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Best Flight Simulators & Equipment Money Can Buy

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Best Flight Simulators & Equipment Money Can Buy

Non-pilots may view flight simulators as nothing more than glorified video games, but serious pilots recognize and appreciate the value of the hands-on training opportunity. With flight time at a premium, the ability to build instrument flight rules (IFR) hands-on skills from home can be a powerful career-boosting asset.

Keep your skills sharp, practice tricky maneuvers, train for system failures or just take some time to unwind by exploring the scenery of a new airport. At home flight simulators provide opportunity for both study and recreation, making them an investment you will be glad you made.

Ready to get started? Let’s go over a run down of what you’ll need.

What components are part of a flight simulator?

Putting together an in-home flight simulator is exciting. As you build your shopping list, naturally you want to make sure you have all the necessary hardware and software.

Simulators are scalable, so remember that you can buy anything from a complete hardware + software bundle pack down to individual instrument panels.

The best flight simulators consist of a high-end feature-rich yoke or joystick, instrument panels + gauges, pedals and software.

Bundles come in all different configurations and can include:

  • Yoke/joystick, panels + gauges, pedals, software
  • Yoke/joystick, pedals, software
  • Yoke/joystick, software
  • Yoke/joystick, pedals

Remember, if you choose one of the partial bundles now, you can always add the extra components in later to heighten the realism and training value of your simulator.

Now that you know what to look for, here is a breakdown of the best flight simulator bundles and a look at some individual components you can add on.

Best Flight Simulator Bundles

Starting from scratch or want to upgrade everything? You can do all the research and piece together your own high-end computer flight simulator, but often the best and easiest option is to simply select a simulator bundle pack.

Best Complete Hardware Only Bundles (No software)

Our most advanced hardware bundles create an astonishingly realistic at home cockpit experience with panels, gauges and control hardware. Just add on your software and you are set.

1.     Flight Training Cockpit Visual Panel Extreme Bundle

Flight Training Cockpit Extreme Bundle

Our team of experts has done the legwork for you and put together the absolute ultimate simulator system setup.  This extreme bundle pack uses only those hardware components that best replicate actual flight and for that reason it tops our list as the best hardware-only pack.

 Your fully built-out realistic flight deck includes:

  • Saitek Industries’ Pro Flight Yoke (with built-in chronograph)
  • Saitek Industries’ Pro Flight Throttle Quadrant (3-lever, 6-button)
  • Saitek Industries’ System Pro Flight Rudder Pedals (X, Y, Z axis)
  • Pro Flight Instrument Panels (six 3.5” LCD panels)
  • Pro Flight Multifunction Switch Panel
  • Pro Flight LCD Radio Panel
  • Pro Flight LCD Multi Panel (for autopilot, auto throttle, flap and trim)
  • Flight Training Cockpit Visual Panel made of powder-coated aircraft-grade sheet metal

2.     Flight Training Cockpit Visual Panel Starter Bundle

Flight Training Cockpit Starter Bundle

When you are just starting out, you may not need all the bells and whistles of the extreme bundle pack, so we have also put together a starter bundle that still gives you a realistic piloting experience. The starter bundle is scalable, so you can always add on extra components like the instrument panels and multi panel later.

The starter bundle includes:

  • Saitek Industries’ Pro Flight Yoke (with built-in chronograph)
  • Saitek Industries’ Pro Flight Throttle Quadrant (3-lever, 6-button)
  • Saitek Industries’ System Pro Flight Rudder Pedals (X, Y, Z axes)
  • Pro Flight Multifunction Switch Panel
  • Pro Flight LCD Radio Panel
  • Flight Training Cockpit Visual Panel made of powder-coated aircraft-grade sheet metal

 

Best Control Hardware + Software Bundle Packs (No panels or gauges)

These bundles provide you with your yoke/joystick, your pedals and your software, meaning you will be ready to start flying right away. You can add on instrument panels and gauges to enhance the experience.

1.     CH Products Pro Flight Simulation w/X-Plane 11 DVD Bundle

CH Products Pro Flight Simulation w/X-Plane 11 DVD Bundle

Advanced pilots have all the top-of-the-line realistic response controls at their disposal with CH Products Pro Flight Simulation pack.

Let’s talk about the Eclipse Yoke for a moment. This feature-packed yoke offers six analog, 10-bit axes of aircraft control, letting you manipulate roll, pitch, yaw, throttle, prop and mixture. Customize your controller’s function with programmable buttons like the 8-way POV hat & rocker switches on each grip, 2 pushbuttons on the back of the grips, two 2-way flipper switches on the base, an LED selector dial and more.  

The self-centering pedals are just as advanced with toe brakes and 3 axes of control to boost the realism.

Plug in your yoke and pedals, then run the included X-Plane 11 software and you will be taking to the virtual skies in no time. Now you just need to choose from the 30 pre-loaded aircraft models, download one of the 1,400 extra available models or even design your own aircraft.

