I has a new toy.
Or more accurately, a new set of toys.
Specifically a full set of Flight Yoke, Rudder Pedals and Throttle Quadrant, courtesy of a nice fellow on Ebay. I managed to snag them for about a third of the cost new, which in my book is a win. They arrived this morning, visually in very good condition, so I eagerly hooked them up to the flight sim PC and loaded up a Cessna 172.
... which I found myself almost completely unable to fly competently!
There's nothing wrong with the new kit, except possibly the yoke is a little sticky but a clean and lubrication job ought to fix that. It's just that flying a (simulated) airplane with yoke and pedals is a completely different ball game to flying with a joystick. For a start, you're using the whole body, co-ordinating legs and hands, which if you're as out of condition as I am can be a physical strain. After ten minutes of flying I found my calves were starting to cramp up a little bit. And the yoke, while not force feedback in the strictest sense, is sprung so that you do have to exert quite a bit of force to hold it in position, the more it's deflected from neutral, the greater the force required.
The other thing I noticed is that the aircraft feels a lot less responsive than with the joystick. I certainly wouldn't want to be flying a combat simulator with a yoke.
The first couple of flights ended ungloriously with the sickening crunch of a Cessna meeting the world for the final time. Then the third flight I managed to get into the air and back onto the ground without disaster. It was then I realised that during some recent tweaking around, I'd accidentally set my flight model realism to 100%, whereas I normally turn down Torque and P-Factor down to about 75% (people say it's harder to fly sim sometimes because you don't get the physical senstations that a pilot can learn to pick up on, so my story is that the 25% roll-off on those factors is my way of compensating)
Anyway, with the realism set back to the usual level I found it easier to fly, but still a completely different ball game to the joystick. I tried flying the default DC3 out of Barton Aerodrome, which I failed repeatedly at until I switched to the longest runway on the field. Theoretically I should have been able to use the shorter runways as the Dakota has a nominal 900ft take-off, but between inaccuracies in the MS flight model and my own clumsiness with the flight yoke, I needed 2000ft+
Once in the air, the new setup worked great. With 6 levers I was able to configure the throttle quadrant to match the DC3, which then meant I finally have to learn how to use prop pitch! One nice thing is that the yoke also has a 3 lever throttle/prop/mix and it's possible to configure this separately. So if I'm in an airliner I can have the quadrant handling 4 engines, flaps and spoilers, but for a GA bird like the C172 I can use the simpler 3 lever control on the yoke. Another nice feature of the quadrant is that the levers have a detent point at about the 10% mark. This is "idle" and actually counts as zero for throttle purposes. Pulling the lever to this position actually triggers a virtual button press which your flight sim can read. Pulling it back further triggers a seperate button press. So if you configure that second button press to be reverse thrust, you can switch from forward to reverse thrust and back very easily
So anyway, after taking off from Barton I just flew south and waited until I was able to pick up RAF Cosford, with a view to landing the historic DC3 there for the Aerospace Museum.
Sadly the museum staff will have a little... uh... restoration work to do before it can be put on display. I'm counting this as a landing though!
I've now got to work on re-learning to fly with the yoke & pedals instead of the joystick. Like I said the new kit also opens up some more learning opportunities, like the mysteries of prop pitch/throttle/mixture controls. After that I have a little bit of an adventure idea bubbling away in the back of my mind Watch this space.