The Honeycomb Aeronautical Bravo Throttle Quadrant is the second release from the hardware manufacturer following on from the extremely successful Alpha Flight Control Yoke. The Bravo Throttle Quadrant looks to give users a multifaceted approach to a throttle quadrant, which allows customisability for an endless amount of aircraft. After experiencing Honeycomb’s Alpha Flight Control unit, I was very excited to receive the Bravo and to put it to the test, but because of its predecessor, I also have very high expectations as to how the new product would deliver.
Out of the Box
After removing the Bravo Throttle Quadrant from the box, the quality of the product was evident almost immediately. It has the same styling, housing and matte finish as the Alpha.
The Bravo also uses the same mounting system as the Alpha, which doesn’t take a lot of time to set up. Whether you choose to use the clamps or the non-slip pad, the base must be used as it gives the additional weight needed to stop the Bravo from falling off the desk. The throttle quadrant part does protrude from the desk, but no further than the yoke when at neutral input. Although the Bravo takes the same space as the Alpha on the desk, the casing doesn’t hold too much of the mechanical workings of the unit and the depth is due to offset and balance the product on the desk. Having the same depth as the Alpha Flight Controls enables the use of the same mounting bracket as well not to mention retaining the familiarity of the product line as a whole.
If you do have a smaller desk, it would be hard to find space for both the Alpha and Bravo but there are ways around space issues. I have a considerable desk for both the Alpha and Bravo to sit side by side with a small gap between the two but they are perfectly operational right next to each other. I have also found that my keyboard fits nicely on top of the two units which makes it quite accessible with my mouse to the right of the Bravo. To accommodate for smaller desks, Honeycomb has published some previews of an additional mouse pad that will help free up some space on the desk. Even with enough space on my desk, I will be investing in the additional mouse pad as my mouse is just a little bit too far away to use comfortably.
The Bravo comes with 12 different levers in two different sets. The first set is specifically for GA flying which includes throttle (x2), mixture (x2), propeller (x2), whilst the second set is for commercial airliners based predominantly upon Boeing aircraft, and includes a flap and speed brake lever. This enables the user to replicate as many different aircraft types as possible from a single package. Having the ability to interchange these levers enables the manufacturer to produce aircraft specific lever sets such as the previewed Airbus family levers. Inside the box, the levers are separated into General Aviation and Commercial Aviation, each with their own presentation box.
The resistance that the throttles endure can be altered by a twist of the wheel to the right of the quadrant. The tighter the wheel the more resistance you feel across all six axes. This is a defining feature for the Bravo as other products costing more than the price of the Bravo do not execute this function flawlessly. I found that with commercial aircraft, a higher degree of resistance felt more authentic. Through using the quadrant over an extended period of time, the resistance didn’t deteriorate which suggests the mechanism is of high quality and built to last which is definitely a positive when using traditional position sensors that may deteriorate through usage.
I wish the same quality went into manufacturing the levers as it did for the presentation and packaging. The GA levers feel a little more solid than the commercial jet levers because they have fewer moving parts. The levers modelled for mixture and prop are single pieces of moulded plastic that feel solid and are quite pleasing to use. Unfortunately, the two throttle levers are made up of more than one piece of moulded plastic that are clipped together to encase the ‘Go Around’ button. When handling these throttle levers, the two pieces of plastic rub together and make a creaking sound and the Go Around button rattles a lot in its casing. This doesn’t happen as much when using the levers when they are attached, but attaching them to and from the base does draw your attention to their quality.
The airliner set of levers, which are loosely styled on those found on Boeing jets, are a bit sturdier than the throttle controls for the general aviation set. Although these are made from more than one piece of plastic, they are held together with four small screws on each lever to create a much better feel. The throttle levers each have a moveable lever which engages reverse thrust. These levers are more like buttons and only have an effect in the sim when pulled into the full reverse position. This doesn’t take away from the simulator experience at all. Pulling the spring-loaded levers into the full reverse position required a bit of pressure and creates an audible click when engaged which helps to operate the aircraft without having to look at the throttle positions. Another way in which the Bravo helps you operate the aircraft more autonomously is the addition of the TO/GA power button located on throttle one. This little red button is situated in the same position as you would find it on a real 737 and helps you operate the aircraft in a more authentic way.
In addition to the engine levers, the commercial set includes a speed brake and flap lever which again resemble those found on the Boeing 737. Like the mixture and prop levers from the general aviation set, these single pieces of formed plastic are hollow and look rather cheap. Fortunately, this doesn’t take away from the experience and is an effective way of keeping the cost down during production. However, I would have liked to have some way of indicating where to move the flap lever to select different stages of flap and a way of lining up the speed brake lever to the armed position. Of course, there are no detents for these due to the vast array of different aircraft and different flap settings they have, but a way of lining up the lever with the crisp decals on the base of the throttle would go a long way. I found myself having to count the audible clicks from the cockpit when moving the flap lever into position.
