At what point does a lifelong love of absurd, oversized peripherals cross a boundary into obsession? I thought it was when I picked up Steel Battalion so many years ago – the Mega-Jockey-9000, a regular occupant of the space at the back of the cupboard. Now I’m thinking it may in fact be the Thrustmaster TCA Yoke Pack Boeing Edition that’s been set up as the focal point for my living room over the last few weeks.
At £449.99, the officially licensed Boeing Yoke and throttle quadrant has a cost equivalence of catching a short-haul flight, bribing the pilot to take a quick selfie in the cockpit, with enough cash left over for an overpriced drink in the arrivals lounge. Of course, this impressive bit of kit does let me do something that money could never: it lets me become the ultimate world traveler from the comfort of my sofa.
That freedom is something I’ve found great pleasure in throughout the pandemic, thanks to Microsoft Flight Simulator. As somebody who has followed the rules to the letter of the law, the unexpected console conversion of Flight Simulator has helped me escape the four walls of my apartment and venture out into the skies above. Up until now, I’ve been doing so with the Thrustmaster T. Flight Full Kit X – an intuitive bit of kit that let me feel a keener sense of control over whatever aircraft I wanted to control. With the TCA Yoke Pack, I’ve crossed over into full-on role-play territory; I’m one payday away from ordering a damn pilot costume.
The TCA Yoke itself is strong and sturdy, inspired by the controls you’d find in an actual Boeing 787. Weight is distributed evenly throughout the device, allowing for fantastic balance – even while you’re frantically wrestling with the controls to steady your airliner in a panic after a lapse in concentration. Thankfully, if you are a little heavy-handed, the clamping system will give you a surprising degree of freedom to get everything set up securely – whether you’re playing on a coffee table, from your desk, or in some type of custom cockpit simulation you’ve fashioned in your bedroom, the yoke won’t pull away from the surface once mounted.
If you’re thinking about making the investment in this package, particularly for you console owners out there, something you need to understand is that it has little application outside of Microsoft Flight Simulator. While you could (in theory) use a yoke with something like Star Wars Squadrons with a little reconfiguring of the controls, it’s a system designed to make long-haul flights more comfortable and immersive. That’s perhaps the biggest consideration to make here: are you happy investing £450 on something you may conceivably only ever use with one game on Xbox Series X?
The argument in favor of doing so is because it’ll completely transform Microsoft Flight Simulator, in a way that’s admittedly difficult to conceptualize without experiencing it for yourself. The Yoke comes equipped with a mechanism that replicates the pendual movements and sensations that you would find in an actual Boeing Dreamliner, swinging back and forth as you wrestle with the pitch controls. It’s a total game-changer. As an added bonus, you can even adjust the tension of the yoke, and the package comes complete with detailed instructions to help get you flight-ready.
Truth be told, no amount of control map charts and instructions can ever truly help you overcome just how intimidating this peripheral is at a first glance. There are 18 action buttons spread across the device, from the analogue sticks and switches on the handles to the knobs and dials around the control column. Then you sit down with the thing in front of you and start to tinker, getting to grips with the smooth motion and resistance offered by the central mechanism, and the two additional axes built-in for additional flexibility when running specific maneuvers such as landing and take-off procedures. It’s all a little imposing, but if you put the time in to properly learn the basics, tweak the springs, and configure the controls on-game, the immersion provided once you’re breaking through clouds helps offset the fear of flying with it.
I’m also a big fan of the TCA Quadrant, a standalone device that gives you even greater control over your airliner. There’s something really satisfying about using the throttle quadrant, with progressive resistance working to replicate the thrust sensation that you might experience in a real cockpit. Throttle levels, speed brake, and flap levels are all included and they just push the role-play element of all of this into the stratosphere. You can even tether a set of Thrustmaster Rudder pedals to the back of the Quadrant, should you really want to go overboard.
As a complete package, it’s a lot of fun. Expensive, but fun. I couldn’t help but smile every time I reached for a lever to make minute changes to my flight path and speed; as I shifted the two-point switch of the landing gear into position upon final approach to some airport runway hundreds of thousands of miles away; as I let go of the yoke and watch as it gently recenters itself ready for your next command. The TCA Yoke Pack makes flying some of the best planes in Microsoft Flight Simulator – the Boeings in particular, go figure – an absolute dream. It’s smooth, immersive, and just a whole lot of fun. It’s easy to whittle away hours in the cockpit when you’re able to lazily watch the world pass you by.
Of course, it isn’t without issue. It’s worth noting that the reverse thrust levers (found on the back of the throttle arms) aren’t on an axis. Instead, they register as a standard button input and don’t really function as you’d hope they would, or as sturdily as the rest of the build – it isn’t a deal-breaker, but it does mean you should prepare for a little friction. Microsoft Flight Simulator is supported with the TCA Yoke Pack, but it isn’t necessarily plug-and-play as you may expect. You will need to spend some time tinkering with the inputs and controls – the ‘Hold/Toggle Throttle Reverse Thrust’ options in particular – but these issues are slowly ironed out over time.
Overall – should you buy it?
Overall, the TCA Yoke Pack is impressive. It isn’t perfect, which you might hope it would be given the price, but for those of you who are console-bound and have long dreamed of having an oversized, well-designed, and comfortable peripheral to take flying to the next level you’ll find little to complain about. Thrustmaster has done an excellent job with the TCA Yoke and TCA Quadrant, getting as close to the real thing as is reasonably viable.
Whether you want to put in some miles before you go after a pilot’s license of your own, or if you’re looking to make your journeys across the world from the comfort of your couch just that little bit more interesting, then you’ll want to consider making the TCA Yoke Pack a permanent fixture in your living room.
4.5 out of 5
Thrustmaster TCA Yoke Pack Boeing Edition review: “Become the ultimate world traveler”
A step up for simulating the life of a pilot for Xbox owners.