For about the last 5 years I’ve been doing most of my sim-flying (and really computing in general) on my laptop in my recliner next to my wife. She’s a “quality time” person (gentleman if you don’t know what I mean by this, look it up and learn, it will make your life immeasurably easier), so this was a good compromise. I’ve been flying with a Cobra M5 on the recliner arm, and it’s work reasonably well. However she has recently gotten a new job, and as such I suddenly have quite a bit more “me” time in my schedule, allowing me to use my man cave, with full HOTAS, TrackIR, etc.
I was pondering that over the years I have mostly flown center stick. For a long time this was due to joysticks being designed to be held in the hand (yes I’m that old) or at least not staying on a desk/table particularly well. Once I got a good heavy joystick that would actually stay put, I flew side stick to be able to get to the keyboard easier (this was about the time the Thrustmaster TQS hit the market, and man did I want one!), as it was integral to flight simming. When that stick died, I transitioned to stick with a twist grip and throttle, and was back to center stick, as I had to be able to work the throttle. When I finally got a HOTAS, I was primarily sidestick since I had to find a place to put the stick. However for casual flight siming (say FSX) I would often times center stick, and just use the on joystick throttle.
So what was the point of this meandering trip down memory lane? I’m going to do some pit building, and I’m trying to decide where the heck to put my stick. I don’t really have an allegiance to center stick or side stick, and I’ve never flown a center stick with an extension (also all my real flight time is something with a yoke). I’m leaning towards center stick, as it’s the actual position of most aircraft.
I’d ideally like to have my HOTAS mounted to my chair, and doing that with a center stick is a bit more of a pain. A lot of the real world ergonomic issues that effect a center vs side position also don’t apply.
So what does the MS brain trust have to say on the issue?
Definitely center stick, unless you anticipate flying the DCS F16 almost exclusively. As you said, most aircraft that use a stick have it mounted centrally. You will want to offset the angle of the grip too if possible.
Done side stick for years and is my preference, partly due to keyboard use. The other half is I feel that side stick is more comfortable than center stick, especially for the shoulder and wrist.
Paul is speaking of adding a slight toe out to the stick if you do center or more extreme angles to reduce wrist stress. Look at real cockpits and you’ll see they “point” slightly to one side or another to allow the wrist to sit naturally for all the buttons.
All my stuff is CH, any idea how extending it would go? I really haven’t seen anyone do a mod on a CH HOTAS in that manner.
One of the other major reasons I’m considering side stick, is that’s it’s a pretty simple build, no need to deal with stick extensions etc. On the other hand if I commit to a center stick, I’m debating getting an updated controller setup. Though if I’m going to be dropping change, it’d be far more useful to put it into my PC. Decisions.
Modifying a CH stick would be a lot of rocket surgery; not impossible, but you may as well get a quality piece like a VKB or Virpil if you’re going to do that. You would definitely have to get some stronger springs and I’m not sure the plastic bits of the stick would hold up to that. Plus, the CH Fighterstick is based on the F-16 stick, so it’s de-facto a side stick anyways.
Now knowing that we are talking about CH gear, then I guess I would change my vote to side stick. The thing with CH products is that they never seem to break. My pedals were over 15 years old when I retired them, and they still worked just fine. It can be hard to justify an upgrade when you already have decent kit.
I voted for side stick, although I think it is a function of hardware (and furniture) more than anything else.
When I first started playing DCS, I did not have a stick. I used an Xbox controller. My HOTAS Warthog was my first stick. (For FSX, I have the whole Saitek Throttle (x2)/Pedals/Yoke setup).
Using the stick on the desk was awful for ergonomics. Carpal tunnel and a sore shoulder were basically a given, especially with no extension and the stock spring. My first solution was to remount my stick on the baseplate at a 90° angle - so the plate was landscape instead of portrait. This allowed it to be short enough that I could sit on it to test center stick. It worked really well, so I botched together a chair mounting system and got some longer bolts so it could be attached between the seat of the chair and the base. The stick base could also sit on this and wedge into the chair seat bottom.
This isn’t even real wood, save the two blocks that make the right angle joints. It’s what I had. Try to use real wood. This didn’t last, but by the time it broke we were moving anyway and I got a new chair.
