The Yawman Arrow is sure to turn some heads and opinions are quite diverse. Some people love the idea, some people hate the idea.
I get it. We all want the most realistic and immersive experience. Well, not “all” of us. Some people are just looking into flight simulation to relax and enjoy the passion of aviation.
Or perhaps you are on the go and want to keep on simming on your laptop but bringing a joystick is not feasible. And this may be the solution for those folks as well.
If you want to skip ahead to the end of this review, please do so and there’s a bit of a TL;DR thing over there.
Features and compatibility
Let’s start with the announced features.
Here’s what you can find on the Yawman’s website. Note the ones I marked in bold and italic as they are quite interesting.
- Integrated trim wheel
- Five-button D-pad
- Five-way hat switch
- Two shoulder bumper buttons
- Two Vernier-style engine control sliders
- Two faceplate sliders
- Mechanically linked triggers simulating pedals
- Made in the USA
Regarding compatibility, here’s the list:
- Microsoft Flight Simulator on PC
- X-Plane 11 / 12 on PC and Mac
- Infinite Flight for Android
- DCS World
I must say I was surprised to see Infinite Flight/Android on the list. That’s awesome. It’s too bad it’s not compatible with the Xbox but Microsoft continues to limit the ecosystem, which prevents manufacturers from making more hardware for the platform.
I have tried (all on the PC) MSFS, X-Plane 12, Aerofly FS4, and DCS World. The Yawman Arrow worked on all of them without any issues.
When I first looked at photos of the Yawman Arrow, I have to say I wasn’t impressed. And I have a feeling many of you won’t be either.
It looks a bit rough. Not as polished as other controllers out there and it seems pretty clear that a lot of it, if not everything, is 3D printed. At least it looks that way, right?
But when I got the unit and I picked it up, I noticed a few things immediately.
First of all, it doesn’t really look that bad. All right, I don’t like the color. I’ll admit that. But that’s my personal taste.
I don’t think a light color on a product that’s going to be held in your hand for quite some time, laying around on a table or couch or something like that, and coming with you on travels is going to look good after some time.
Yeah, you can put it back in the original box but if you are using it for traveling, chances are you are going to stick it between your clothes or on your backpack instead of bringing a bulky box. But, again, that’s personal taste.
What matters is the build quality, not the color, so I focused more on that. I tried the different controls, moved some stuff, pressed some buttons and the quality didn’t look as bad as in those photos, really.
Time to give it a go and we’ll get back to the build quality.
I’ll just say I was pleasantly surprised. Even if still a bit skeptical (me being me).
I plugged into the computer which recognized the unit. Calibrated it, just because, and jumped into MSFS. I had to go through a bit of set up but that’s cool. I don’t expect everything to be perfect and I don’t mind setting things up to accommodate my preferences.
Everything worked fine and I got into Taog’s Hangar Lama. Yeah, I wasn’t going to make it easy on myself here!
Oof… Handheld controllers…
Folks, it’s hard enough trying to fly a helicopter with a regular joystick or even a control set like the one I use but with a handheld controller. There has to be a special section in hell for people who force themselves to do it.
But... And this is quite a big “but”, it wasn’t that bad. It felt way better than using a regular handheld controller.
Don’t forget that the Yawman Arrow was made for flight simulation and that means it’s quite different from other handheld controllers.
There are at least a couple of very big differences that make it blow any other handheld controller out of the water. One of them is the rudder input system. It’s placed in the trigger position of the controller, where we rest our index fingers, but it is completely different from the ones you find in other controllers. You don’t have 2 axes, one for each finger. Instead, we have a single axis and when you push one of the triggers inward, the other one goes outward, exactly like rudder/anti-torque pedals do.
The other difference is the linear axes controls. A couple of controls on the right side of the unit, with which you can use your thumb and it doesn’t go back to the original position, meaning you can leave it anywhere in its course. Which I used as my collective.
Those differences were enough to make me a ton more comfortable with this unit than with any other handheld controller out there.
After some practice, I was improving. I couldn’t do everything I usually do with my regular control set but I could use it to a certain degree of comfort, which is much, much more than I can say about other handheld controllers on the market that I tried.
I used the controller often for 2 weeks – no, it’s not a DCS joke, stop it – before writing this review and the more I used it, the more comfortable it felt.
I had the first contact, flew around with it for a bit and I wanted to sit back and take a better look at this thing.
I sat down with some good light and took a look at it from several angles and while it does seem like some of these parts were 3D printed, at the same time, it didn’t. If it is 3D printed, they have done a fantastic job at making it look good.
Granted, and honestly, it doesn’t look like some other controllers out there, with amazingly looking materials, but the Arrow doesn’t look fragile or too ugly to me.
In fact, I was surprised by the quality of it as it looks better than the first photos that I saw of it. It’s much better than I anticipated. It’s not amazingly beautiful, but it doesn’t look too bad either.
And, let’s face it, it’s not like we’re looking at it the whole time.
Another thing I noticed is how light it is. And that’s not a bad thing, mind you. It’s always nice to feel the weight of a good quality product (so much so that Beats added metal to their headsets to make it feel like a better quality product) but in this case, added weight wouldn’t be better for a couple of reasons.
