and maximum. These observations are especially important for the cyclic, collective and pedals.

Cyclic Control

There are basically two options with the cyclic: you either get a control which physically behaves and looks like one or you use a joystick. The most important difference between a joystick and a real cyclic is that with the latter, the experience and the behaviour are more realistic. When using a real cyclic, you will make other input movements, using different muscles to those engaged by a joystick. The most noticeable mechanical difference between the two is that a cyclic is much longer and has its joint near the floor. Another important aspect is the home position of the cyclic. When flying, the 'neutral' position depends on the flight manoeuvre. For this reason, the zero position can be trimmed and set with a real cyclic. A joystick with springs centres this tool, which will make controlling the 'cyclic' hard work after a time. A remedy is to disable the springs (by modifying the joystick).

Joysticks (as Cyclic)

Name Logitech - Extreme 3D PRO CH Products - Flightstick Pro Saitek - Aviator Dual Throttle Joystick ( PS33 )
Price level
(approximate)
$30 $80 $40
Description Much used joystick and good value for money. The throttle slider can be used as your 'collective'. It also supports twist movement, however, using pedals for this input dimension is much better (and less difficult). Disadvantageous is the somewhat high spring pressure. Joystick designed with flying in mind. It has no twist capability as this input should be provided by pedals (this is a plus from the fidelity point of view). It is possible to use the throttle wheel as a 'collective'. Also a much used joystick, designed with flying in mind. One of the throttles can be configured as your 'collective'. This joystick also supports yaw control by twisting the stick, however, you should use pedals for this (otherwise, helicopter flying will be more difficult).
Features
  • 12 action buttons
  • 8-way rubberised hat switch
  • Twist rudder handle
  • Rapid fire trigger.
  • Throttle slider
  • Large sturdy base
• 3 axes and 12 buttons
   – X, Y, and Z axes for Aileron, Elevator, and Throttle control
   – 4 traditional push buttons
   – 1 eight direction POV HAT switch
• Total of 80 programmable functions with Control Manager
   software (included)
• Simple ambidextrous handle
• Dual rotary trim wheels for precise adjustment of ailerons
   and elevators
• Side throttle wheel
• Large sturdy base with 7 foot USB cable
• Quality industrial components and construction
  • Rapid fire trigger
  • 4 buttons
  • 8-way ‘point-of-view’ hat switch
  • 4 two-way toggle switches
  • Twist rudder control
  • Dual throttles
  • Single spring gimbal mechanism
Platform

Windows® 98, Windows® 2000, Windows® Me, Windows® XP, Windows® Vista™

Windows 98, ME, 2000, XP, XP 64bit, Vista Windows XP, XP64 and Windows Vista (all versions)
Target audience Gaming. Aircraft simulation (gaming). Aircraft simulation (gaming).
Interfaces USB USB USB 2.0
Useful links www.logitech.com www.chproducts.com www.saitek.com
Shopping


Real Cyclics

Using a real cyclic will greatly enhance your ability to get a feel for helicopter flying. There are several available, usually to serve the commercial / professional market.

Name G-Stick III SimKits - TRC2244 Cyclic (Flight Stick) SimKits - TRC Flight Stick C-Tek - Cyclic control
Price level
(approximate)
$845 (G-Stick III)
$995 (G-Stick III plus)
$1300 $1000 $500
Description Cyclic designed to be used with different helicopters. Cyclic to be used in Robinson helicopter simulation. Helicopter cyclic Helicopter cyclic
Features
  • Floor-mounted cyclic stick
  • Aluminum grip with programmable button
  • Rugged and smooth gimbals
  • Heavy gauge metal enclosure with industrial finish
  • Ability to interchange between centre stick and Robinson "T" bar (coming soon).
  • Pitch and roll potentiometers are rated at one million plus revolutions
  • Heavy steel base w/ holes for mounting Anti-Torque or RCM
  • Multi-button programmable grip (4-way hat, trigger and 3 pushbuttons) (Plus version only)
  • The TRC2244 Cyclic is the Flight Stick used in the TRC2244 setup (Robinson R22/R44 helicopter replica).
  • The casing is made from aluminium which is powder coated and highly scratch resistant. The tubing is from aluminium heavy tube and is also powder coated.
  • The internal mechanism is produced from stainless steel for long life and daily use.
  • The Cyclic comes with a detachable left grip, which can be used in dual pilot situations.
  • The Cyclic is connected to the CCU.
  • It is produced from high quality materials.
  • The casing is made from aluminum which is powder coated and highly scratch resistant.
  • The tubing is from aluminum heavy tube and is also powder coated.
  • The internal mechanism is produced from stainless steel for long life and daily use.
  • Hall-Effect Sensor.
  • Heavy duty steel.
  • Adjustable friction adjustment.
  • Floor mounting.
  • Requires special USB interface.
Target audience High Fidelity Helicopter Simulation High Fidelity Helicopter Simulation High Fidelity Helicopter Simulation High Fidelity Helicopter Simulation
Interfaces USB USB USB USB
Useful links www.flightlink.com www.simkits.com www.simkits.com www.c-tekflight.com
Shopping