The base of the levers on the quadrant is covered with the rubber dust covers that prevent debris falling into the main body of the unit. These are useful when you have redundant levers when flying a two or three-engine jet rather than four, to prevent things falling into the unit but also to give a sleek look and feel to the product.
Gear/Flap Lever and Trim Wheel
The gear lever mounted on the left-hand side of the panel, although made from plastic, has a nice solid feel to it and gives the impression of quality. When you move the lever from one position to another, it gives an audible click and almost recoils into position. The only way to make this even better and that would be to have a mechanism where you have to pull the lever towards you to move it or to have an extra position on the gear lever for ‘Gear off’ functionality. Above the lever sit three LED gear status indicator lights which work independently of each other and show either green when the gear is down and locked, red when in transit and off when stowed just like a real aircraft. Honeycomb could have cut corners here and programmed them to respond to just one input from the sim but they each respond to the individual landing gear. This certainly helps when identifying and dealing with landing gear emergencies.
The flap lever on the right-hand side of the throttles is based upon the flap lever of a Cessna or similar aircraft. The lever is small and white and made from plastic. This lever feels a lot less sturdy than the gear lever. On closer inspection, the lever handle is made from hollow plastic that feels rather flimsy and the handle is only attached to the operating arm by a small screw. Although I don’t think this will break with normal use, I am still wary that any knock harder than normal use may break the flap handle from the arm.
The pitch trim wheel is located to the left of the throttles and is based upon the Boeing 737 trim wheel. Out of the box, this is the most striking feature of the quadrant which is instantly recognisable with its white section on a black wheel. The trim wheel is a complete solid plastic wheel that feels sturdy to use. On occasion, I have knocked the wheel forward whilst in cruise which disconnects the autopilot which takes some time to get used to. When combing the trim wheel from the Bravo and the trim switches on the Alpha, I found that I used the controls on the Alpha a lot more often than moving to the wheel but I did experience a much finer detail to trimming with the control wheel than with the Alpha switches on the yoke. This may be down to the habitual nature trimming with the Alpha has become. Maybe in time, this will change.
The annunciator panel, located just above the throttle, has 14 warning LED messages set in a high gloss panel which does make it a little hard to read in direct sunlight. The messages are typical of most aircraft and are lit with a red LED when they are engaged and turn off when not in use. The positioning of the panel is a little frustrating when at full throttle, the levers obstruct the panel which may be an issue should a message light upon take-off, they may be missed. I do like the range of messages that the panel has, such as master caution and warning, APU generator, parking brake and low pressures which save time and effort looking around the cockpit when completing final checks before take-off.
Above the annunciator panel sit 7 rocker switches that are customisable to whichever function you wish. Unlike the Alpha controls, these have no permanent markings. With the Alpha Controls taking care of aircraft lighting and master switches, for some GA aircraft profiles, I did struggle to find enough functions to bind all 7 rocker switches but having more switches than demand is only a good thing. The switches are well made and produce a satisfying click when pushed. Just above this panel, there is some vacant space the same width of the panel emblazoned with the Honeycomb Aeronautical logo set into the panel. Although this is tastefully done, it would have been a little nicer to have this part of the quadrant for the annunciator panel but I understand that this may hinder the operation of the quadrant. However, this is the perfect place to add in some customisable labels detailing the function of the switches.
At the top of the unit sits the autopilot panel. The panel is based upon the advanced Genesys 55x module, typically found in a vast number of aircraft from single pistons to twin turboprops costing around $20,000 making this replica a steal at $250. The MCP panel includes approach, heading and altitude hold, vertical speed hold as well as back course functions. The buttons are high-quality rubber with a satisfying click when pushed. This is undoubtedly where I feel Honeycomb has focussed the quality of the product. When pushed, as well as producing the satisfying click a white LED behind the button shines white when engaged. The MCP panel has two scroll wheel manipulators, the left controls which autopilot function the right scroll wheel will change. The wheel on the left clicks between the functions and has a small indent and raised line on the edge of the wheel to denote which function the wheel has selected. Frustratingly, it makes it really hard to decipher which function you are selecting. Something as slight as a white marker on the black wheel would help identify where the scroll wheel is sitting. The right-hand scroll wheel is the perfect tool to utilise when you are flying VFR or receiving vectors for an approach. My only frustration is that regardless of the speed you turn the dial, the Bravo registers the smallest increment the simulator will allow. This can be frustrating when trying to fly the reciprocal heading in a circuit as you spend more time turning the wheel rather than flying the aircraft.
I would also have liked to have seen VNAV and LNAV buttons to suit the commercial airliner flight simmers in the community but this would mean the panel is inconsistent with its real-world counterpart. Alternatively, each of the function buttons is customisable through the relevant platform’s customising menu.
Initial setup of the Honeycomb Bravo depending on the platform you wish to use it with. Both X-Plane and Microsoft Flight Simulator requires a plugin, available from the Honeycomb Aeronautical website, in order to access the full features of the quadrant. Without the plugin, the throttles will register but the MCP panel and the LEDs will not function correctly. Other functions and assignments can be completed through the respective control menus in each of the simulators.
