One of the advantages of living in San Diego, besides the sunshine, is that I’m next door to CH Products’ headquarters in Vista, CA. As such, I got one of the first looks at their new multi-engine throttle quadrant. CH has been manufacturing virtual pilot flight deck hardware for over 25 years, serving those throttle jockeys who want excellent functionality and reliability for their flight-sim or gaming dollar without breaking the bank building a simulator that would impress an F-15 pilot. They offer a range of USB-based products including joysticks, throttles, pedals, and yokes, but they have not had a product that would serve the multi-engine crowd… until now.
I had seen advertisements for the new throttle quadrant and my first impression was that it was, well… ugly. It’s basically a black box with levers on the top and some decidedly non-aviation-looking toggle switches on the front. I wondered how these switches were used and their function defined. I was soon to find out when I received a throttle quadrant of my own to review.
I wasn’t disappointed…it’s still ugly, but quite functional.
The first thing I noticed was that the quadrant did not include an installation disk. In fact, user documentation consisted of a folded single sheet of paper, which did include step-by-step installation instructions. My rig is a 2.8GHz P4 running Win XP Pro. I followed the instructions and was able to bring the device on-line with no trouble at all. I was able to define the functionality of the levers and switches with no trouble right from the setup screen in MS Flight Simulator 2004.
My first surprise was that I had been looking at photos of the quadrant in its 2-engine configuration (see photo above) but it arrived as you see in this photo. This turns out to be CH’s 4-engine configuration… fine for a jet, but you’re missing a few levers while flying your Super Connie or DC-6. The product also came with a set of clamps to mount the quadrant down so you don’t have to chase it around your desk during a go-around.
Since I wanted to check it out with throttle, mixture, and prop levers, I was a bit perplexed by its configuration so I called my friends at CH and I was advised that the knobs pull off and can be switched. The missing blue knobs were found in the plastic bag with the desk clamps. I tried pulling on the knobs and they would not budge with what I considered to be a force just short of ripping the thing apart, so I called again.
They advised that I had to keep trying so, I wiggled and pulled and they finally did come off. I then put the knobs back in the 2-engine configuration and this also required considerable force. I’m sure more than a few users are going to tear their new quadrant limb-from-limb switching these knobs.
While I had CH’s marketing representative on the phone, I asked if they were planning to add some way of labeling the non-descript switches across the front and the answer was a resounding NO.
These switches can be configured to support any and all functionalities supported by FS2004 or whatever SW you’re using, but it’s difficult when you have to rely on memory as to what switch is mapped to what function. These switches can be programmed separately for up or down operation, so you can use some for the obvious Gear and flap levers, and configure the rest as radio controls… if you can remember the next day what does what. The plastic face has a faux-leather texture so you’ll need a lot of stickum to attach your own labels.
The bottom line is, the quadrant works just fine and serves its intended function quite well. I have to give CH a little slack since I was reviewing an early pre-production unit and I’m sure the minor issue of the knobs, documentation, and software will be resolved. Production units do now include a CD with the CH Control Manager SW, which I downloaded from their web site. Be sure to reconfigure your joystick or yoke to no longer include it’s own throttle.
You will still have to hold onto a cheat-sheet for what the switches do, and it’s still an ugly little plug, but like other CH products, the electronics is flawless and I’m starting to think that this ugly little black box is looking better all the time.