For many, it was the arrival of Microsoft Flight Simulator which ushered in a whole new world of gaming. Uber realistic visuals and a game that could only previously be considered for PC play making its way to console? What was not to like?
Well, as it turned out, not much really and from release on Xbox Series X|S back in mid-2021, Microsoft Flight Simulator has continued to carry gamers up into the clouds.
Honestly, we can take it or leave it. We fully understand the draw of kicking back after a hard day, settling down with the realism that Flight Sim allows, soaring high into the skies, looking down on a world we have left behind. But aside from dipping in and out of the pilot’s seat, rarely have we ever felt the need to throw hours and hours of our lives into it.
Others disagree – Microsoft Flight Simulator is a way of life. And for those folk, the Honeycomb Aeronautical Alpha Flight Controls XPC Yoke & Switch Panel will be an instant hit. There’s absolutely no doubting that this is a piece of gaming kit that excels in doing what it does.
We’ve taken tentative steps into the flight sim world before, checking out what Thrustmaster put together with their T.Flight Full Kit X; it made us feel like we could nail down a place in the next Top Gun, working as a maverick thanks to a bit of equipment which felt as close to the real thing as we were ever likely to get.
We stand by those thoughts, but now, having also spent time with the Honeycomb Aeronautical Alpha Flight Controls XPC, those piloting dreams have come to the fore once more.
This is a different beast though, running a much more detailed line to Thrustmaster, taking gamers into the real nitty-gritty of flight simulation.
The main draw is the Yoke unit, a rather beefy element which contains all the controls you’ll need to find success up in the air. It’s the yoke itself which is a glorious handle, brilliant to touch with some highly tactile materials that just want to be caressed. With a Honeycomb Aeronautical logo front and centre, the yoke connects to a base unit with real style, a full 180 degree rotation allowed, and neat push/pull action in place, for when things start getting hairy.
Mostly working as an all-black matt unit, there are some really nice details included in the Alpha Flight Controls XPC; glossy black contoured trims to fit your thumbs and around the plethora of switches. The fact that the base unit is then filled out with a stunning honeycomb-styled grill, with red backlighting, just makes this all feel a bit premium.
Premium it is too as the Honeycomb Aeronautical Alpha Flight Controls XPC comes in at a whopping $349.99. That may seem a decent wedge of cash to throw down for what is a niche product, capable of only being of use in niche games – we’ve only really been here with Microsoft Flight Simulator – but if you want quality, you really should expect to pay for it.
Thankfully if you do stump up the cash, you’re going to find a bit of kit that covers all bases. The yoke itself has a ton of switches and buttons to hand (numbered to correspond with varying actions in-game), all well placed under thumb and trigger fingers; micro-switched to aid immersion. Listed, you’re going to find an 8-way hat switch, a couple of vertical 2-way rocker switches (doubling as LB and RB), a button and a Push-to-Talk option. That all sits on the left side of the yoke handle, with the right housing two horizontal 2-way rockers (there’s your ABXY face buttons) and both a large (a big red fire button in our eyes!) and small button.
The yoke connects via a solid steel shaft, one that – apparently – comes with dual linear ball bearings which help it move super smoothly.
From there we move to the switch panel that is front and centre of the full base unit. That too is fully loaded with a five-position ignition switch primed and spring loaded, all accompanied by the Xbox Nexus button, View, Menu and Share pushers.
You’ll also find that the switch panel plays host to four huge switches – two red under the Master Alt and Bat options whilst a couple of white ones accompany it with Avionics BUS1 and BUS2 tags. There’s more below those, with five more flickable switches covering what is needed for BCN, LAND, TAXI, NAV and STROBE options. In a word or two, these are proper good switches, large and easy to hit.
There’s some serious feel in the yoke itself too, easing the controls right and left as you navigate the airways is a joy, ensuring that it’s easy to feel like you’ve been placed in the seat of the finest pilots the world over.
We’ve nothing but praise for how the Honeycomb Aeronautical Alpha Flight Controls APC feels, looks and controls. It’s obvious that those behind it know their niche and have worked all the intricacies into what a gamer may need. But how does all this connect? Well, again, with ease, is the simple answer.
A single ethernet-ended cable runs between yoke and switch panel, kept out of the way of any hand movements or yoke spinning. From there the rear of that base station runs an Xbox / PC switch (you’ll want to adjust that depending on whether you are playing on Xbox Series X|S or PC), a USB-C port, a secondary USB-C for integration of the included Xbox Hub (more on that in a bit), plus an LED button to switch on/off and adjust the intensity of the cockpit lights – take it from us, you’ll want this to be the most intense red as much as you possibly can, mostly as it looks great. Plugging the included USB-A to USB-C cable into the Alpha Flight Controls APC and the other end into your console sets things up.
You will however also need to situate this somewhere solid and there are a couple of options here too. A base plate comes with a couple of desk top connections; either two heavy duty clamps which allow it to be tied down to a desk (our preference), or through a super sticky 3M suction pad. It’s this which allows for some 40lbs of tensile strength, so should be more than enough for even the most exciting of flights. If you’re really worried about wrecking things, you could use suction pad and clamps; we’d say that is a bit excessive though.
However you set it up, it can be done in a minute or two. With that base plate positioned, the Alpha Flight Controls APC slides onto a retaining system, tightened down via a couple of rear-mounted spin wheels. Honestly, we found set-up a tad confusing initially and the included instructions manual failed to really hammer home installation requirements, but once we’d got our head around how it all worked, found it a cinch to action. Thanks to the base plate, we could then easily remove the unit when needed, grabbing it for flight time later.
Also included in the Alpha Flight Controls APC box is the Honeycomb Xbox Hub. This small unit connects to the yoke system via a USB-C cable, running as a hub for integrated systems. Honeycomb themselves mention it as a perfect accessory for bringing together the Alpha Flight Controls APC with their Bravo Throttle Quadrant and Charlie Rudder Pedals as one. A simple plug-and-play system seems to be in use but without access to either the Bravo or Charlie systems, we couldn’t comment on accessibility. If you have them though, you’re looking at a full flight simulation solution for anyone on Xbox Series X|S.
It’s been a joy to use the Honeycomb Aeronautical Alpha Flight Controls APC on Xbox Series X|S. We can’t get away from the fact that this is a seriously premium gaming accessory, one that will only appeal to a small subset of an already niche game, but if you fit the requirements and wish to fly high into the skies, all with utter style, a full recommendation comes your way. The only real downside is you’ll be best off with a standard Xbox controller to hand to help you navigate the minefield that is Microsoft Flight Simulator’s menu system.
Huge thanks go out to Honeycomb for sending the Alpha Flight Controls APC for review. Hit them up direct if you wish to grab the APC, or the Honeycomb Xbox Hub which accompanies it. A $349.99 price tag sits in place, helping you enable your flying dreams.