In this special PC Pilot report, Richard Benedikz travelled to the Big Apple to attend Thrustmaster’s 25th anniversary celebration event.
Thrustmaster marked its 25th anniversary milestone in New York with an event on board the USS Intrepid Sea, Air and Space Museum, by unveiling its new HOTAS product range: the TFRP T.Flight Rudder Pedals, TWCS Throttle and the updated T.16000M FCS joystick.
The company has a rich history having developed joysticks, controllers and steering wheels for PCs since 1991 and has won licensing agreements with major brands including Ferrari, Top Gun, Beretta, Splinter Cell and even the US Air Force. This has enabled Thrustmaster to design and build high-quality HOTAS systems for flight simulation based on the controls of real aircraft, including the General Dynamics F-16 with the HOTAS Cougar and the Fairchild Republic A-10C Thunderbolt II with the HOTAS Warthog.
Demonstration stands gave guests the opportunity to try out the new controllers. VR (Virtual Reality) featured high on the list with the Elite Dangerous space simulator running on Oculus Rift. It also demonstrated DCS from Eagle Dynamics with its popular HOTAS Warthog, released in 2010.
Another stand showcased the T.Flight HOTAS 4, released in February this year, which was run with War Thunder from Gaijin Entertainment. The controller was produced under official licence for the PlayStation 4 (although it is also PC-compatible). It consists of a wide hand rest and adjustable stick resistance, along with a detachable throttle and a yaw function, which can be controlled using twist on the joystick handle or a tilting lever on the throttle. It also includes a variety of action buttons, a rapid-fire trigger and a HAT switch. In a glass cabinet, Thrustmaster had a line-up of products from the past on display, including the HOTAS Cougar, Millennium 3D, X Fighter, Top Gun Platinum and F22 Pro.
A selection of industry experts and enthusiasts were invited to the event to try out the new and existing products. The show began with talks from the President and CEO of Guillemot (which owns the Thrustmaster brand), Claude Guillemot and Development Director, Gilles Raulet. They outlined the company’s 25-year history including the products it had developed such as its first all-metal controller, the HOTAS Cougar. Guillemot said it was an important milestone for the company and had laid the foundation for its successor, the HOTAS Warthog. The merger of Guillemot and Thrustmaster in 1999 was also an important step as both companies had a ‘passion for flight simulation’.
They were joined by Frontier Developments’ Chief Operating Officer David Walsh and Clayton Remy from Gaijin Entertainment. Both companies have adopted Thrustmaster controllers as they were ‘ideally suited’ for their respective products. Matthias Techmanski from Eagle Dynamics, the company played an important role in the development of Thrustmaster’s HOTAS Warthog, was also present.
TFRP T. Flight Rudder Pedals
The highlight of the event was the unveiling of Thrustmaster’s TFRP Rudder Pedals, which are aimed at the beginner/intermediary end of the market, although they have advanced functions, which will appeal to the more experienced flight simmer. Thrustmaster has developed a new technology dubbed SMART (Sliding Motion Advanced Rail Track), which features four rails made from industrial-grade anodized aluminium. The company says the sliding action of the rails, combined with the long range of travel on the rudder axis, provides precise and smooth control.
The TFRP comes with large 10in (25cm) self-centring pedals with differential braking and a removable heel-rest, which enables the feet to be placed in two positions: with the ball of the foot and the heel on the floor and then with the heel-rest in place, the entire foot can be placed on the pedal. The unit features a large base with an inclined design, designed to provide ‘greater comfort and stability’.
It comes with dual connectors, a USB interface, which makes it compatible with PCs and joysticks currently on the market. Alternatively, it can be plugged into the T.Flight HOTAS 4 using a proprietary RJ12 interface. The controller has proved to be popular with War Thunder from Gaijin Entertainment.
The unit can also be connected to the HOTAS Warthog, T.16000M as well as the MFD Cougar Pack, so that they are recognised as a single USB device. The TFRP Rudder Pedals come with a calibration tool to adjust parameters such as the central dead zone on the yaw axis and the two differential brake axes. These settings are then saved directly to the internal memory of the adapter. The unit is also compatible with Thrustmaster’s proprietary TARGET (Thrustmaster Advanced pRogramming Graphical EdiTor) software suite, enabling users to create and load custom profiles for different simulators. Profiles created by other users can also be downloaded from Thrustmaster’s website. The rudder pedals were launched in May and are now available at a recommended retail price of €99.99 (£79.99 approx).
A prototype TWCS Throttle was also showcased at the event. The HOTAS-type throttle quadrant will feature four axes, including a single throttle with adjustable friction, a variety of push buttons, HAT switches, rotary toggles, two-way toggles and a mini stick. It also comes with hand-operated analogue paddles, which can be used for operating the rudder and M6 bolts for fixing the unit in cockpits or flight seats. The TWCS is due to be released in September this year, although no information on price has yet been provided.
The final product to be unveiled was the T.160000 FCS, an updated version of Thrustmaster’s original T.160000 joystick. Like its predecessor it comes with HEART (Hall Effect Accurate Technology), which is a magnetic sensor that provides precision levels 256 times greater than most conventional joysticks. Rather than using conventional variable resistors for motion sensing, these magnetic sensors don’t make any physical contact and as a result the movement of the joystick is completely friction-free with spring tension to provide feedback for the flight controls. It features new tactile buttons to provide more defined clicks, an improved and smoother throttle slider and a more ‘ergonomic’ trigger. Like the TWCS Throttle, it also includes M6 bolts for attaching the unit to cockpits or desktops and will be released in September.
Thrustmaster hinted that it was planning to release two new products in the future. Although the company didn’t provide specific details, according to the roadmap there are two empty slots on the timeline next to the rudder pedals and the Warthog. Speculation on what they are planning has been rife, with rumours indicating the first could be a more advanced set of rudder pedals and the second a new HOTAS joystick, possibly in the same category as the Warthog.
Although Thrustmaster has been actively developing products for racing simulators for the past few years, it has been fairly quiet on the flight sim front since the release of the HOTAS Warthog in 2010. However, the company has re-emerged in force with its new product range. The TFRP T. Flight Rudder Pedals certainly deserve consideration if you are looking for an affordable set of rudder pedals being competitively priced at less than €100 (£79.99 approx). We also have the new HOTAS controllers to look forward to when they are released in September and with ambitious plans for the future it looks like Thrustmaster will be rejuvenating its presence in the flight sim market.
By Richard Benedikz