Collective Control

For the collective control, there are basically two choices. You can use the slider that comes with most joysticks as the collective (and throttle) control. This is also the cheapest way to implement both cyclic and collective control (albeit not the most realistic one, of course). The other way to go is to use a separate control as the collective. This can be either a joystick or a control that closely resembles a real collective. As with the cyclic, a real collective control will require quite different movements. For example, you use arm and wrist movements instead of finger movements with a joystick slider. Using a real collective also gives the most realistic results.

Name Flight Link - Collective
SimKits - TRC 2244 Collective (Throttle/Rotor handle)
C-Tek - Collective control
Price level
(approximate)
$495 (with throttle)
$395 (without throttle)
$50 for USB interface
$950 $450
Description Professional collective. Professional collective for Robinson family helicopters. Professional collective.
Features
  • Friction control knob
  • Stainless steel lever controls lift
  • Velvet smooth twist grip handle controls RPM's
  • Heavy gauge metal enclosure with industrial finish
  • The TRC 2244 Collective is a replica of the collective used in the Robinson Helicopter.
  • With twist throttle handle with foam handgrip.
  • Rotor Governor Switch built into the handle
  • The friction of the Collective can be adjusted by the friction adjust wheel on the side.
  • The Collective is produced using an aluminum casing (powder coated), stainless steel tubing and stainless steel internal mechanics.
  • Designed for continuous use.
  • The Collective is connected to the CCU.
  • Hall-Effect Sensor.
  • Heavy duty steel.
  • Adjustable friction adjustment.
  • Floor mounting.
  • Requires special USB interface.
Target audience High Fidelity Helicopter Simulation, DIY High Fidelity Helicopter Simulation, DIY. High Fidelity Helicopter Simulation, DIY.
Interfaces USB (option) Interface to CCU USB
Useful links www.flightlink.com www.simkits.com www.c-tekflight.com
Shopping

Pedals

Pedals give you all you need to get realistic yaw control for your helicopter. They also give your flight experience a much more true to life feel. A low budget solution to implement yaw control is to use the wrist twisting movement of a joystick. However, flying helicopters without pedals is far from authentic and difficult.

Name CH Products - Pro Padels Saitek - Pro Flight Rudder PEDALS Flight Link - Anti-Torque Pedals C-Tek - Anti-Torque Pedals
Price level
(approximate)
$100 $100 $650 $310
Description Quality industrial components and construction.
Part metal construction for long life. 
These Anti-Torque Pedals use two commercial quality hydraulic cylinders to simulate the damping effect found while in flight. They are constructed from a heavy gauge steel with a quality industrial finish to provide accurate feel and reliability. Anti-torque pedals made of all steel construction with heavy duty rod ends and sleeve bearings for long life. Friction tape included so your feet won't slip off the pedals.
Features
  • Self-centring pedals
  • 3 axes
    • X and Y axes for Left and Right Toe Brake control
    • Z axis on self centring sliding mechanism for Rudder control. 
  • Realistic heel-toe differential brake control 
  • Large sturdy base
  • Plug and Play driverless USB installation
  • 7 foot USB cable

 

  • Self-centring pedals
  • Precise rudder and braking control
  • Adjustable damping
  • Foot rests adjust to fit all sizes and include non-slip materials
  • Tension adjustment - choose resistance to suit the way you fly
  • Twin heavy duty hydraulic cylinders assure smooth and realistic in-line travel
  • Low centre of gravity for stability
  • Heavy gauge metal enclosure with industrial finish
  • Rack and pinion driven for rapid, linear response to input
  • Pitch and roll potentiometers are rated at one million plus revolutions
  • Hall-Effect sensor input
  • Adjustable pedal stroke length
  • Adjustable friction resistance
  • Steel construction
  • Requires USB interface
Target audience Gamers and everyone who is serious about helicopter flight simulation.  Gamers and everyone who is serious about helicopter flight simulation.  High fidelity helicopter simulation. High fidelity helicopter simulation.
Interfaces USB 2.0 USB 2.0 USB USB
Useful links www.chproducts.com www.saitek.com www.flightlink.com/ www.c-tekflight.com/
Shopping