The Pro Flight bundle includes:

  • CH Products’ Eclipse Yoke
  • CH Products’ Pro Pedals (X, Y, Z axes)
  • Laminar Research’s X-Plane 11 software DVD

Computer system compatibility:

  • Windows XP/XP64/Vista/Windows 7/Windows 8/Windows 10/Mac OSX

2.     CH Products Basic Flight Sim w/X-Plane 11 DVD Bundle

CH Products Basic Flight Sim w/X-Plane 11 DVD Bundle

Don’t need quite an advanced and customizable yoke system? Opt for CH Products Basic Flight bundle and you get a streamlined 3-lever USB yoke along with the Pro Pedals and X-Plane 11 software that comes with the Pro Flight bundle.

The yoke’s 3 levers allow for adjusting throttle, prop and mixture and its multifunctional buttons give access to other control options without becoming overwhelming for a new pilot.

The Basic Flight bundle includes:

  • CH Products’ 3-Lever USB Flight Sim Yoke
  • CH Products’ Pro Pedals (X, Y, Z axes)
  • Laminar Research’s X-Plane 11 software DVD

Computer system compatibility:

  • Windows XP/XP64/Vista/Windows 7/Windows 8/Windows 10/Mac OSX

3.     Logitech Saitek Basic Flight Simulation w/X-Plane 11 DVD Bundle

Logitech Saitek Basic Flight Simulation w/X-Plane 11 DVD Bundle

Logitech dials up the realism factor on its Saitek Basic Flight Simulator with a stand-alone 3 lever 6-button throttle. The stainless-steel yoke features a built-in digital chronograph and 3-axis rudder pedals complete the complement of quality hardware.

Your bundle comes with the X-Plane 11 software DVD, so you are ready to plug and fly right out of the box. Chose from one of over 33,000 worldwide airfields and set up a real-world training situation by adjusting the weather conditions or simulating system failures.

The Basic Flight bundle includes:

  • Saitek Industries’ ergonomic, stainless steel Pro Flight yoke
  • Pro Flight throttle quadrant (3-lever, 6-button)
  • System Pro Flight Rudder Pedals (X, Y, Z axes)
  • Laminar Research’s X-Plane 11 software DVD

Computer system compatibility:

  • Windows XP/XP64/Vista/Windows 7/Windows 8/Windows 10/Mac OSX

Best Control Hardware Only Bundle (No software or instruments)

If you already have software and just need some controllers to pair it with, pick up a hardware bundle pack.

1.     CH Products Flight Sim Yoke and Pedals Beginner Bundle

CH Products Flight Sim Yoke and Pedals Beginner Bundle

This value-priced set pairs the CH Products’ 3-lever USB Flight Sim Yoke with self-centering 3 axis Pro Pedals. A good basic set for beginners, this bundle sets you up with all the features you need and none of the extras that distract new pilots from practicing their skills.     

Best Yoke/Joystick + Software Bundles (No pedals, panels or gauges)

If you are building your simulator a bit at a time, rudder pedals are often one of the last components pilots add. We do recommend you pick up rudder pedals at some point because it ups the realism factor of the simulation. That said, if rudder pedals just aren’t in your immediate future, here are the best yoke/joystick plus software bundles to get you started building your simulator.

1.     Logitech Saitek Yoke w/X-Plane 11 DVD Bundle

Logitech Saitek Yoke w/X-Plane 11 DVD Bundle

The best bang for your buck if you want an ultra-realistic yoke and throttle controller + software bundle is the Logitech Saitek. This set features the Saitek Pro Flight Yoke with upgraded stainless-steel shaft and precision bearings. It has fully built-out customization options in its 14 multifunction buttons. The stand-one 3-lever throttle quadrant heightens the realism and training value.

Your bundle includes:

  • Saitek Industries’ ergonomic, stainless-steel Pro Flight yoke
  • Pro Flight throttle quadrant (3-lever, 6-button)
  • Laminar Research’s X-Plane 11 software DVD

Computer system compatibility:

  • Windows XP/XP64/Vista/Windows 7/Windows 8/Windows 10/Mac OSX

2.     Logitech Saitek X-56 Rhino H.O.T.A.S. w/X-Plane 11 DVD Bundle

Logitech Saitek X-56 Rhino H.O.T.A.S. w/X-Plane 11 DVD Bundle

Providing you the ultimate in joystick flight simulation, Logitech’s Saitek X-56 Rhino H.O.T.A.S. (Hands on Throttle and Stick) system delivers precision control. Its 16-bit elevator and aileron axes replicate ultra-smooth flight controls. Adjust to your preferred level of resistance and control response for a custom feel.

Couple the joystick with a twin-engine throttle and you are set up for intuitive real-world cockpit operation.

 This bundle includes:

  • Saitek Industries’ X-56 Rhino H.O.T.A.S. joystick & throttle
  • Laminar Research’s X-Plane 11 software DVD

Computer system compatibility:

  • Windows XP (32- and 64-bit) system or higher
  • 2 USB 2.0 ports

3.     CH Products Flight Sim Yoke and X-Plane 11 DVD Bundle

CH Products Flight Sim Yoke and X-Plane 11 DVD Bundle

If you are building your simulator package slowly and need to start with just the basics, this popular set is the way to go. A step-up from the unrealistic keyboard and mouse flight experience, you will be able to fly with a realistic yoke configuration.

