The Best Flight Simulator Software and Hardware in 2022
121.7k views | By Senne Vandenputte | Last updated on June 25, 2022
Flight Simulators are not only fun to use, they also offer a tremendously valuable tool during flight training and beyond. A flight simulator can be a great tool when learning to fly; for example, it gives you the opportunity to practice maneuvers and procedures at home, saving you a lot of money on fuel, aircraft rent and instructor fees!
We have written numerous articles about flight simulators before, but in this guide, we’ll dive deeper into some of the best flight simulator software and hardware. At the end, we’ll also list some interesting books to enhance your flight simulation experience and training!
The Best Flight Simulator Software in 2022
To start your virtual flying adventures, you will need the right flight simulator software. These days you have the choice between various flight simulator software, but two software packages remain the most obvious and best choice: Microsoft Flight Simulator and X-Plane.
These have been around for many years and have given aviation geeks the chance to feel like a real pilot, including us.
For the best experience, we recommend using the latest versions of each software, Microsoft Flight Simulator X and X-Plane 11. There are hundreds of add-ons you can buy to enhance your flight simulator experience even further!
Microsoft Flight Simulator 2020
Recently, Microsoft launched the newest edition of the Flight Simulator Series, MSFS 2020, which will come in three different editions.
You can read more about FS2020 and the differences between each edition here.
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Besides software, you will also need the right hardware. You could fly using just your keyboard and mouse, but to get a more accurate and realistic feel, the proper hardware will give your flight simulator experience a whole new dimension.
The Best Flight Simulator Yokes in 2022
The market currently offers many different great flight simulator yoke options. Brands such as Logitech, CH Products and recently Honeycomb have created some very nice products to help you get the most out of your flight training.
People might argue it doesn’t matter whether you use a joystick or yoke with your flight simulator, as you will never get the real feeling of flying a plane. Although that might be the case in some way, we believe a flight simulator yoke still offers plenty of added value when using a flight simulator as a training aid.
Here are some of the most popular flight simulator yokes on the market:
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The Logitech Pro Flight Yoke is a great all-around option, and one of the most popular and widely-used flight simulator yokes available today. It offers great value for money, with lots of programmable buttons and a very convenient separate throttle quadrant, which is extendable for use with multi-engine aircraft.
This is the yoke I used to practice during my own real-world flight training, where I flew a Piper PA-38 Tomahawk.
Next, we have the brand new Honeycomb Alpha Yoke. This more advanced flight simulator yoke offers a next-level flight simulator experience for those who have a little more to spend. It has a beautiful design and is packed with great functions and realistic buttons and switches.
Tip: We also created an article comparing the Logitech Pro Flight and the Honeycomb Alpha yokes.
Finally, there’s the CH Products Yoke and CH Products Eclipse Yoke. These are older models, but still offer plenty of value and are packed with great features. Both a great option if you’re on a tighter budget.
Recently, Thrustmaster launched a Boeing 787-replica yoke, the Thrustmaster TCA Yoke PACK Boeing Edition. If you love virtual flying the Boeing, this kit is certainly an excellent choice to make your simulator experience as real as possible!
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Tip: You can learn more about building your own Boeing home flight simulator cockpit here.
If you’re looking for a (new) flight simulator yoke, we highly recommend you check out our definitive guide to flight simulator yokes. We will talk about the different options in more detail, and also include a buying guide with things you should look out for!
The Best Flight Simulator Joysticks in 2022
If you prefer flying with a (traditional) joystick instead of a yoke, there are quite a few great options as well. Here, we’ll list some of the top-rated and most popular joysticks you can get this year!
1. Thrustmaster T-Flight X
A simple USB joystick like the Thrustmaster T-Flight X is inexpensive and offers a great flight simulator experience.
2. Thrustmaster HOTAS 4
If you want a little bit more flexibility, Thrustmaster also offers the T-Flight Stick with a detachable throttle quadrant: the HOTAS 4.
