I purchased a pro model B737 yoke and column from Ali at ACE Engineering (Aircraft Control Engineering) in Canada to use as a fill-in until I found a pair of real B737 yokes and columns. I wasn’t to realize at the time of my order, that I would discover a quality pair of columns a few weeks later!
I’ve received a few e-mails asking about the yoke and column; therefore, I thought I’d post a quick review.
General Overview & Rating
This is a nice yoke and column that has been designed well and constructed of quality materials. The set up and configuration is very easy and straightforward. The operation of the yoke and column is very good in comparison to less expensive products such as CH Products, and is as good if not better than their nearest competitor which is Precision Flight Controls. The only draw back, other than slow e-mail communication with the supplier, is the poor quality of the bank decal on the elbow, and the lack of a solid and heavy base for those who do not wish to secure the yoke directly to the floor.
My rating: 8/10 (based on the lack of a heavy base plate & poor decals) To view the ACE website click here.
If I wasn’t going to be using a genuine B737 yokes and columns, then this is the product I would use long term.
Several pictures in the image gallery.
Ease of Ordering, Packing and Incomplete Parts
Ordering the yoke was fairly straight forward and payment convenient as Ali accepts Pay Pal. Communication with Ali was very sketchy and often I would have to send two or three e-mails to receive a reply. I have no idea why this is the case, but I believe Ali is a “one man band” so it’s understandable that he cannot do everything and be everywhere at the same time – even with the wonders of wi-fi and i-phone4!
The time from ordering to receipt was around nine weeks.
The yoke and column arrived in Australia is a largish plywood box securely packed in a contoured foam mould; I was impressed with the security and simplicity of packing. The foam mould held the column and yoke securely and no movement was noticeable. Unfortunately, Ali failed to include a USB cable in the box so I had to purchase one separately. Although a small item, I consider that one should have been supplied considering the high price of the yoke. Likewise, Ali failed to include the chart holder and rubberised grommet cover for the yoke. I contacted Ali about these items, but after four weeks have yet to receive them.
The design and construction of the yoke is above par. There is absolutely no way that the Aces product can be compared with products produced by CH Products or similar. I’d say the construction and quality is on a par with Precision Flight Controls (PFC) but less than a genuine B737 yoke (obviously).
The column and stand are constructed from machine grade aluminium and powder coated in the correct Boeing colours. The yoke is constructed from a solid piece of aluminium, powder coated in black with a glossy plastic finish. The yoke has a very solid feel to it and it’s obvious that this is not a toy. The buttons and switches on the yoke all appear to be of high quality and the electric trim switches replicate the Boeing style switches. On the right hand side of the yoke (Captain’s side) there is rubber grommet that can be easily removed to install a trip indicator.
For convenience, I’ve transcribed a copy of dot points from the Aces website below:
- Accurate replica of 737 series Yoke.
- Full metal and Aluminium casting.
- All Aluminium Yoke Handle.
- Realistic tension loading.
- Realistic Aircraft Feel.
- Screen-Printed lettering on Yoke.
- B737-NG Clipboard for reading Charts. (Included at no extra charge)
- Trim switch based on SAAB model.
- Two 737 NG push to talk (mike button).
- 737 Autopilot Disconnect button.
- Button inputs can be assigned within the flight simulation assignments
- Mil-spec potentiometers for durability and spike free operation.
- Not susceptible to drift requiring re-calibration.
- Full Speed USB HID compliant device. Works with USB 2.0 compliant system.
- 12-Bits resolution (4096 steps)
- Hardware calibration support. No calibration in Windows required.
- Axis trim and dead zone settings
- User adjustable digital filtering algorithm support
- Firmware updates via USB
- USB bus powered
Set up is exceptionally easy. I’m using a computer running Windows 7 64 bit and the yoke was immediately recognised by the computer software. Opening the settings tab in FSX you can see the Ace's yoke software interface. To configure the yoke, it’s only a matter of assigning button presses and calibrating axis movements. This can either be done within the Aces joystick controller/button assignment software or via FSUPIC. Everything was very straightforward and remarkably easy.
Functionality and Operational Use
What can I say – the yoke works as it’s designed.
