Journal Archive (Newest First)

FLIGHT CONTROLS - YOKES AND COLUMNS

Flight Controls - General Information

Flight controls include the flight yoke and column, throttles and rudder pedals and are important items not to be overlooked in any simulation. A well designed yoke and throttle quadrant and will instill an enormous amount of enjoyment and provide a greater level of realism. In my opinion, these two items are the mainstay of flight simulation. If it's possible, its best to not scrimp in this area.

I've used several yokes in the past ranging from a joystick, to a desktop yoke made by CH Products and then Precision Flight Controls (PFC).  After considerable research, I decided to use a yoke and column manufactured by ACE; however this was soon replaced with a OEM yoke and column.

The B737-800 Project uses the following flight controls:

  • ACE Engineering Yoke (superseded and sold)
  • OEM B737-500 dual yokes and columns
  • OEM B737-500 Throttle Quadrant (revamped to NG style)
  • OEM B737-400 Rudder Pedals with custom-made pedal assembly
  • OEM B737-400 Steering Tiller (identical to NG)

OEM is an acronym for Original Equipment Manufacturer.

Test Bed Yoke - ACE Engineering

I initially decided to purchase a B737 Yoke manufactured by Ace Engineering, a Canadian-based company. Every review I read on the Internet about this yoke was positive, despite some concerns to the reliability of the manufacturer especially in relation to time delays and communication.

The reasons for selection this yoke were:

  • Column height above the floor identical to that of a real Boeing 737 yoke
  • Excellent construction (brushed aluminium with powder coating)
  • Plug & play functionality
  • Accurate replica of a 737 series Yoke including stencils
  • Inclusion of a 737 NG checklist plate - accurately sized and attached to the yoke at the correct angle
  • Wide base plate allowing attachment to the simulator floor
  • Potentiometers (pots) rated to military specifications (5 million duty cycle pots).

The final point in relation to potentiometers I thought very important, as my previous yoke from Precision Flight Controls had failed due to wear of these essential devices.

I've posted a review of the ACE yoke and column in the Journal section.

B737-500 Dual Yokes & Columns

Soon after I purchased the ACE yoke, I came across a "near perfect condition" pair of Boeing yokes and columns that was removed from a Boeing 737-500 series aircraft.   I'd read and spoken with several individuals who have used genuine yokes in their simulators and the idea of a real yoke and column interested me.  

LEFT:  Captain-side B737-500 yoke & column installed to flight simulator (click for larger image).

The flight controls included:  yokes, chart holders, trip indicators, electric trim switches, column pod shoes and stick shakers.

Conversion and Refurbishing

The lower section of the column has a large cog which is used to mesh with the under floor linkage rods between the Captain and First Officer side of the flight deck.  This cog was cut from the column.  While it's possible to use the cog and and OEM (genuine) under floor linkage mechanism, doing so requires more than 12 inches of platform height.

LEFT:  B737-500 yoke & column previously used by Croatian Airlines (before conversion and refurbishment).

The units were water jet cleaned to remove oil, dirt and residue and most of the wiring was removed. 

To allow accurate roll and pitch a rod-like assembly was installed into the column of the yoke.  This rod and pinion mechanism was then connected to under floor lineage to ensure the movement of the left and right side flight controls were identical to each other.

The various buttons and electric trim switches were rewired and connected to a Leo Bodnar BUOX386 interface card.  This card is then connected to the main computer by a single USB cable.

Interface Card and Calibration

A Leo Bodnar BU0386 joystick card is used to register the pitch and roll axis of the flight controls.  Calibration is initially done in Windows (joystick controller calibration) and then in FSUPIC.  Calibration is very important to ensure accurate and reliable performance.  One of the benefits of using FSUPIC is that it allows a slope to be generated for each yoke movement increasing accuracy.

The following posts addresses the conversion and retrofitting hof the control column and yoke:

Conversion of B737-500 Yokes and Columns.