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  • Honeycomb Aeronautical Alpha Flight Controls & Bravo Throttle Quadrant

       (Overall rating from this review)
    ...the most anticipated flight simulator peripherals release in years.....they are definitely worth the wait and investment...”

    Introduction

    It seems nearly a lifetime ago now when Honeycomb Aeronautical invaded the psyche of the flight simulator community, tempting us with the announcement on the development of their Alpha Flight Controls. After a few years delay, due to Honeycomb refining the design, the community was finally rewarded with the first dedicated and reasonably affordable yoke and switch panel in more than a decade since the launch of the Saitek Pro Flight range. Following on, Honeycomb announced the development of the Bravo Throttle Quadrant, and the flight simulator community was further whipped into a frenzy of anticipated excitement.

    Never one to move early on new releases of this nature, that changed when my Saitek Pro Flight Yoke started to fail in mid 2020, after years of dedicated service, and having also been through that many Saitek Throttle Quadrants that I have lost count. By early September 2020 I could forestall the inevitable no longer and started to look at my options, but was faced with the added dilemma of also having invested in the Saitek Switch Panel, Multi Panel, and Radio Panel. Biting the financial bullet, the end result was, even though the Alpha Flight Controls was on back-order until 25 September at my supplier of choice and with a pre-order on the Bravo Throttle Quadrant for its 23 November launch release, on cost alone it was more cost effective to update to the new Honeycomb Alpha and Bravo units and retire my ageing Saitek units, with the exception of the Radio Panel.

    Now came the agonising wait! After a short delay on the estimated shipping date for the Alpha Flight Controls, I finally received it on 5 October. Two revised launch release dates resulted in a seven week delay on the Bravo Throttle Quadrant, and it finally arrived on 14 January 2021.....and just in time for my next multi player session with the Mutley's Hangar Crew.

    Alpha Flight Controls

    Even before you open the box, the Alpha Flight Controls grab your attention. Simply handling the box you notice the weight and you immediately realise this is one sturdy unit. Unpacking the elements, the solid construction becomes even more apparent with both the controls unit and the base mounting assembly. The base mounting assembly provides for dual mounting solutions, a traditional clamp method using two heavy duty steel clamps, or a large 3M Micro-Suction Pad. The latter mounting solution is ideal for thicker tabletops and the manual claims that it produces 40 lbs of tensile strength.

    The Alpha Flight Controls is a hybrid design replicating the look and feel of a typical general aviation aircraft yoke. It appears robust and durable and provides the sense that it will handle heavy treatment. A major feature is the solid steel shaft connecting the yoke handle to the base and, as a result, the various switch functions on the yoke handle are connected to the base by a sturdy RJ45 cable. The switches are back-lit with a red light, the brightness of which is controllable using a button on the back of the base, including switching it off if you find it too much to bear. The top of the base unit has mounting points compatible with the mounting points of the Saitek Pro Flight panel units. This design feature shows a high level of design maturity and will be much appreciated by the flight simulator community.

    MSFS immediately recognises the Alpha Flight Controls when it is connected to the PC, and it appears in the Options, Controls Section with a default configuration profile. Making configuration changes is easy and MSFS provides the ability to save different configuration profiles if you want to customise the Alpha to different aircraft types. With all switches configurable, this is ideal if you regularly fly multiple aircraft types and feel the need to be more specific in assigning different switch functionality based on the aircraft type being flown. The only design aspect which I found at odds with the general robust nature was the light switches which have a tab that feels like it could snap off if not treated with due care.

    The yoke has a full 180 deg movement for roll and 15 cm travel for pitch. This provides for pitch and roll control which is smooth and precise with no dead zone. Resistance around these axes is strong, particularly for pitch, and some may consider this to be excessive. However, combined with the longer pitch travel than that typically found in other comparative yokes, this eliminates exaggerated pitch movement, providing a far more realistic control response in flight.

    Bravo Throttle Quadrant

    What might seem a little irrelevant from a review perspective, the first thing you notice when you open the box of the Bravo Throttle Quadrant is the quality of the packaging, as evidenced with the commercial levers and GA levers in separate quality, sturdy boxes with moulded slots which can be used for handy storage when not in use. Using the same basic base unit design and dimensions as the Alpha Flight Controls, the Brave Throttle Quadrant is also solidly constructed, sharing the identical base mounting assembly with dual mounting solution system as the Alpha.

    The general design of the Bravo Throttle Quadrant is also a hybrid design intended to provide a generic arrangement which can be easily configured for different single and multiple engine piston, turboprop, and jet configurations. As with the Alpha Flight Controls, the top of the base unit also has mounting points compatible with the mounting points of the Saitek Pro Flight panel units. In this instance, this has served perfectly for incorporating my Saitek Radio Panel in the set-up by mounting it on top of the base unit. The autopilot buttons have an excellent tactile texture and the ALT/VS/HDG/CRS/IAS dial knob is firm and definite in its movement from one mode to the next, as is the DECR/INCR dial knob which has micro detentes. The trim wheel has a beautiful weighted/counter-balance feel and the configurable, two-way switches are definitive in their action  Rubber slot covers are provided for the lever slots and lever connection bases which are great for keeping dust out when the unit or axes are not in use. The engine control levers are smooth and precise with a tension knob for personal adjustment. Whilst the mounting compatibility for Saitek Pro Flight units is an excellent idea, it actually results in the Saitek unit overhanging the front of the Bravo base unit by approximately 10 mm resulting in some minor interference with the operation of the autopilot dial knobs.