If you are used to a desktop push and pull yoke then the movement of the column will feel odd for a short time. The ability for the yoke to centre detent is controlled by springs, while the dead zone is controlled by software configuration. Now and again you can hear the springs move as they replicate the pressure of a simulated real yoke, but this is completely normal when using heavy springs to control back pressure. The pressure generated by the springs is nowhere near that of a real B737 aircraft, but for many this isn’t an issue. The yoke and column move very smoothly in the forward and aft movement; there is no jerkiness that is associated with other yokes. However, in roll mode the yoke is not as smooth as I would have thought; slight jerkiness is experienced mainly in the first 5 degrees of roll. The yoke’s angle of incline matches fairly closely the degrees of bank measurement as indicated on the decal. If this isn’t satisfactory, then detailed calibration can be completed in the FSX setup area and/or via FSUPIC (strongly recommended).
I have only used the product for a few hours, so I cannot comment on the longevity of the product. Aces have used military specification potentiometers for durability and spike free operation, so I’d assume durability is long term.
There is very little to complain about, however, if pressed, there are three things:
The decal which indicates the angle of bank (on the upper section of the column elbow) is of low quality. Within a few hours the decal had begun to peel away at the edges. You can note the decal separating from the elbow in the first photograph. I believe a silk screened decal (like on a real B737 parts) would have been a better and more permanent option.
All other decals on the yoke have been applied very well.
LEFT: The metal is very lightweight with a small surface area. It required a secure attachment to stop movement of the base.
Second, the stand which supports the column and yoke is very light weight. If you place your yoke and column on a carpeted floor and attempt to use it, you’ll find it will slide very easily. The plate needs to be attached securely to a platform base, floor or other structure to stop this movement. There are four holes fabricated into the base plate to allow for this attachment. This said, for many the yoke will need to be airlifted from Canada. Freight is exceptionally expensive and inclusion of a heavier base plate would, no doubt incur a more hefty freight charge.
Third, the yoke when tuned left or right (roll mode) is not as smooth as I would have expected and feels a little jerky. This is more evident in the first 5 degrees of roll. I have checked with other users and they claim this is identical with their yokes.
B737 Trip Indicator
The trip indicator is a three digit, back-lit dial that can be fitted to the Ace yoke - it's a real Boeing aircraft item. To fit the indicator correctly will require that the hole, on the right hand side of the yoke, be enlarged slightly to accommodate the girth of the trip indicator. The actual depth of the indicator is not cause for concern as it sits flush to the front edge of the yoke. Read about trip indicators here.
I have no affiliation with this product or any other product I discuss on this website.
Comparison to Genuine B737 Yoke ?
Once I receive and install the genuine B737 yokes I will make a direct comparison between the two units.
Chart Holder - Finally Arrived
Completing my order with Ali was a nightmare. Although he eventually responded to my several dozen e-mails, the promised chart holder did not arrive. Eventually, almost one year to the day the chart holder arrived via another of Ali's customers in Australia, who was required to mail it to me. Although this is conjecture, I believe Ali did not want to pay the shipping cost to send the missing chart holder which is why he "piggy-backed" the item on a yoke shipment. To Ali's credit he did reimburse the postage to mail the unit within Australia.
The quality of the chart holder is very good and I have no problems with the unit, although I do not have a genuine B737 chart holder to make a direct comparison.
Once my genuine B737 yokes and columns are fitted to the simulator, I will make a direct comparison between the ACE yoke and the real yoke.
It's been remiss of me not to follow through with a direct comparison between the ACE yoke and genuine Boeing 737 yokes and columns I’ve installed to the flight deck.
Before writing further, there is absolutely no comparison between a reproduction part, no matter how good it is, and the genuine item. The genuine item has been made to exacting requirements, has been built to withstand frequent abuse, and is designed to provide longevity.
Aesthetically, both the ACE and genuine yoke look similar, however the feel is completely different. The electric trim switches on the genuine yoke feel more solid and robust and less “toy like”. The buttons also feel more robust with a more hefty push required to activate them.
Functionally, the genuine yoke has a much silkier and smooth feeling when rotating the yoke. There is absolutely no binding that is readily apparent on the ACE yoke when turning the yoke approximately 5 degrees bank.
The ACE column does not attempt to mimic the genuine column. The genuine columns have a bulbous lower section that must be fitted through the flight deck floor and linked to the column on the First Officer side. The ACE column terminates in a flat plate that is screwed to the floor.
This said, the ACE yoke is probably one of two yokes and columns that are currently on the market that come close to a genuine yoke; the other is produced by Precision Flight Controls in California.
To read more on the genuine B737 yokes and columns navigate to this post.