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.

Reader Question–Should I invest in rudder pedals

Our first reader question of 2023 comes to us from Spencer who is relatively new to flight simulation.  He’s asking a fairly common question regarding whether he should invest in a set of rudder pedals.  Before I get to my answer/opinion, first allow me to tell a story. Way back in the early days of my own flight simulation experience, I spent a ton of time in the sim with only an inexpensive joystick.  At some time in either the very late 90’s or perhaps early 2000’s, I purchased my first yoke.  It was the CH Products Flight Sim Yoke and incredibly I still use it today.  Yes, it’s held together quite well and has saw me through many generations of flight sim platforms including FS9, FSX, P3D versions 2 – 5 and now MSFS.  It’s at least 23 years old (could be as much as 24-25) and with the exception of needing to adjust my null zones a little higher due to it being less sensitive in its old age, it still works really well.  I subscribe to the theory that if it’s not broke, don’t fix it or in this case, don’t replace it. 

Now back to that inexpensive joystick I used over a quarter century ago.  Like I said, it was cheap…but it worked and while it didn’t include a “twisting action” to control the rudder, I just simply used the “auto-rudder” settings in the sim to get around this.  Of course, when I upgraded to the CH Products Yoke I still had to continue to use the “auto-rudder” settings inside the sim as I had no additional control over the rudder action. 

Within a few weeks of adding the yoke, I then purchased my first set of rudder pedals.  Way back in the early 2000’s we really didn’t have a huge selection of add-on hardware like we do today.  I paired the CH Products Yoke with a set of CH Products rudder pedals and of course turned off the “auto rudder” feature.  I couldn’t believe how much this pairing improved my flight simulation experience.  To this day, I still use this same combination of hardware.  However, my first set of pedals stopped working after about 5 years and I replaced with the same. 

So to get back on track, even if you currently use a joystick with a “twisting action” to control the rudder function of the aircraft, I truly believe your overall experience and certainly your immersion will be greatly increased by adding a set of rudder pedals to your flight sim setup. 

As for recommendations, I’ve read a lot of really great reviews on the Thrustmaster TPR Pendular Rudder Pedals, but these require a pretty hefty investment of about $600.00.  The lesser quality version of the Thrustmaster TFRP Rudder Pedals are around $130.00.  Another higher end model that is also a favorite among fellow flight simmers is the Honeycomb Charlie Pedals.  These sell for $349.00, but are sold out at the present time from the manufacturer. 

For me personally, when/if my CH Products pedals finally stop working I will most likely replace them with something in the $130 – $200 range unless I can get a good deal on the TM TPR pedals I mentioned earlier. 

Bottom line and to close this out, I believe rudder pedals are a must have for any flight simulation enthusiast.  I really don’t believe I could, nor would want to fly without them. 

Until next time…

Happy Flying!!!

Jerry

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