Winwing Airbus FCU Finally

You might remember I first mentioned my interest in the new Winwing Airbus FCU back in May when I posted about my brand new purchase of the Thrustmaster Airbus Captains Pack.  Well I had placed my order for the Winwing FCU way back on 23 April and had all but lost hope that I would ever receive it.  Roll forward 2.5 months and I finally have it in my hands.

The Winwing Airbus FCU arrived nicely packaged to my address via Fedex.  The package shipped directly from China and spent nearly a week in Japan, before finally making it to Memphis and then on to Denver. The box you see below had an outer layer of white plastic protecting the box and where the labels were attached.

Upon opening the box, everything inside was protected in styrofoam.

Removing the top layer revealed the included USB cable and hardware to mount the included plastic stands.

and finally the well packaged and protected FCU

Installation and Setup

Unfortunately, the package contains no documentation.  I was already expecting this as I had watched several YouTube videos showcasing the unboxing and setup of the WinWing FCU prior to receiving my unit.  I realize we’re all trying our best to reduce the amount of paper waste, but WinWing hasn’t even bothered to put together an online user guide that I could locate on their website.  But like I said, there are a few YouTube videos which will help walk you through the steps of what needs to be done.  The best video to watch is by Easyjetsimpilot and the link to that video is is here.

While I followed step-by-step-by every excruciating step of the above mentioned video, I ran into issues which I struggled to get around.  My hardware setup is fairly massive, but certainly not unique.  I have over a dozen USB peripherals which I use just for flight sim.  These include of course my newish Thrustmaster Captain’s Edition stick, throttles and other side devices, my rudder pedals, my yoke and multiple GoFlight hardware modules I use when flying the PMDG aircraft.  I also have a Razr keypad I use for controlling my views along with many other devices.  Some are directly connected to the PC and others are plugged into powered USB hubs.

While it is true some of these devices aren’t all used on every flight.  Example, I don’t use my yoke when I fly an Airbus and I don’t use the majority of the GoFlight hardware in the same scenario, the thought of having to disconnect and reconnect these devices just to keep the Winwing FCU happy was frustrating.  After stepping away from my system for a few hours, I finally figured out that somehow there is a conflict between the Winwing FCU and my Logitech Racing Wheel.  OK, I can live with not having the racing wheel connected when running flight sim.  So to keep the Winwing happy and allow me to enjoy some Fenix Airbus A320 flying, it’s disconnected.

Overall Opinions on the product

Other than the frustrations I mentioned above, I am mostly pleased with the Winwing FCU.  Having it, along with the Thrustmaster Captain’s Pack has greatly reduced the amount of use needed from the mouse and keyboard and I’m very excited about that.  Flying the Fenix A320 is just as enjoyable and immersive as flying the PMDG 737-800.  For that reason, I’m very happy with the product.  The FCU appears to be well made. I have it installed just under my monitor and while this is working for now, I want to do something a little different, but haven’t quite figured out what that will be just yet. Most likely this will be pushed out as I plan to have a much different setup once we move and can live with the way it is for now.

I must admit that I was shocked to learn that upon initial connection with the FCU and their SimAppPro software that a firmware update was required.  I could certainly understand if my FCU had been sitting on a shelf in some obscure warehouse for months prior to be ordering it, but I assume with the 2.5 month wait I experienced that my FCU was “hot off the presses” and should have arrived to me ready to go.

But I also think what is seriously lacking with my Winwing FCU experience is their SimApp Pro software.  In my opinion it seems to be very clunky in use.  But it is what it is and I will live with it.

Final Thoughts

After learning about their future plans during FSExpo to release more hardware devices for the sim, I was excited.  But this excitement (at least for now) has been taken back a few notches.  But we’ll see what happens over time.  If a new product were to be announced (example their EFIS panel) I most likely would wait before ordering it.  Especially if the wait for that product is going to be 2-3 months as we’re most likely moving to Texas later this year (read more about this here) and wouldn’t want to place an order while I’m still in Colorado.

So far I’ve flown about 3 flights with the Winwing FCU and as previously stated, I’m really loving the added immersion of not needing to use my mouse to control the functions contained within the FCU hardware.  As I have no experience with the other available FCU hardware options, I honestly can say that I’m 100% happy with the Winwing FCU.

Until next time…

Happy Flying!!!

Jerry

Thrustmaster Airbus Captains Pack

Those of you who know me and have been reading my blog posts for the past 13+ years, know that I enjoy the immersion which the flight simulation hobby provides to us.  I’ve spent time, money and a lot of effort to build up my home simulator with various controllers from GoFlight (which sadly went bust a few years ago) and when flying my PMDG 737 I rarely need to use the mouse and keyboard during any phase of flight.  However, the same can’t be said for the Fenix A320.

