HOTAS in Spitfires & other WWII aircraft

Being relatively occasional to flight simming for a number of years I started off like most with pretty basic joysticks like the CH Flight Stick before moving on to Logitech Wingman Extreme and it’s later force feedback version. As I got more into flight simming  with MS CFS I upgraded to the TM Hotas X with its detachable throttle but I only really started assigning the various buttons and tuning the controls when I started to fly Cliffs of Dover and on joining 79vRAF virtual squadron (part of EAF).

The first stage of the EAF OTU course was about flight control set up and keybindings and I quickly ordered a set of TM rudder pedals which immediately made life a lot easier. Trying to control the effects of propeller torque on take-off with a twist grip demands practice and finesse, especially when this sat on the desk in front of the keyboard.

Topsy’s TM Hotas X set up

In an effort to improve immersion I ended up sticking my TM stick on a post and shelf between my legs and the same for the throttle unit just outside my left knee. This helps but I find the control movements too stiff even with the spring set to minimum. This position helps with firing as you can steady your hand by jamming your elbow into the ribs. Some mates have added extensions, but in my setup the shelf would drop to knee height and this would hinder pedal control.

The practical but non-historical advantage of 10 button Hotas setups in WWII aircraft is that you can fly most of the mission hands-on, which is particularly useful in moments of stress. Cool things to have on the stick are the rudder and elevator trim buttons and the zoom in and out controls. This is a bit of a cheat as I never heard about any fighter pilots scanning the skies with binoculars.

On the throttle unit it is almost obligatory to have buttons assigned to propeller pitch, radiator flaps and WEP. However the point is that WWII pilots generally flew with one hand on the stick and the other was constantly flitting around the cockpit to adjust the various controls. So while HOTAS style controls are quite handy, they do not replicate pilot workload or the more extensive movements of cockpit floor mounted control columns.

This explains why I and other sim nutters have gone to some trouble in trying to replicate WWII type flying controls in an effort to improve immersion. While some have opted for fairly permanent set-ups, some going as far as building replica cockpits with metal floor frames and side structures, I opted for light and easily removable controls for ease of storage.

Storm of War 4 is long over and while several EAF pilots continue to fly WWII in IL2 Battle of (series) our squadron and other EAF pilots are converting to the DCS AV8B N/A Harrier and the Viggen with their full suite of weapons systems.

Flying the Harrier with my MkIX Spitfire controls does not feel right and is not at all practical, so I now switch flight controls according to the type of aircraft we fly. My Spitfire kit can be removed in the wink of an eye and my TM Hotas setup jams under the worktop in a matter of seconds.

The only difficulty is trying to remember the key bindings for each type of sim kit and each type of aircraft. Thankfully in modern sims we can set up a button for the onscreen kneepad checklists, so I don’t have to resort to a separate pc screen.

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