Flight Simulator Controller – What Is a HOTAS?

HOTAS stands for Hands-On-Throttle-And-Stick. A flight controller system that allows pilots to maintain high situational awareness whilst still having hands on the primary flight controls and navigation/avionic systems of the aircraft. HOTAS system maps important and constantly used avionics, navigation and communication functions to the flight stick and throttle. Switches, buttons and dials are laid out in ergonomic and convenient positions such that access is only a thumb or finger press away. Radar mode/control can be called up at the mere touch of a button or twist of a dial. Weapons systems are selected at the flick of a switch. Countermeasures at the press of a button. All controlled without taking the hands off the throttle and stick. This reduces pilot workload allowing him/her to focus and concentration situational awareness.

For the virtual desktop pilot, there’s no better way to fly than with flight simulators. For those who remember, Microsoft’s Flight Simulator goes all the way back to 19xx. Some of the earliest combat flight simulators/games were Topgun, F15 Strike Eagle, Falcon, A10 Tank Killer, F19 and more. These were fun back than but the lack of simulating realistic avionics and aircraft systems meant flying the aircraft wasn’t a complicated affair and if had a joystick with two buttons, this was often adequate enough to enjoy the sim/game.

As computers get more and more powerful, detail simulators take maximum advantage of this by providing home enthusiasts with flights simulators having photorealistic graphics and more importantly for the desktop pilot, realistic (or as close to real world as possible) avionics. For detail simulators like Falcon 4.0, DCS A-10C, MS Flight Simulator, almost every facet of the aircraft system is simulated, right from engine start up sequence to the complex navigation and weapon systems. Almost every button in the cockpit is clickable and affects the aircraft in one way or another. The virtual desktop pilot has to fly the aircraft and commit to memory literally hundreds of keyboard combinations, increasing his/her virtual workload and decreasing situational awareness. The complexity of these simulators means a HOTAS flight controller system is strongly recommended for that ultimate virtual seat of pants factor.

Things to look out for in a HOTAS flight controller system is the ergonomics, programmability, and overall durability. Thrustmaster’s HOTAS is top of the line when it comes to flight controller system for the home flight simulator enthusiast. Design form and function closely imitates its real world counterpart. Programmable buttons means important functions can be mapped to the Stick or Throttle as per the real thing or customized to suit. For the virtual desktop pilot, this is as close as you can get to real flight.