    Again, as with the Alpha Flight Controls, MSFS immediately recognises the Bravo Throttle Quadrant when it is connected to the PC, and it appears in the Options, Controls Section with a default multi engine configuration profile. The ability to save multiple configuration profiles is even more useful with the Bravo Throttle Quadrant, though giving some initial careful consideration to your configuration profiles will make this process easier. A key factor here is deciding what functionality to assign to the seven two-way switches. I decided to standardise the switch functionality across all my profiles which meant the only configuration changes I was making between profiles were to the six axes. The Preset Manager function under Options, Controls, allows you to easily duplicate configuration profiles and save them under a different profile name. Once you have set-up your various configuration profiles it takes mere seconds to switch between them in MSFS and swap the control levers on the Bravo Throttle Quadrant, as necessary.

    At the writing of this review, there are a series of limitations caused by MSFS. The gear LEDs and warning panel lights do not work as the drivers are not currently available in MSFS. This is not peculiar to the Bravo Throttle Quadrant as is apparently applicable to all LEDs on peripherals unless you are using third party drivers or software, such as SPAD.neXt. This is due to be addressed in an upcoming MSFS update, the date for which is unknown. In the meantime, a driver fix is available from Aerosoft. Whilst it is possible to configure the Bravo Throttle Quadrant for reverse thrust for jet engines using the commercial levers, I have been unable to configure it for reverse pitch for turboprop engines using the detente positions on the throttle axes as they would function on a relevant real world aircraft. Again, and as far as my investigations have been able to ascertain, this appears to be a limitation with the available assignment mappings currently available in MSFS. I have also not been able to find any fix to this issue anywhere on the internet. Furthermore, when adjusting heading and coarse settings and the altitude setting on the autopilot using the dial knob, adjustments are only in 10 deg and 1,000 ft increments respectively. Again, this is a limitation of MSFS and finer, single deg and 500 ft adjustments can be made in the cockpit using the mouse. These issues are in no way a reflection on Honeycomb Aeronautical or the Bravo Throttle Quadrant and, whilst mildly frustrating, they are not show stoppers and it is expected they will be addressed as MSFS continues to mature with future updates.

    Highly Anticipated and Exceeded Expectations

    The release of Honeycomb Aeronautical’s Alpha Flight Controls and Bravo Throttle Quadrant are the most anticipated flight simulator peripherals release in years. Honeycomb have not just delivered two, much needed, new flight controller peripherals, to the flight simulator community, they have delivered on expectations and even exceeded those expectations in various areas of functionality. The quality/cost equation is excellent and with prices varying significantly, depending on the supplier, it is well worth shopping around. I was able to source my units at AU$425.00 each compared to typical prices of AU$499.95 each.

    It is important to remember that both these units incorporate a generic hybrid design concept and, therefore, compromises exist when used with some specific aircraft. However, the excellent design and functionality make the Alpha and Bravo units undisputed winners and they are definitely worth the wait and investment. With such qualities, I am sure the Alpha Flight Controls and Bravo Throttle Quadrant are destined to become the default standard flight peripherals for years to come.

    PROs:
    • Excellent design and quality.
    • Fantastic functionality and flexibility in configuration.
    • Smooth and precise action.
    CONs:
    • Light switch robustness.
    • Minor design issue with the mounting comparability for Saitek Pro Flight panels.
    • Overall Rating


    User Feedback

    Recommended Comments

    Fab review Andrew :thumbup:  It really is a decent bit of kit.

    I finally managed to get my paws on the Bravo about a month ago (all the way from Germany, unfortunately), but i love it!  The flexibility to change the axis for any aircraft is genius, and the quality far exceeds that of my old Saitek throttles.  I sold off my old Saitek switch, BIP, and Autopilot panels as this has now replaced them all, but glad i kept one of my old Saitek Cessna trim wheels.. the Honeycomb trim wheel just doesn't want to play ball at all! Some of the switches (which defaulted in the standard set up) don't seem to work at all either, such as the beacon, taxi and Nav lights.. probably something i've done, or not, as the case may be :knucklehead:

     

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    Good evening to all from Hampshire UK!

    I've had a busy fortnight or so since a significant birthday, for which my better half allowed the purchase of the Honeycomb Alpha and Bravo!

    Mind you, bless her, she did manage to whack my Saitek Throttle Quadrant with her cello case, resulting in a severed Mixture lever.

    I confess I had grown tired of the Saitek, and since they've been taken over by Logitech, their customer service has to my mind been very mercenary.  My Saitek rudder pedals just stopped working - warranty investigations were inconclusive and with no UK service centres to offer repair, I was stuck with broken rudder pedals and no help.

    The Alpha unit arrived first, and my goodness - what a difference in quality!!  Had to adjust the sensitivity but once done, the control is so so much better.  Then the Bravo arrived - and what an impact that has had.  The control and all round quality is superb.  I have to agree with Andrew's comment about the packaging!!!  The way both products are packaged, you know there's quality inside.  The integration of the autopilot within the Bravo unit is really good, and six available axises to use!! 

    It's been a wonderful fortnight.....

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