Controls

JoySticks

My personal favorite is the Thrustmaster FLCS. Although much too expensive for what it delivers there is nothing more programmable on the market yet. As you decide which one you want to buy, check out the base of the stick and determine if it will be easy enough to build in.


Joystick and Throttle

What you need to decide soon also, is if you want your stick to your right side (F-16 style) or between your legs. Lefties might even consider putting the stick left and the throttle to the right (although mostly shape and button lay-out don't make this a very good option). Building the stick into the cockpit can be done in many ways. You can place it ON the structure or build it in completely. It all depends on you personal preferences and capabilities to improvise. A nice novelty in flight controls is Force Feedback. If supported by your favorite sim this can add too to your sense of realism when "flying".


A way to build your Joystick into your cockpit: Make an opening in your side-panel big enough for your stick to fit through. Drill some holes to fit some screws, which you screw from the top into a little wooden panel that you place below the base of the stick. Turn the screws until the stick fits tightly into its new casing. If you have a programmable FLCS make sure you make a hole to keep the RUN/DOWNLOAD-button accessible.


Throttle

For the throttle almost the same goes as for the Joystick. I own a CH Throttle which is super-easy to program and have yet to encounter compatibility problems. A throttle device is a must-have for any serious flight experience.


Building the throttle into a panel is a little trickier than building in a stick. Since the grip of the throttle is much wider it does not fit easily through a small opening as a stick would. The solution I've come up with, is cutting the covering panel in two and fit it from different sides before screwing it into the wooden structure. Throttle's are also relatively easy to build yourself with a 100K potentiometer (linear) and some improvisation skills.


K2 Verbal Commander

The verbal commander is an add-on card for your PC in which you can assign up to 20 verbal commands to keystrokes.


This is a very nice addition for the wingman commands, landing clearence from ATC or bogey dopes by AWACS. That is, if you have a free ISA-slot. You can assign up to 20 commands to keystrokes of your own choice.


Quickshot Masterpilot

Quickshot sells the Masterpilot: A mock-up MFD you can build into your cockpit. With the addition of the Quickshot Masterpilot Programmer you can program your own settings into the Masterpilot for every individual sim.


This is a very powerful tool for those who want to be up and flying in a hurry. With a little resourcefulness you can dismount the buttons and connect your own buttons to the Masterpilot, thus making your own buttons programmable through the Masterpilot software. Another thing you could do is cut out the middle part and place an LCD screen in it. Connect it to your PC and you could have a radar screen, MFD or whatever. Again you are only limited by your own imagination.


Keyboard Encoder Modules

I've just stumbled across this item recently so I'm not very well informed about them yet, but the potential is awesome.


A keyboard encoder module is a module that you can program to translate inputs from external switches into key-commands for your PC. The switches are connected to the module through a matrix. This of course opens great opportunities to home made MFD's, UFC's and other control panels.


It's a bit comparable to the Epic Card, but in a very limited fashion. It only controls the key-commands and not LED's or even other (motion-platform-) electronics.


Mouse - Trackball - Touchpad

Most modern flightsims can't even be started without the use of a mouse. A growing number of sims need you to control avionics with a mouse. It is therefore an absolute necessity to add a decent mouse-controller to your cockpit.


On the practical side however, a mouse scores very low in the confined area we will refer to as cockpit. You need a fair amount of free space on your cockpit panels to move a mouse around. Needles to say this is the worst solution.


A more practical solution would be to build in a Trackball. Preferably a very small one, like the kind you find on notebooks etc. You can build it in a side panel or mount it on your Joystick or Throttle control.


My personal favorite however, is a Touchpad. I have placed mine at the position of the top of the middle instrument console for easy access with both my left and my right hand (whichever is more convenient at the time).


Rudder Pedals

As rudder pedals are one of the three most important controls (Stick, Throttle, Rudder pedals), no serious simulator should operate without them.


The most important aspect of the rudder pedals, beside quality, is the size; do they fit inside the cockpit?. And do they fit through the whole range of motion! I myself have a pair of CH rudder pedals. They fit in very easy, be it that the pedals are a bit too close together really. What I have done, is that I have screwed some thick PVC piping onto the pedals horizontally, in effect making the control surface wider. I personally find the PVC pipes more comfortable to put my feet against than the original pedals. The original pedals may look comfortable but they need to be at just the right angle to be able to rest your feet on them without having to cramp yourself to keep yourself from pushing them down. The piping allows you to adjust the angle anytime by putting your heel closer or further away from the pipe.


Rudder pedals are also relatively easy to build yourself using that same kind of 100K potentiometer (linear) you can also use for a throttle device.


Adjustable Pedals

In a real F16 the pedals are placed on two metal bars. Behind the pedals are springs that push the pedals forward. When the "pedal adjust" lever is retracted, a braking system which holds the pedals in place is released and the pedals move forward. You have to push them in your favored position with your feet and then release the "pedal adjust" lever. A similar system could be made out of a car-chair construction. Here you can also adjust it forwards and back. You just mount the pedals where the chair normally sits and use your imagination to create a lever that controls the breaking system. Don't forget to have some strong springs pushing from the back however!!


Epic Card

EPIC-Card. Hardcore sim-builders have heard about this card a long time ago. This programmable I/O card goes into your PC and from there you can connect up to 300 buttons, LED's, displays etc.. etc..


Full programmability of this card makes it the ultimate add-on for the serious home-build simulator. Future additions to this setup should include analogue gauges and digital displays indicating fuel-levels, AOA etc.. etc.. If you want to build your sim upon a hydraulic platform, you're going to need an EPIC-Card to control it. Capabilities are almost endless.