Finding the right hardware to start your journey into flight simulation is always tough. For months, I tried desperately to use a keyboard and mouse. The virtual flight instructors were always mad at me for terrible landings (tips on pg. 63), but I always blamed the hardware setup I had. However, when I got my first joystick, my flight sim life changed. Finally having full control over each movement meant I could land with much more precision. I could no longer blame my hardware for the rough landings, but at least having a joystick made things easier than ever before.
As we enter into this new realm of flight simulation, it’s worth stopping to remember that finding your first piece of hardware is a crucial first step into your flight simulation journey.
For years, Thrustmaster has been involved in the production of quality hardware in the flight simulation world. The TCA Sidestick Airbus Edition is the latest in a long line of products from the hardware manufacturers, but the first entry that is designed with commercial airliners in mind. Working closely alongside Airbus, the new TCA Sidestick is designed to offer enthusiasts and future pilots alike the chance to hold something close to the real thing.
Design and Feel
The design is taken straight out of an Airbus cockpit. Blue hues make up the base, whilst the buttons and switches strike a good resemblance to sidesticks I’ve seen in rea Airbus cockpits. Despite being made from plastic, it feels sturdy and durable.
Being dubbed the Airbus Edition means that a lot of the features are specifically designed to look similar to that of the real deal. It is indeed a 1:1 scale model of the real thing.
Those flying with the stick in the simulator will be able to program the buttons to simulate exactly how the real-world aircraft would react. The red button can act as an autopilot disengage. Whilst the other black button and the hat switch in the middle are not found on the real aircraft, they serve as helpful user-friendly buttons when flying in a virtual environment. From plugging it in, the eight-way hat switch will pan your camera in any direction or switch views on command.
For those of you looking to ensure that you have the flexibility for numerous controls and options from a single joystick, then the Thrustmaster TCA Sidestick Airbus Edition will be perfect for you. With 12 different buttons on the base of the joystick, there’s plenty of opportunities to customise to your hardware. This means if you want to assign buttons for your flaps, gear or radio transponder, all from one place, you can.
Another core component of the TCA Sidestick Airbus Edition, is the inclusion of a throttle slider. This will enable you to easily adjust the power sent to your engines, so whether you’re taking off, climbing or coming into land, you will have full control of your speed. What’s more, there’s a small detent which will enable you to set up a reverse thrust setting for your aircraft. No longer will you have to bash the F2 button, instead you can comfortably apply appropriate power.
The final part of the design I want to mention is the ergonomics of the joystick itself. There are grooves and other placements on the joystick that mean holding it in your hand feels nice and comfortable. The trigger button has a solid feel which requires a good amount of force to pull to get a satisfying response. Whilst this trigger does not exist on the real-world stick, it does add flexibility for simmers and ideal for those wanting quick access to your brakes.
Customisable To Your Needs
In the real world, both the Captain and the First Officer each have their own sidestick; due to the fact they sit on opposite sides of the aircraft, the red autopilot disengage button is mirrored on each one. Most hardware I’ve come across in the past has never featured interchangeable parts, but Thrustmaster has recognised the need for this feature. So, whether you are flying as the Captain, or embarking on your training as a First Officer, you can easily swap the hardware pieces to suit your needs.
All you need to do is unscrew the left side of the top part of the stick, unplug both the side pieces and then swap them over with the included interchangeable parts. It takes a matter of moments to do. Even after swapping out the components several times, the buttons still felt durable and stable when attached to the joystick.
How Does It Feel?
Obviously, the key part of the joystick is the stick itself and being able to comfortably use it for flight. Included with the TCA Sidestick Airbus Edition from Thrustmaster is their Hall Effect Accurate Technology; known as H.E.A.R.T Precision.
The magnet sensors in the joystick have a 14-bit resolution to make sure the response within the simulator accurately corresponds to the joystick movements. This means even the smallest gestures will be recognised, allowing users to make more refined corrections.
Moving the stick on the axis feels nice and smooth with minimal deadzone in the center. This prevents any jerky or sudden movements, as well as stopping you from accidentally pushing on the yoke too much.
For those looking to customise controls even more definitively, you can download the T.A.R.G.E.T software, which will enable you to precisely add curves and other inputs directly to your control system and simulator. This gives you access to even more well-defined movements based on your own set-up.
The TCA Ecosystem
The Thrustmaster TCA Sidestick is the first of a range of products coming to the civilian flight simulation market. Following on from the release of the Sidestick, additional Airbus related products will be sold to give users even more chance to customise their airliner experience.
The TCA Quadrant Airbus Edition will feature a true-to-life Airbus throttle quadrant. Complete with starter switches, ignition control and of course the throttles themselves.
A Quadrant add-on will also be released, expanding the series even further. This hardware will complete your set up by providing you with spoiler functionality, parking brakes, and a detailed flap-system. Combining these three products will give you access to all the main controls in an Airbus flight deck.
Learning More About Airbus
FSElite is proud to be the leading flight sim media site and a driving force into inspiring the next generation of virtual pilots. This is why we’re investing in creating tutorials to help those less experienced to learn more about flying Airbus aircraft.
Tune in to our YouTube page in the future to find an online-exclusive series of tutorials showcasing you the fundamentals of flying an Airbus – all using the Thrustmaster TCA Sidestick Airbus Series.
A full review for the Thrustmaster TCA Sidestick Airbus Edition is coming soon.
This article first appeared in the third edition of the FSElite Magazine. You can buy a physical copy here.