Affordable hardware within Flight Simulation has been at the forefront of many simmers’ minds for a long while. We have been stuck with the same hardware for many years. Despite the reliability, it’s been a long time coming for a new player. At long last, Honeycomb Aeronautical stepped up to the job with their new Alpha Yoke system. Not only is Honeycomb Aeronautical a new player to the field but, in my opinion, they also walk away wearing the crown.
The history of Honeycomb Aeronautical releasing the Alpha Flight Control has certainly been interesting. Many of the team have had plentiful experience in creating controllers for many years. This isn’t a team of people who just jumped into creating the product, but instead, a team who wanted to create something fresh, new and intuitive for new and old simmers alike. There was clearly a gap in the market for a yoke that provided in-depth functionality, whilst also keeping the cost in mind. And though cost played a big factor to ensure the product is affordable, the classy box and nicely padded inside were certainly a surprise. The box was just the beginning of my journey on this great yoke where that premium feeling is felt despite the relatively low cost of entry.
From a purely aesthetic perspective, the Honeycomb Alpha Flight Control yoke is a great looking yoke that will compliment anyone’s simulator set-up. The main unit box itself takes up a relatively small footprint of space both on the table and in terms of height. Measuring at a compact 42cm by 28m and a height of 12cm, it really is on the smaller size for a product of this type. When the yoke is fully pulled back, it extends to a maximum depth of 48cm.
I particularly loved the overall shape and design. The curved design towards the rear is a nice touch. The whole thing feels very nice with a matte finish continuing that premium quality theme. There is clear attention to ensuring the product remains cost-effective, but also without it compromising on the quality. The front plate, with its grill-like effect was also something of personal preference that I liked and the included red LEDs are a nice touch. It’s a shame the colour can’t be changed, but they add a bit of personality to the chassis of the product. The lights themselves can be adjusted in brightness between various levels, or turned off completely if that’s what you’re looking for. They don’t add or take away from the product, but if you have a set-up with lots of red LEDs, then you likely love this feature. For everyone else, it’s a take-it or leave-it situation.
Setting up the Honeycomb Alpha Controls yoke is very straightforward. There is an included instruction manual, which details everything you will need to know about setting up. In general, setting up hardware such as yokes is easy, but there are elements that Honeycomb has done to simplify that even further.
Clamping the unit down on your desk can be done in two ways. Included is a nano-suction pad with an ultra-sticky backing and two screw-clamps. The first way to secure your unit to the desk is to unpeel the protective sheet of your nano-suction pad and then firmly attach it to your desk. You can then slot in the yoke and then adjust the screw dials towards the back to secure it down. That’s it. This pad is pretty tough and on the right surface, means you won’t have to use clamps to secure the unit. You can have complete control without worrying about the yoke slipping or sliding. The second way is similar to the first, but before adding the yoke to the nano-pad, you insert the two clamps and secure them also to your desk. You would then proceed to attach the yoke. This is for sure the most secure method. Regardless, I found both to be strong approaches to ensure my yoke didn’t move even in intense usage. As for those worrying about the suction pad dirtying your desk – fret not as it leaves no residue whatsoever. Taking it off your desk does require a bit of a wiggle, but nothing that you wouldn’t be able to handle.
Once it has been attached, you simply need to plug in the supplied USB-C cable into the backend of the unit and the other into your PC via a standard USB port. A small Ethernet cable then connects between the yoke bezel itself and the main unit – this is what sends the data from the yoke to the system. Everything you need is included and should the worst happen, your wires are easy to replace. Furthermore, if you need to clean your nano-suction pads, simply using a wet cloth with warm water will do so nicely.
Once the yoke was connected, everything felt very secure and stable. No shaking or rattling loose ends, and no annoying screws to fiddle with or Allen keys to add to your collection. Everything you need is in the neat box and all serve an obvious function. All-in-all, it’s a very sturdy unit.