Tah-dah! We have semi-ergonomics while sitting afront a 50" TV. Alas, this still had the problem of not having the stick canted which did cause some carpal tunnel like issues on the odd occasion.
Yes, I was watching a recording of myself when I took this.
Fast forward from 2014 and my eyes aren’t as near-perfect - the 50" TV is awful to read text on for the PC so I have downsized. There is no room at the desk for a center stick mount, less I be too far from the pedals, keyboard and MFD’s. So to combat this, I once again got out the scrap lumber and made a side stick mount. This $0 solution is glorious! The ergo is way up and I can rotate the whole base a degree or so left or right if I need to (which I typically don’t).
While this isn’t as “realistic” a layout, it’s much more comfortable to use right now - which I think should be everyone’s #1 priority. When the area is clear, and screen distance isn’t as much a concern (like @schurem’s setup with VR) then I’d like to have center stick too - with an extension, so I can rotate the grip off center. For those like me with a “stock” HOTAS Warthog, I must recommend the side stick setup and build yourself a cheap drop/side-mount (as you can see, C-clamps hold mine together. The smaller ones hold the stick on the bottom but I didn’t clamp it to quickly take this photo.) The armrest of the chair on stick side is lowered to go under. Or, if you can - buy the MonsterTech units which look killer (too pricey for me to import to Canada).
I’ll also say I’m not much a helo pilot so if helicopters are your main thing, there may be some other considerations to bias you to the center stick setup.
Hmm well good to know there’s a reason no one does a CH products mod. @Wes I like your kind of improvised chair mount, that’s not a bad idea, and one I have plenty of scrap lumber to build. That would give me a chance to try it out and see if I like it.
I took a look at the Monstertech mounts, saw them on the mudspike review page a while back. WAY too rich for my blood, but it wouldn’t be hard to do something similar without the fancy clamps. My desk can handle some bolt’s I’d wager, and if I did it right I could do both side and center stick to see what I liked.
I used a side stick TMS Warthog for almost ten years. Then I got a 20mm extension and went through a lot of configurations to get it comfortable.
I brought the throttle out from the table on a 2x6 board and settled with it 7" from the table edge. It could be closer like 5" and maybe someday I’ll move it.
Then I tried the stick as a center mount, 13" right of the throttle. I had a 14º twist. But it was too uncomfortable for my old shoulder.
Now the stick is 25" from the throttle, basically both are in line with my chair arms. The stick handle is at the height of the chair arm.
My biggest complaint with all my mounts was getting to the desk for paperwork. Now I have these extended desk surfaces that are mounted on 2x4s and very solid. The new surfaces are at the same level as the table. There is an insert that can go in front of the stick to give me more desktop.
My vote is for a side mounted stick.
Been a sidestick flyer for 20+ years, back when I built an Akers-Barnes cockpit & although I don’t currently have a sim-pit, my desk is arranged with the stick at the side. When I stopped flying Falcon 4 for a bit, I did experiment with a centre stick in the A-B but kept kicking the Cougar stick getting in & out of it so reverted to having it on the side shelf.
Current plan is to build a pair of stick mounts that will bolt to the desk, to see if I prefer center or side stick. Building to commence tomorrow when I have some free time after work. I appreciate everyone’s input, it’s an interesting discussion!
Jenrick, there is no reason that you cannot have both. I built my pit to be reconfigurable; I built a stick mount in the center where I mount the warthog base with no base plate and I have a platform to my right where I can have a side stick. I also have a place on the desk to mount a yoke, when I’m ready for GA flying. Four screws fasten the center mounted stick. For the side stick, I went from screws, to C-clamps, and finally to an industrial grade of Blue tac. The blue tac is surprisingly strong and I use it in several places. In fact, my side stick is a force sensing stick and the blue tac keeps the stick very stable. The yoke is mounted with a combination of blue-tac and a 4-foot Velcro tie-down. Switching from center mount to side mount is no more than a few minutes, but placing the yoke takes maybe 10 minutes.
I also mounted my monitor onto an articulating arm for doing the mundane stuff that needs to be done; I just swivel the monitor 90 degrees to the right where I have a second chair and I’m ready to go.
Anyway, I hope you at least consider the possibility of a reconfigurable set-up. It does add to the immersion and every little bit helps.