 

The CH Products Flight Sim Yoke includes 3 levers for controlling mix, prop and throttle. 5 axes of control plus 20 button features allow for a surprising amount of customization and control at an affordable price.

 

The controller comes with a DVD copy of X-Plane 11 simulator software – the same software that is included in the high-end bundle packs.

This bundle includes:

  • CH Products Flight Sim Yoke
  • Laminar Research’s X-Plane 11 software DVD

Computer system compatibility:

  • Windows XP/XP64/Vista/Windows 7/Windows 8/Windows 10/Mac OSX

 

4.     CH Products Eclipse Yoke and X-Plane 11 DVD Bundle

CH Products Eclipse Yoke and X-Plane 11 DVD Bundle

If you have a little more room in your budget but still want to stick with just a yoke for hardware, bump up to the Eclipse Yoke bundle pack.

This yoke has 10 axes of control compared to 5 on the standard Flight Sim Yoke plus other additional programmable buttons and features. X-Plane 11 is included, so this is a plug and play set-up.

This bundle includes:

  • CH Products Eclipse Yoke
  • Laminar Research’s X-Plane 11 software DVD

Computer system compatibility:

  • Windows XP/XP64/Vista/Windows 7/Windows 8/Windows 10/Mac OSX

  

Best Flight Simulator Equipment

If you already have some simulator components you want to incorporate, or if you started out with one of the partial bundle packs and are ready to upgrade it, these are the best individual components to add on.

Instrument Panels

The addition of instrument panels takes your simulator setup to the ultimate level of realism and training value.

1.     Flight Training Cockpit Visual Flight Panel

Flight Training Cockpit Visual Flight Panel

This back panel is built to mount up to 6 of Saitek Industries’ 3.5” Pro Flight Instrument Panel displays on. When you get ready to upgrade to displays, make sure you have panel to mount them to.

2.     Logitech Saitek Pro Flight Radio Panel

Logitech Saitek Pro Flight Radio Panel

Practice your ATC coms with a dual COM and dual NAV radio panel. This panel also adds on transponder, ADF and DME functions.

3.     Logitech Saitek Pro Flight Multi Panel

Logitech Saitek Pro Flight Multi Panel

Build muscle memory with hands-on buttons, dials and toggles to control flaps, pitch trim, auto throttles and more.

4.     Logitech Saitek Pro Flight Switch Panel

Logitech Saitek Pro Flight Switch Panel

Use rocker switches rather than mouse clicks for starting engines, adjusting landing gear, manipulating lighting, de-icing and other realistic features.

5.     Logitech Saitek Pro Flight Instrument Panel Ten Pack, Six Pack or Single

Logitech Saitek Pro Flight Instrument Panel

Take your simulator to professional status when you mount these 3.5” LCD flight instrument displays onto your flight panel. Each display can be set to function as one of 12 cockpit instruments.

Other Hardware Components

Most of the yokes, joysticks, throttles and pedals that are included in the bundle packs are available individually. There are also some impressive stand-alone pieces that don’t come bundled.

1.     Logitech Saitek X52 Flight Control System

Logitech Saitek X52 Flight Control System

The joystick/throttle quadrant combo for fighter pilot precision, check out the X52. You will be amazed at its smooth control and massive capacity for 282 user-programmable commands.

2.     Logitech Saitek X52 Pro Flight Control System

Logitech Saitek X52 Pro Flight Control System

We’ve saved the best stand-alone throttle and joystick controller for last. The X52 Pro is the final upgrade to make your simulator professional quality. Take all the glory of the X52 and add on twice the number of non-contact magnetic hall sensors for a heightened accuracy and smoothness.

A fully programmable, customizable multi-function display screen (MFD) on the throttle lets you personalize your settings.

 

Best Flight Simulator Software

In addition to hardware components, you can also pick up standalone software.

1.     X-Plane 11 Global Flight Simulator DVD

X-Plane 11 Global Flight Simulator DVD

Pair your individually purchased hardware with the gold standard in simulator software: the X-Plane 11.

The X-Plane 11 software includes 33,000 worldwide airports, 30 pre-loaded aircraft and access to thousands more online. You can even choose to build your own craft.

Program a custom combination of weather configurations and system failures to practice training scenarios and heighten realism.

2.     Gleim X-Plane Flight Training Course: Private Pilot

Gleim X-Plane Flight Training Course: Private Pilot

Put yourself through an entire series of realistic flight lessons when you run the Gleim training course paired with the X-Plane 11 software. You will go through the entire flight including a pre-flight briefing and post-flight evaluation. Along the way, the software will provide constant corrective feedback. Save time and money on your flight training when you steepen your learning curve using this training software.

Take-Aways

An at-home flight simulator is a valuable investment and a fun, useful tool for building your flight skills. Choose from a complete plug-and-play bundle pack or build your own scalable version using partial bundles or individual components.

Whatever route you go, you are sure to appreciate the value your simulator brings.

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  • PilotMall.com Editor