Let me start with the disclaimer you will see on all these VIRPIL reviews: all these items were sent to me by VIRPIL. But rest assured, I will be completely unbiased and totally honest with both you and VIRPIL. If something is not right, I will call it. But if it is, I will obviously say so as well.
Power management in a helicopter is quite different from a fixed wing aircraft. And fixed wing aircraft have different power management systems. Just look into the cockpit of a Cessna and compare it that of an Airbus or Boeing airliner, for example, and you’ll find 2 distinct ways to manage power.
Fighters also have their own systems, although one could say they are similar to those of an airliner. You have this lever that moves back and forth, and it controls the amount of fuel that you are injecting into the engine, making it run faster or slower. Perhaps this is a simplistic explanation, but let’s go with it.
Helicopters can use automated systems (a FADEC is one of them) and/or may have manual throttles that we roll on and off to control the engine’s speed. That throttle may be found on the upper panel of the cockpit or embedded into the collective, for example, although you may find it on other places inside the cockpit, again depending on the helicopter model.
Unfortunately, collectives for flight simulators are not found easily and it’s certainly a market that’s waiting for good solutions. Also, not everyone flies only helicopters, so a hybrid solution, or a compromise must be found.
And that is usually found in the form of a regular fixed-wing aircraft throttle system. Especially the military kind, which some may find easier to adapt to helicopters.
On jet fighters, the throttle is usually placed on the left side of the cockpit and the pilot uses it with her/his left hand, leaving the right hand free for the stick. Over the years, the military came out with a system called HOTAS (Hands On Throttle-And-Stick), which means both the stick and the throttle became a base to a lot of different controls. Buttons, 4 or 8-way hats, all sorts of different things that control a lot, if not most, of the aircraft’s systems.
That is the kind of product that VIRPIL is replicating with their VPC MongoosT-50CM3 Throttle. Can it be a good product for you to use as a helicopter collective/throttle?
Let’s find out.
First contact and features
Let me start by saying this: this thing is HEAVY.
I am not joking. This beautiful black box is mostly made of metal and once you pick it up, not only you will feel the cold touch of the material, but also its weight. Just like that, with this very first contact you realize that you have made a good choice.
It’s very satisfying to hold the throttle on your hands, feel its weight and explore its design.
The number of buttons, levers, knobs, hats, switches in it is massive. And that’s just on the base of the unit.
You raise your eyes to the throttle controls, and you find some more of those: a rotating knob on the left, another on the right, 2 push buttons on the front, one more on the back. On that side of the throttles alone, you have 5 controls. With your thumb you’ll be able to control 7 more. With your pinky, the beforementioned rotating knob.
In total, on the throttles alone, you have 13 different control systems, including 1 axis with a center detent.
Oh yes, and I did say throttles. Plural. Two of them, which you can use as a single unit or in separate. And to make it easier to push and pull in unison, VIRPIL added a small switch which connects both throttles. Simple and effective.
Phew. That’s a lot of stuff, right? And I didn’t even listed the stuff you can find on the base!
I will let VIRPIL speak by itself in regard with the list of features, though:
Throttle Base Panel
- 6 x Customizable Momentary Buttons
- 3 x Momentary Toggle Switches (ON-OFF-ON)
- 4 x Latched Toggle Switches (ON-ON)
- 1 x 5-Way Mode Dial
- 2 x Encoder Dials (+ Push)
- 2 x Throttle Axes (VPC Contactless Sensors)
- 1 x Auxiliary Axis (VPC Contactless Sensor)
- 1 x 8-Way Hat (+ Push)
- 3 x 4-Way Hat (+ Push)
- 1 x 2-Way Hat (+ Push)
- 1 x Encoder Dial
- 1 x Encoder Dial (+ Push)
- 4 x Momentary Push Buttons
- 1 x Slider Axis
- 1 x Analogue Ministick (+ Push)
Like with the VPC MongoosT-50CM2 Base , you will find a couple of protected plugs. One of them you will use to connect the unit to your computer and the other one you can use to connect to a VIRPIL Control Panel.
See the 1 x 5-Way Mode Dial mentioned above? That dial actually acts as a shift system, which gives you 5 different modes for the 6 x Customizable Momentary Buttons.
Which means those 6 buttons may become, in reality, 30. On top of that, they are also backlit, and each mode can have its own color. You can also decide to have the lights turned off, though.
All the controls feel quite solid and sturdy. You have no weird lateral movements, no impression that it will crumble under your hands, nothing like that. Just like holding the throttle on your hands gives you a sense of satisfaction, using the controls in it will do the same for you.
Especially those beautiful metal switches.
And I highly doubt you will feel the need for extra buttons. But hey: if you do (seriously???), VIRPIL also got you covered . That’s something for another review, though!
When you get the throttle, you’ll also find a few sheets with stickers, which VIRPIL calls “Button Inlays”.