As both the Bravo and MSFS are very new products, some things do need tweaking before you are able to get into the air. Once you have downloaded and installed the driver for the Bravo, the simulator will start with the initial key bindings but it will unfortunately not recognise any input from the second throttle lever from the left which has the binding for throttle 2. This is a limitation with MSFS v126.96.36.199 rather than the Bravo and will be fixed in a future MSFS update. To get around this, you simply need to delete the designation for that lever, which will prompt you to rename and save the profile. Reassign the throttle 2 and check the ‘Reverse Axis’ box. This should now register the second throttle. Another incorrect binding using the default profile Is the vertical speed change selection on the MCP left-hand knob. When you select to change the VS, turning the knob to VS will engage VS mode on the MCP and de-select the altitude or IAS mode you had the aircraft in previously. To prevent this from happening, you need to delete the key input for ‘key item 20’ and this should resolve.
One more limitation of the platform when using the Bravo is when reverse thrust is selected using a jet aircraft and the commercial levers, moving or deselecting the reverse doesn’t relay the input to the simulator. The default profile has ‘Throttle Cut’ function as the detent at the bottom of the throttle to enable the throttle to return to idle from reverse.
Within X-Plane, the Bravo operates many aircraft types both default and third party from the outset providing the plugin is installed. The MCP and thrust levers for most aircraft work as intended but other third party aircraft may need some tweaking in order to assign the correct levers to the inputs. Luckily, the process of changing these is all done through the X-Plane input controls menus. I have found that saving a profile for each of the aircraft you want to use the Bravo with will save time and effort as the same profile will load each time with that aircraft. The main area of customisation and difference between aircraft I found was when programming the seven switches in the panel. Most third party aircraft will have their own drop-down menu with functions that can be readily assigned to these switches.
Honeycomb Configuration Application
The Honeycomb Configuration application, developed by Aerosoft, gives the user the ability to customise functions of the Bravo Throttle Quadrant right down to the individual LED. Unfortunately, the process required to do so is lengthy and not for the programming novice. To get the throttle quadrant to where you want it to be will require access to the list of simulator variables or datarefs, depending on the simulator you use. These are a list of actions that can be bound to an input such as a keystroke or turning a switch on your Bravo device. This becomes much more difficult when working with third-party aircraft when some variables or datarefs are additional to the default P3D or X-Plane list and are bespoke to that aircraft. This requires delving into the aircraft’s Software Development Kit. Each button can have two events, push and release, which can be assigned through the configuration tool providing the datarefs or variables are known for each command. The five-page manual for the configuration tool is unfortunately only enough to assist those users that are technically minded. Aerosoft has provided users with step by step guidance through their forum and YouTube channel on how to operate the Configuration tool and to put together your own aircraft profiles. In addition, you can download and install other users profiles from the Aerosoft website which can be imported into the configuration tool through the settings menu.
Value for Money
When thinking about value for money, Honeycomb delivers a big bang for your buck with the Bravo. Not only do you get a throttle quadrant that is customisable for 90% of the aircraft available in-flight simulation but you get a fully functional autopilot panel, an annunciator panel as well as seven customisable switches, all for $250. The LED functionality and the ability to change the resistance on all axes simultaneously, really push the Bravo to be a top-level product for the price. Through trying to make the product affordable and worth every single penny, Honeycomb has of course saved manufacturing costs where possible in terms of some of the lever construction but these downfalls are heavily outweighed by the positives and are simply overlooked when using it. The Bravo does use traditional position sensors rather than magnetic Hall Effect Sensors to determine the position of the levers, over time, these sensors deteriorate. If Honeycomb were to use the better magnetic sensors, it would hike the price of the unit considerably. To ensure users experience the Bravo in the best condition for as long as possible, Honeycomb has included a two-year warranty on the Bravo which certainly fills me with confidence and peace of mind.
The Bravo Throttle Quadrant is yet another jewel in the Honeycomb Aeronautical crown, consistent with the quality and value we have come to expect from a brand that burst into the realm of flight simulation just five years ago. Anyone who is considering adding dedicated throttles to their setup or those that are replacing their current quadrants would be crazy to not consider the Bravo for their virtual aircraft. Whether you use it in conjunction with the Alpha or as a separate unit, the Bravo offers so much more than just throttle control. Initially, $250 was, in my mind, a rather steep price tag but I quickly discovered exactly what you get for your money. My personal favourite part of the unit has to be the fully functioning autopilot panel which makes flying online and in general that bit easier to manage which allows you to enjoy flying the aircraft more. The possibilities are endless when it comes to the customisability of the throttles which enables you to create multiple setups on the fly without having to rearrange your desk which adds to the immersion no end. I look forward to the additional throttle levers and additions that Honeycomb have previewed for the Bravo but it also leaves me impatient as to which product the brand will think of next.