First of all, it’s a handheld controller. Yes, you can use it while sitting at the desk, but you may not be able to, so holding it in your hand will have to be as comfortable as possible, and adding weight to the unit would not benefit you.
The other reason is the fact that the Yawman Arrow will probably be used by a lot of folks as a unit to bring on trips and the less it weighs, the less it adds to your luggage, of course.
All the controls work great and there is a bit of slack on some of them where you can force it to move a little sideways for example but that is not noticeable at all unless you are specifically doing it. During regular operations, you will not notice it at all. At least I didn’t.
I just had one peeve with the buttons that are above the “rudder-triggers” which, in my opinion, don’t give you satisfactory feedback when you press them. I wasn’t even 100% sure I had pressed them if I didn’t see the result of doing it in the sim.
It’s not a deal breaker, far from it, but it’s just something I noticed. And by my nitpicking, you can guess I couldn’t actually find anything major against it.
The “helicopter factor”
All right, here’s where things got a bit trickier.
The Yawman Arrow is made for fixed-wing aircraft. I mean, look at the 2 throttle and mixture controls on the back, next to the trim wheel. This sentence says it all, right? This is not something made for helicopters.
When Yawman contacted me, I told them exactly that. I was very excited about that possibility, but did they really want me to review it, considering I talk about things for helicopters? Did they want to put their product in the hands of a guy that had a chance of saying “this sucks, don’t get it”?
They said “Yes”. Well, I didn’t tell them the “this sucks” part but it was somewhat implied when I asked them if they were sure.
The person who contacted me even said he had tried helicopters with it and he placed the Arrow upside down. I assumed he was using the assistances in MSFS and not using the pedals because that would make the use of the pedal triggers unfeasible.
Having the cyclic on the left thumb and the collective on the right thumb wasn’t comfortable but was doable and it was a matter of time to get a bit more used to it. Not that I got completely used to it, mind you, but it improved over time.
Another thing that I felt uncomfortable with was the position of the sliders. I wish they were positioned at the top of the controller instead of where they are. This would allow me to use the collective and the pedals more comfortably while maintaining a better grip on the whole unit.
It’s a non-issue for fixed-wing but it can be a struggle for those who fly helicopters.
So, yes, it is usable with helicopters. No, I don’t recommend it as your main controller. Again, it’s great for when you travel or just chill on the couch or perhaps if you are playing with a handheld controller anyway. But I wouldn’t go further than that.
The Yawman Arrow was built for fixed-wing and to be used with stable aircraft that you can trim and go hands-free. Which you can’t do with a helicopter, even if you trim it since the analog joystick will always move to the center. Well, you CAN technically go hands-free if you have enough trim but you know what I mean.
But will we see a helicopter-specific unit?
I don’t think so. The helicopter market is quite a niche, and it would be hard for a company to justify the investment in making something specific.
This is an issue we’ve been having for a long time. The numbers are just not there to justify the investment. But I could see Yawman doing it, considering most of the controls are there and they would just need to change some stuff around.
My helicopter-specific wishlist
Let’s get into the realm of “what if” and imagine what a Yawman Arrow “HeliSimmer.com Edition” could look like.
First of all, black, please. Yes, it’s personal taste, I know. But you can’t go wrong with black.
I would like to see the analog stick (on the left) being moved to the right. And I would love to see a springless version. If you tried an RC controller, you know what you mean. You can remove the centering spring on the sticks and you can pretty much go hands-free if you want to.
I would remove the trim wheel and the 2 controls at the bottom (throttle and mixture). Or just leave them there for those that want to use it but they wouldn’t be necessary for helicopters. Perhaps one of them could be used as the mixture in some of the helicopters.
I would pass the 2 axis sliders and buttons to the left. I would also increase the size of the sliders so that we could have more precise collective movements.
The spring on the trigger-pedals? Gone as well.
Let’s get to the second meaty part of this review.
There are specific uses for this controller. This is not something I would be looking for as my main setup. Far from it. Especially because I am not a console-style-controller guy myself.
The best use I can give one of those is to get some nice camera movements in MSFS. Other than that, my controller (the first one I ever got in my life – and I bought it a couple of years ago) is sitting inside its original box.
As I was saying, there are specific situations where I can see the Yawman Arrow being used. If you are 100% a handheld controller guy, this may be for you. If you are on the go a lot and spend a lot of time away from home at hotels or any other places where you don’t have your simming rig, this is a great option.
The Yawman Arrow is quite light, doesn’t take up a lot of space, works great, is precise and it just works when you connect it to your computer. Yes, you will need to set it up but once you do, it’s done, and you are ready to take the virtual skies.
I would not recommend it to replace your regular control setup if you have a joystick/yoke, collective/throttle, and pedals, but I would, without a doubt, recommend it if you are on the go and carrying a joystick with you is not practical.
Or if you just want to do some quick flights at home away from your simming rig, perhaps on the couch with your laptop.
For that, I would definitely recommend it, even if it has its limitations with helicopters. It sure beats the heck out of an ordinary handheld controller.
And yes, I am aware of the price. I’m pretty sure there will be some comments about it, folks bashing it, yadda yadda yadda. It’s not cheap and I’m not saying it is. But I would still recommend it for those who can afford it.