(Amazon UK: C&H Flight Simulator USB Pro Pedals (PC))


(Amazon UK: Saitek Pro Gamer Rudder Pedals (PC))

Packages

There are also packages where the pedals, cyclic and collective are combined into one system. Most of these systems can be connected to a PC using only one USB connection, and can be used with standard flight simulation software like FSX or X-Plane. The packages are usually of a much higher quality than mainstream game controllers and are often used in a commercial / professional environment.

Name SimKits - TRC2244 Helicopter Flight Deck Pro Flight Trainer
Price level
(approximate)
$23,000 (Assembled)
$12,500 (Kit / DIY)
$38,000 (Commercial use)
$500
Description Complete R22 / R44 cockpit Flight Deck. High degree of finishing, very accurate reproduction of Robinson cockpit. Complete system built up from pedals, collective and cyclic. Seat not included. Fits in nicely between low quality gaming controls and professional high end solutions.
Target audience High Fidelity Helicopter Simulation / DIY projects High Fidelity Helicopter Simulation / DIY projects.
Interfaces USB USB
Useful links www.simkits.com www.pro-flight-trainer.ch
Shopping
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3 Comments

ItemInfoText
1  NameKeith

Thursday, March 20, 2014 7:57 PM

There is no sense in this stuff costing what it does. I'll make my own before I bow to the likes of this BS. $495.00 that's just freaking sad is what that is. 
2  Jim

Thursday, April 3, 2014 2:22 AM

Agree with previous poster. These people must be smoking crack to expect so much money for a controller with such limited software compatibilities. Demand nor manufacture do not warrant such a price tag either.
3  Kevin Anders

Wednesday, April 23, 2014 3:29 AM

ah guys..

Its a principal in economics called economy of scale.

There ain't 37,000 virtual helicopter pilots out there buying 157 of these things a week thereby lowering the overall cost.

These outfits only sell a few a year. Maybe a dozen or so if things are going well.  The expense of R and D and production simply has to be carried by far fewer pilots vs the standard off the shelf fixed wing controls.

 Saitek, CH products and other similar players would roll this stuff out if there were a profitable market for such.  That market does not exist at this time and may never due to the fact the helicopter pilots are not made easily and flying them virtually or in reality is hard as all hell.  Go to your local airfield.  137 fixed wing aircraft sitting down at the one by me.  About 6 rotorcraft on the property.  There are simply far fewer folks who fly or give a damn about helicopters as opposed to the 8 guys in any given town who have  shares in some 172 down at the local airport.

AND...Lets face it. A large number of simmers probably just want to position the airplane on the active and take off.  F(%$ calling ATC for clearance or going over a check list...I just want to FLY baby!!

These things are high end hobby tools with a means to an end.

Some of us use these things as homework for certification or simply for the fact that knowledge about your hobby feels good.  I love the fact that I can do a full turbine start in a 206B to the letter and NOT have a hotstart whereas the guy next door wouldn't know  what TOT stood for let alone what a collective even does.

I will leave you and any others who question the expense with this.

1) These are NOT easy to build and even more expensive to put into any kind of "production run"  Go ahead and try to build one on your own from scratch.  Do you fully understand CAD, CNC machining, 3D print prototyping and the astronomical cost of cutting steel for the master molds once you go to durable resins used in final production?

2) Do you understand the nature of Hall effect sensors, magnetic inductance potentiometers or even simple mechanical pots and how the output data from any of the aforementioned  needs to get integrated into a language your sim of choice can understand?  These dudes don't forget to "carry the one" and probably did all the extra credit work in high school.  Trust me. These things will frustrate the hell out of you and they, the developers and builders have graciously done the sweating and swearing for you.

Believe me, I was right there with you until I started researching doing the same thing you propose.  I'd rather shell out the 12 to 15 hundred US dollars for a reasonable home set up, PLUG AND PLAY mind you.... and get on with my life and my flying of helicopters and spend the month and a half of night and weekend I would have spent developing my own home version with my kids and wife.

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HeliStart is authored by Peter Goossens.