Immersion Killer

Yes, ladies and gentlemen….I’ve been flying my Fenix Airbus A320 (and even the FSLabs back in P3D) with a yoke versus a sidestick or joystick controller.  But this is about to change as I recently gifted myself the Thrustmaster Airbus Captains Pack which contains the sidestick controller, the throttle quadrant plus to two additional add-on quadrants which control the speed brakes and the flaps.  Additionally, for the record….I did attempt to use an older Logitech Extreme 3D Pro joystick, but just found that I preferred the feel of the yoke versus the stick.

Finally, while I’ve spent the better part of the last 5-6 years flying an Airbus with a yoke, as I’ve been flying computer based sims for well over 40+ years….I only purchased my first yoke about 25 years ago.  Before that I had always used a joystick to control whatever aircraft I was flying as yokes really weren’t available way back when.

Why Change Now

Good question!  I suppose the really honest answer to this question boils down to the simple fact that I really wanted the same level of immersion with the Fenix A320 (and someday soon the Fenix A319/A321) that I have with the PMDG 737.  In addition, a few weeks ago I signed up for the pre-order release of the new WinWing FCU unit which once that is setup I’ll be more immersed into the world of Airbus and not need my mouse and keyboard nearly as much.

But there’s another reason

I’ve found I need to use different sensitivity settings on my old CH Products Yoke when controlling the Fenix A320 than what is needed with the PMDG 737.  Half the time I forget to adjust them and when they are setup for the 737, I really struggle with the flare in the Fenix and usually slam harder than I would like onto the runway.  The reason I’ve put up with this so long is I tend to fly the PMDG 737 about 75-80% of the time.  But I have a feeling I’ll fly the Fenix A320 a lot more now.

Unboxing, Setup and first Use

I must say, I was really impressed with the packaging.  The simulated “Red Tape” that reads remove before use made me chuckle.  I quickly unboxed it and began setting it all up.  In the box you’ll find two long USB cables and two shorter ones.  The shorter cables, about 3 inches in length will connect both the flap controller and the speed brakes controller to the main center throttle quadrant.  Then one of the longer USB cables can be used to connect this complete unit to your PC and same with the sidestick.  Depending on your configuration, you can use the sidestick as somewhat of a USB hub and connect the throttle quad to that.  But I have plenty of USB ports and just connected both to the PC.

Once that was done, it was time to download the drivers from the Thrustmaster website.  I initially had difficultly getting Windows to recognize the sidestick as by default it is set to work with an Xbox.  But there is a switch on the back to change that to PC and once done, Windows detected it just fine.  I quickly went through the calibration steps in Windows just to make sure everything worked.

Fenix Calibration

This caused me to pull a few hairs out at first.  Obviously I’m only going to use this setup when flying an Airbus.  I’ll revert back to my yoke and other hardware when flying a Boeing.  But it took me a few minutes to get the throttle quad to function correctly with the Fenix.  Thankfully, they have some good documentation on the Fenix website to assist in this effort.

After some additional time in removing some of the mappings which automatically get applied and which I don’t need, it was time for my first test flight.

Pros and Cons

Naturally there will always be some pros and cons to any hardware add-on.  While the Thrustmaster TCA hardware is plastic, it does appear to be well made.  The sidestick is the heaviest of the kit and does have a nice feel to it.  The buttons and leavers all appear to be smooth in their operation.

However, there are a few drawbacks that I’ve discovered after a few flights.  For example, the speed brake is just a lever and will not pull up as it does in the real aircraft to arm the spoilers.  However, I just mapped one of the buttons on the engine start panel to arm the spoilers.  Also, not really sure what the engineers had in mind when they planned the auto-brake switch as it is a rotating knob versus the push button controls found in the real Airbus A320.

Finally, if you suddenly lose all your Windows and MSFS sounds, it’s most likely because the sound settings have switched over to the TCA Sidestick audio device.  This is because the TCA Sidestick has a built in audio device where you can attach a headset if you desire.  As this is not something I’ll use, I just changed my audio devices back to my PC soundcard.

Final Thoughts

I really didn’t mean for this to become a review of the Thrustmaster TCA Airbus Captains Pack, but I guess in a way it turned out to be just that.  So far I’m pleased with the purchase and am certainly looking forward to receiving my Winwing FCU.  I believe the combination of these two pieces of kit will allow me to enjoy the Fenix A320 as much as I enjoy the PMDG 737 from an immersion point of view.

Until next time…

Happy Flying!!!

Jerry

P.S. I’ve actually been looking very closely at the Thrustmaster Boeing Yoke to replace my 25+ year old CH Products yoke.  When/If I do decide to pull the trigger on this purchase, I’ll certainly let you all know.

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