Saturday, 20 November 2010

It's not a yoke

I flew a Cessna Skycatcher recently. It got me thinking about the different types of controls used in light aircraft. I guess the most common is either the yoke or stick, although even here here are variations on the theme. Beechcraft for example had their throw-over yoke that featured a central pedestal with one yoke that could be used on either side while the simple joystick could either be one single stick per side, or a common arrangement with two sticks a la Robin or even Robinson for that matter. Then there's the sidestick, commonly found in aircraft like the Cirrus. It falls nicely to hand and moves for and aft and rolls left and right, sort of like a yoke that has been positioned to one side. The Eclipse and the Corvalis, nee Columbia, also have a sidestick, but rather than the Cirrus arrangement they are more like a real stick that has been positioned to the side, they too are good, although the control forces are higher. If you can track down the in-cockpit video of Sean Tucker doing aerobatics in the Columbia you'll see him, awkwardly, using two hands on the stick. Then there's the Skycatcher. It has a grip that resembles a control column, but it is placed where you'd expect a yoke, pitch control is achieved by moving the stick in and out, but roll control is achieved by sliding the stick left and right rather than it pivoting at the base.

Happily, in use all of the control arrangements work well, and all of them are pretty easy to get used to. Most pilots will convert in minutes without thinking.

Is there a superior configuration? Not really, although I guess everyone from engineers, to test pilots, designers and weekend renters will all have their favourites. There is one anomaly though, is it just me or does everyone think that Maules should have sticks instead of yokes?

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