One of the key features for the Honeycomb Alpha Flight Control is the ability to finally have true 180-degree turn radius. Unlike other yokes, you are able to roll the yoke left and right by 90 degrees. The motion is completely smooth and friction-free. The ability to finally roll an aircraft is, without doubt, an important element of the yoke. It feels really nice to finally have complete control over your bank without having to be restricted by tight and unrealistic radiuses.
Further to the banking action, you will also have to push and pull to introduce any elevator action into the simulator. Unlike the frictionless roll action, there is a bit of resistance when pushing or pulling the yoke. Compared to how easy it is to roll the aircraft, having to apply a bit of force to pull or push the yoke felt a little unnatural. It wasn’t so tough that it was uncomfortable, far from it, but it just didn’t feel as slick as banking. This is just a small gripe I had and from speaking to others, more of a personal preference. However, one thing that was agreed on is there is a very small amount of grinding as you slide the shaft into the unit. A byproduct based on the ergonomic design, and certainly not something that detracts from your experience once your aircraft is powered up and the engines sounds are blasting out of your speaker.
From reading comments in other areas of the site, there was a lot of concern over ‘detent’ zones. Whilst I can confirm there is a very, very small detent for the elevator action, it’s hardly noticeable during any type of usage. This is thanks to the way the controller inputs data into the simulator. Whether you feel that detent or not, the simulator actually picks up even a fraction of movement on the yoke. There is no need to set-up a null zone on the yoke as the slightest touch will send the action to the sim. This isn’t to say that it feels out of control. Instead, the yoke is fully responsive to your input.
Over the years, I’ve seen many yokes come and go. I’ve had a common complaint about those for lacking buttons and switches. This is one area in which Honeycomb’s offering trumps the competition. There is no shortage here of things to touch, press, move and click. Starting on the yoke grip itself, you will find an array of buttons here all for various purposes. On the left hand of the yoke, there are two elevator trim switches (left and right), 2 smaller white buttons (ideal for the push to talk switch) and also an eight-way hat switch. Moving over to the right, you will find the elevator switches replaced with aileron trim (above and below), a large red button and a third smaller white switch.
All of these buttons have been designed to give the simmer an incredible amount of flexibility. One of the most restrictive things for most other yoke set-ups is their limited number of buttons. All of these options mean that when you’re loading up your favourite aircraft, you can set the right button to perform as you would expect. For example, if your push to talk button is on the left-hand where your index finger rests, then you can assign that key. Things such as the hat switch are also perfect for those that like to move their camera around without the use of a mouse or another tool. Quick, precise movement of the camera can be vital once in the virtual skies.
Whilst the vast number of choices make it ideal for the simmer, some of the button placement I found a bit cumbersome. For example, the red button on the right-hand side is very far up the yoke and even with my relatively large hands, it was quite the stretch out of a comfortable position I was in previously. Also, I found myself accidentally hitting the elevator trim toggle switch when using the hat button – which when flying certain aircraft is a bit annoying. That being said, having the ability to customise this yoke on a per-aircraft basis via the simulator control menu is a great benefit to have for this yoke and enables flexibility unlike any other yoke on the market.
Those aren’t the only control switches on the product. Moving towards the main base of the unit are 9 switches and a magneto control set. Broken down, these are 2 Master Battery switches (ALT and BAT), along with two avionics switches (BUS1 and BUS2). Below those are then 5 additional toggle switches for your main aircraft lights: NAV, BEACON, STROBE, TAXI and LAND. Now, of course, these switches will need to be programmed depending on the aircraft you’re using and can also be assigned to controls of your choice. Each of them feel nice and smooth, yet strong and sturdy. Clicking them into place also gives off a very satisfying *click* sound. Even after months of use (with my current pre-production hardware), they are still very reliable and show no signs of wear. The magneto switch is also of the same high quality. You can cycle between OFF, R, L, BOTH and START. Again, each one provides a lovely sound as you go through each. Personally, I would have preferred to see the START selection spring-loaded – just as it in real aircraft. Having all of these additional switches to help immerse you fully into the aircraft is beyond anything I’ve seen before in a yoke system and just adds even more value to the product.
