The advent of high quality reproduction parts in association with advanced avionics suites produced by companies such as ProSim-AR and Sim Avionics, has led many flight simulator enthusiasts to strive closer to Microsoft’s claim ‘as real as it gets’.
LEFT: There is little mistaking the tell-tale white-coloured handles and skirts of the Next Generation Throttle. (click to enlarge).
The availability of real parts formally used in classic airframes has never been greater, and many enthusiasts are purchasing various parts and converting them to flight simulator use.
The ‘holy grail’ of conversion has always been the Boeing throttle unit, and depending upon individual requirements, many older style throttle units have been retrofitted to appear very similar, if not near-identical, to their Next Generation counterparts.
This article will compare and contrast the major differences between the Boeing 737 classic throttle and the Next Generation throttle. The word classic is usually used to refer to airframes belonging to the 200, 300, 400 and 500 series. The Next Generation (NG) refers to the Boeing 600, 700, 800 and 900 series.
The throttle quadrant observed in a modern airliner has relatively old roots.
LEFT: Boeing 727-100 throttle quadrant. Although there are obvious differences in that the 727 has three engines, the overall design and appearance of the quadrant is very similar to its modern counterpart. Image copyright to Keven Walchler (click to enlarge).
The forbearer of the NG throttle was designed in the late 50's and early 60's and was initially used in the B707. As aircraft types evolved, throttle design remained relatively static with similar-designed throttles being used in the Boeing 727, 717 and 737 series aircraft.
The B737-100 made its debut in April 1968, to be followed shortly by the 200 series with a slightly longer fuselage. During the 1980’s Boeing released the classic series of airframes from the 300 through to the 500 series.
During this time, the technology altered little and the design of the throttle quadrant reflected the ability of Boeing to reuse existing technology with minimal alterations. This principle of reuse can save a company millions of dollars in redesign and development costs.
This Goes With That (Compare and Contrast)
The Boeing 737-800 NG is the airframe that many enthusiasts strive to duplicate in a flight simulator. However, Next Generation parts are difficult to find and when found are expensive to procure. Fortunately, for the simulation community, a throttle unit will function correctly within flight simulator no matter what airframe the throttle originated.
Many of the nuances between a classic and NG throttle quadrant are subtle and for the most part only the more knowledgeable will notice.
The more obvious highlights of the NG are the white-coloured thrust lever shrouds, TOGA button assembly, flaps arc, speedbrake lever knob, and the moulded white-coloured side panels and panniers. Whilst it is possible to alter many of the attributes of a classic throttle to conform with those of an NG, not every part can be easily transformed. For example, the flaps arc between the classic and NG is very different in design and appearance and cannot be retrofitted.
TABLE 1 provides an overview to the main visual differences between the classic and NG throttle quadrants (courtesy Karl Penrose who kindly allowed the use of photographs taken of his 600 series throttle). Note that there may be other subtle differences, some visual and others in design/operation. The table does not address the center pedestal as pedestals vary greatly between airframes. Retrofit 1 refers to the level of difficulty it is to make the classic throttle appear similar to the NG unit.
1 The words 'level of difficulty' is subjective; it depends on numerous factors such as experience and knowledge – neither of which is identical between individuals.
The differences between a classic and NG throttle unit are largely cosmetic with some subtle design and operational differences. Retrofitting a classic unit to appear similar to a Next Generation throttle is possible, however, there will be some aesthetics that will probably not be altered, such as the speedbrake lever knob, stab trim indicator tabs, side mouldings, paniers and flaps arc.
This said, the ability to use an OEM throttle unit, no matter from which airframe, far supersedes any reproduction unit on the market. OEM throttles are sturdy, robust and well-built. Unless you do something particularly foolish, you will not damage an OEM throttle.
BELOW: Two image galleries showing the various differences between the classic and Next Generation throttle quadrants. Thanks to Karl Penrose who kindly allowed the use of photographs taken of his 600 series throttle. To stop the slideshow, click the image and navigate by the numbered squares beneath the image.
B737 Classic Series Throttle Quadrant
B737 Next Generation (NG) Series Throttle Quadrant