You can stick them to the 6 buttons described above so that you get a visual guide of what they do. I think this kind of defeats the purpose of having the 5 modes, since each button can have up to that number of functions, so having the same sticker for 5 different functions may not work.
Still, it’s quite a nice touch and it shows VIRPIL cares about these details.
Important note: if you have multiple VIRPIL controls, make sure you connect one at a time and set them up separately as to prevent issues, conflicts or even damaging your controls.
I’ll admit I’ll be a bit lazy and refer you to the VIRPIL VPC MongoosT-50CM2 Base review for more details since the installation is pretty much the same across all of VIRPIL’s hardware.
- Connect 1 control at a time (and proceed to #2 when you have only 1 controller plugged in)
- Indicate which model you have
- Update the firmware
- Head out to the next controller if you have more to set up
Once you’re done, you can then connect all controllers. Again, to make it clear: follow the steps above when you only have 1 controller connected. You will need to do it the first time you are setting things up or when you want to update the firmware.
Be careful not to brick your shiny new gear.
After the installation, which took me only a few minutes – it took me a lot more to stop admiring it and put it down – it was time to take her for a spin.
For this test, I set up the left throttle as the collective and didn’t assign an axis for the throttle. I just wanted to see if everything worked and how would the feeling be, having everything set as default.
The response of the throttle was amazing. I could be very precise when controlling the collective. The only thing that I didn’t like was…
Why didn’t I like the detents? Well, because when you are trying to control a helicopter, controls need to be smooth. You need the collective to be controlled flawlessly throughout the whole length of the controller.
You can’t have that with a decent, can you?
But here’s something cool: The VPC MongoosT-50CM3 Throttle comes with 4 detents types: Classic, Warthog, Aerobatics (which is installed by default) and Cosmosim.
All these detents give you a different feeling to the joystick. And you can not only switch them, but you can also place them in different positions.
Depending on the detent, you will have more or less resistance on the position where the detent should act. Some of these are actually quite strong! To counter that easily, VIRPIL added a couple of levers to the back of the throttle.
When I first looked at those, I thought they would work as an axis, which is something you see on other throttles (usually to mimic rudder pedals, in case you don’t have them).
In the case of the VIRPIL throttle, though, they can be used to easily past the detents so that you don’t actually feel them. At all.
Keeping it all steady
The throttle comes equipped with a couple of leg supports, in the shape of side plates with rubber feet. These offer a steady, slippery-free experience which, allied to the weight of the throttle and the ease of use (you don’t have to push or pull the throttle too hard, so you are not putting a lot of force into the whole unit) make it quite a great and solid experience.
If you happen to want to screw the throttle somewhere (to the VPC desk mount , for example) you can also use the holes located at the bottom of the unit. That should keep it nice and steady. From my experience, you don’t need to do that, though, as it never moved for me.
I did use those holes to assemble the unit to the VIRPIL table mount, which I shall be reviewing later.
Let’s “helicopterize” it
Better yet: you can remove the detents altogether. And, with that, make it so much helicopter friendly.
By removing the detents, you can really run the throttle levers freely across their slots. Without any obstacles, you have smooth operation at full length, which is a blessing.
If you disengage the 2 throttle levers you will also feel you don’t need to push or pull as much as with the 2 levers pinned together, which can also help you.
The sheer weight of the unit helps a lot as well and when combined with all of the above, plus the amazing precision of the electronics, we have a winner.
It’s not a collective, ladies and gentlemen. But it sure puts you in control, big time. And it’s not uncomfortable at all.
I’ve set the right lever as the actual throttle (well, in case of the Cowan Simulation 500E, I set it as the Wing Sweep axis as per the manual – always read the manual, folks) and off I went, with my “helicopterized” throttle system.
The last thing I did was to invert the axis of the collective, just to give it a bit of a more “realistic” feeling to it. If you haven’t already, give it a try. It made a difference for me when I first gave it a shot and I started using it like that until I got a proper collective.
And, just like the joystick, it all worked perfectly fine across all sims. No hiccups, no issues. Everything went smoothly and all controls felt responsive and comfortable to use. Like I mentioned before, they are all quite solid and I always felt in full control of the aircraft, at all times.
I honestly have more buttons on the throttle alone than I care to set up. Perhaps on DCS that may not be true, especially on a fighter jet, but since I mostly use the actual 3D cockpit buttons in VR, I tend not to need a whole lot of stuff on my controllers.
But if I did need them: I would have a TON of them.
The VIRPIL VPC MongoosT-50CM3 Throttle is robust, very precise, highly programmable, has a TON of controls and is extremely customizable.
It’s quite easy to make it helicopter-friendly and you don’t even need to lose your fixed-wing aircraft characteristics – including the detents if you get used to the levers at the back.
If you are in the market for a new throttle that can work for both fixed wing and aircraft, the VIRPIL VPC MongoosT-50CM3 Throttle is an excellent choice. This is, without any question, the best throttle I have tried in a long time.