Once everything is set up, it’s important to remember to first configure your controls to get the best experience. Whether you use FSX, P3D or X-Plane, the yoke is immediately recognised by Windows. Sadly, I can’t confirm whether it works on Mac (Editor’s note: if anyone can confirm, please let us know and we’ll amend the review). Once it has been plugged into your Windows computer, you can then use your simulator to configure the controls to your preferences.
In X-Plane 11.36 and above, built-in drivers will make it easier than ever to adjust the Honeycomb Alpha Flight Control. Using the familiar UI, you can adjust the curves to your preference. It is fairly intuitive and gets you a lot of flexibility in controls. You can also assign buttons on the control set-up to react to your simulator. As mentioned above, the controls also have a dual elevator trim control. As explained by Austin from Laminar Research in a recent video, this is actually a proactive safety precaution used by manufacturers to prevent disastrous events. On X-Plane, with a recent update with this hardware in mind, you will be able to use this functionality just as per real-world operations.
This the X-Plane config tool, built into the simulator itself. It’s nice and easy to use and the button mapping is very easy to understand.
This is the Aerosoft Honeycomb Controls driver. It’s similar to the X-Plane version, but not build into the sim, so it’s much harder to set-up. It was easier to do it through FSUIPC, but you are a little limited. Also, I couldn’t find an English manual, which made it even harder to set-up.
In FSX or Prepar3D, the default control panel enables you to adjust the null zones and sensitivity settings. A quick bit of advice: set the null zones to 0. This will give you complete control over the yoke and nullify any ‘detent’ issues. You can also set up a range of button controls via the default menu, but for those looking for a more in-depth experience (e.g. separate master battery switches) will need to install FSUIPC. Not a flaw with the yoke, but more of a legacy simulator problem circumvented by clever software.
Irrespective of your platform of choice, the yoke controls aircraft flawlessly. Moving the controls left or right instantly delivers feedback into the sim 1-1. There was no noticeable latency between the movement of the hardware and the input into the sim. When it came to flying, it was a real joy to have a high quality, sturdy, and well-made yoke as I effortlessly used the controls. From my limited flying experience, it is always said to me that you should be light on the controls day-to-day. Using one hand with gentle, but precise movements to control your aircraft. With the Honeycomb Alpha Controls, I certainly felt that this was the case.
Despite myself feeling that the elevator movement is perhaps a bit too stiff, it was never too distracting from flying around. Whether I was sat in a small GA aircraft or taking on a larger Boeing jet, the controls felt responsive. Performing challenging approaches now had a lot of realism and the yoke gave me complete control to ensure I hit those markers precisely as expected. The biggest difference for me was finally having a full 180-degree rotation on the bank with every slight bit of movement translating to the sim.
As with any hardware within the flight simulation space, there is always that question of price. This is certainly something the team at Honeycomb is very aware of as the product has always been marketed as an affordable yoke of a high quality. For $249.99 USD, you are getting a control package that includes many more features than I’ve seen in products at much higher price points. The build quality doesn’t appear to suffer as a result of the lower costs, nor does it feel cheap in any way. There are other yokes on the market which are still cheaper, after using the Honeycomb Aeronautical Alpha Flight Control, I would never look back. I would say it’s well worth saving up a bit extra to afford this over anything cheaper. Whilst the yoke isn’t flawless, the cost of entry completely foregoes any other minor flaws that I found. It’s also worth mentioning that the yoke comes with a complete 5-year guarantee, which again highlights their confidence in design and materials used.
- Sturdy, elegant design with some nice visual touches
- Great feeling flight controls with 180 degrees of movement in the role
- Plenty of buttons for maximum flexibility on flying type
- Price is unbeatable for the quality of yoke you’re getting
- Great feeling device with easy to set-up mechanisms
- Push/pull on the elevator movement is a bit too tense for my liking with a minor grinding sound
Small thing to note: This review was based off of a pre-production unit. The main production unit is actually more stable with less force required when pulling the yoke. It also makes the scratching sound less based on the production units I tested. Otherwise, I’m happy that the unit I used will match (if need exceed) the quality a production unit will have. I also didn’t get a fancy box like those who buy one will get.