Are you fed up with subpar flying experiences using a gamepad controller? Well, the innovative team at Yawman certainly thinks so, and they’ve unveiled the inaugural gamepad controller designed specifically for flight simulation enthusiasts. Enter the Yawman Arrow, a controller engineered to provide a comprehensive handheld cockpit experience, featuring 7 axes and 21 buttons right at your fingertips. This groundbreaking product is set to hit the market officially on January 8th, available for purchase at Sporty’s Pilotshop with a retail price of $250. Let’s talk about whether it’s worth picking up.
The product is neatly packaged in an unassuming cardboard box adorned with the Yawman logo. Upon opening the box, the controller is securely nestled inside. Connecting the controller to my computer was a breeze using the included USB-C cable, allowing me to take to the skies right away. Unfortunately, there is no support for wireless connectivity.
Microsoft Flight Simulator seamlessly recognizes the controller, and it comes pre-loaded with three default profiles. These profiles cater to different aircraft types, including specialized configurations for jets and helicopters.
The controller boasts a total of 7 axes and 21 buttons, all of which perform as advertised. Notably, the mechanically linked triggers add a unique touch, functioning akin to rudder pedals. Positioned at the left thumb, the joystick allows for precise control of aircraft pitch and roll. My personal preference was to lower the sensitivity of the pitch and roll control for more precise control. Beneath it, a rotating wheel serves the primary purpose of trim control, while at the base, two vernier-style control axes enhance versatility. At the right thumb, there are 2 control axes, which are initially programmed to control thrust. To the left of these axes, a hat switch is strategically placed for camera control. The yaw control and joystick control were flawless, with absolutely no dead zone. I can’t say the same for the 4 linear axes, which unfortunately do have quite a bit of low and high input dead zones – Personally, I didn’t notice this in the sim, I only observed it when reviewing controller calibration.
The diverse array of buttons includes a D-Pad, 6 Multi-Function Buttons, and 2 back bumpers. Pre-programmed with various functions, these buttons facilitate control over every aspect of the flight deck, from autopilot settings to radio adjustments. While the learning curve may be steep due to the abundance of options, there’s immense potential for users willing to invest time in crafting their personalized setups.
The build quality has notably improved since the 3D printed prototype showcased last year. While the controller is comfortable, it is very light weight – much lower weight than a comparable xbox controller. Nevertheless, the plastic mold exudes quality, and the ergonomic design ensures comfort during extended flights. The buttons all provided satisfactory tactile and audible feedback – with the exception of the back bumpers, which felt more mushy and lacking feedback.
Some people may be concerned about acquiring a controller from a new developer, and concerned about longterm support. Yawman plans on shipping this product with a 1 year warranty to give you peace of mind.
So, the pivotal question is, what’s the flying experience like with the Yawman Arrow? I’ve thoroughly enjoyed using it. The Arrow elevates the flying qualities over something like an Xbox controller. While it does not match the precision and control of a yoke, you’re not going to be getting smooth butter landings like you can with a yoke, the real star is the mechanically linked pedals at the back. These pedals provide a fine level of control, almost on par with dedicated rudder pedals – minus the braking functionality. Executing complex flight maneuvers, from crosswind landings to sideslips and stalls, posed no challenge. The aircraft responded precisely to my commands.
The autopilot control on this device is notably intuitive, especially for complex functions. The 6 multifunction buttons correspond to the renowned “6 Pack” aircraft instruments. Engaging the autopilot for any of these functions is as simple as hitting the right bumper and the corresponding multifunction button. Adjusting values, such as increasing target altitude, involves holding the top right multifunction button and using the right button on the D-Pad until the desired input is achieved. This layout, while ingenious, assumes familiarity with the 6 pack aircraft instruments, making it easiest to remember and use when flying in a General Aviation aircraft.
A promoted feature is the ability to complete a full flight without touching your keyboard or mouse. While technically possible, I found it impractical for more complex aircraft, with the multitude of key combinations proved challenging to memorize, often requiring me to refer to the manual. Additionally, there are in sim limitations preventing the automation of controls such as VNAV. However, I successfully achieved this for Cessna flights, mastering everything, including autopilot controls, after a few tries.
The learning curve for this controller is as steep as you choose to make it. Default control combinations can be overwhelming, and I found myself accidentally triggering unintended button combinations. Simplifying my controls improved the experience, using the mouse as a crutch for complex functions. If this becomes a user’s primary controller, unlocking the full functional potential will undoubtedly come with practice and familiarity.
The primary consideration for this controller revolves around its use case. The most obvious use case is for those uninterested in investing in an elaborate flightsim setup, which can be both expensive and a storage night mare. Given its comparable size to an Xbox controller, it’s exceptionally easy to store.
The compact design also makes it an excellent travel companion. This controller is ideal for tossing into your carry-on bag, providing a convenient option for use with a laptop – as the developer has shown ion their promotional material.
Moreover, the controller is tailored for compatibility with Infinite Flight, specifically on Android, with no support for iOS. For Infinite Flight users, this could serve as a substantial upgrade over existing setups.
Another scenario where this controller shines is for quick, spontaneous flights, eliminating the setup and teardown time associated with more intricate setups. It also offers a comfortable couch-simming experience, allowing for approximately 80% of a flight to be managed solely with the controller—far more than achievable with an Xbox controller. Unfortunately, it’s worth noting that this controller is not compatible with Xbox at present, a potential use case that I hope the developer can address in the future.
One detraction from these use cases is the lack of wireless functionality – an item that I would think would be a requirement for a controller meant to declutter and be enjoyed in a range of non-desk circumstances.
An additional noteworthy application is its effectiveness as a tool for operating the drone camera in the simulator. This feature could be particularly valuable for video creators within the flight sim community, adding an extra layer of versatility to the controller’s functionality.