3. Thrustmaster HOTAS Warthog Flight Stick
If you’re looking for a more fighter jet-like feeling, the Thrustmaster HOTAS Warthog Flight Stick is one we recommend. This flight stick is part of the Thrustmaster HOTAS products: a replica set of the joystick, dual throttle system and dual throttle control panel of the U.S. Air Force A-10C attack aircraft. With an average Amazon rating of 4.5/5 (460+ reviews!), this flight stick is one of the top-rated flight simulator joysticks available at the moment.
The dual-throttle system and control panel can be purchased separately here.
To make sure your valuable HOTAS flight simulator hardware remains protected and dustfree, there are some handy dust covers for the HOTAS series available on Amazon!
You can also extend your Thrustmaster HOTAS flight stick with this handy extension kit:
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4. Thrustmaster TCA Sidestick Airbus Edition
The Thrustmaster TCA Sidestick Airbus Edition is an ergonomic 1:1 scale replica inspired by the iconic Airbus sidestick, the TCA Sidestick Airbus Edition ensures unique handling.
The Airbus sidestick can also be bought together with the matching throttle quadrant (see below) in the Thrustmaster TCA Officer Pack Airbus Edition.
5. Logitech G X56 HOTAS RGB Throttle and Stick
The Logitech G X56 HOTAS RGB Throttle and Stick provides complete control featuring analog thumbsticks, RGB lighting, 16-bit aileron and elevator axis, 189 programmable controls, and an updated stealthy black and gray finish.
The Best Flight Simulator Rudder Pedals in 2022
Why would you need rudder pedals when you can just turn the plane on the ground by using your joystick or yoke axes, you may ask? Most flight simulators offer an ‘Autorudder’ option, right?
There’s some truth in the above statements, but how will you be practising crosswind take-offs and landings? Using just the aileron axis of your yoke might get you of/on the ground safely, but it won’t resemble the experience of using both stick and rudder, like you would in real life.
Also on the ground, rudder pedals can improve your flight simulator experience. Not just for steering but for braking as well. Most popular flight simulator rudder pedals feature differential brake pedals at the top of your toes, just like you would find in most real-life aircraft. This offers extra possibilities when virtual taxiing or making narrow turns on the ground.
Below, we have listed some of the most popular flight simulator rudder pedals on the market, each with their own advantages. Just like with the yoke hardware, popular brands include Logitech, CH Products and Thrustmaster.
1. Logitech Pro Flight Rudder Pedals
The Logitech Pro Flight series is a family of popular flight simulator hardware, including instruments, switches, throttle quadrants, yokes and pedals. The Logitech Pro Rudder Pedals (formerly built by Saitek) are probably one of the most popular and widely-used flight simulator pedals available today. Their fluid motion enables accurate command over your aircraft, while differential braking provides independent control of the left and right toe brakes.
2. CH Products Pro Pedals
CH Products has been building flight simulator hardware long before many other players on the market. You might get the impression their product designs are a little outdated, but they still perform very well and are an affordable option.
The standard CH Products Pro Pedals remain some of the most affordable and simple options on this list.
3. Thrustmaster TFRP Pedals
Thrustmaster’s latest model, the Thrustmaster TFRP Pedals is another great high-quality option. They offer the so-called S.M.A.R.T slide rails system for smooth steering, removable heel-rests, differential braking and a self-centering rudder axis.
The TFRP Pedals are compatible with PS4, XOne and PC.
4. Thrustmaster TPR Pedals
If you’re looking for something a little more sturdy and advanced, the Thrustmaster TPR Pedals might be a good fit for you. The brand uses its more advanced technology to create smooth and fluid movements, offering the perfect precision. While most rudder pedals use plastic sliders, the TPR Pedals use a suspended mechanism for minimal resistance.
If you’re looking for (new) flight simulator rudder pedals, we highly recommend you check out our definitive guide to rudder pedals for flight sim. We will talk about the different options in more detail, and also include a buying guide with things you should look out for!
The Best Flight Simulator Throttles in 2022
If you’re joystick or yoke does not have the accurate engine controls like throttle, mixture and prop, it could a good option to add an extra throttle quadrant. The Logitech G Pro Flight Throttle Quadrant (which is standard included with the Saitek yoke) is a great and inexpensive add-in to your hardware and offers all the throttle controls you will need for a single-engine aircraft. You can even add more quadrants and switch the levers to adjust the controls for a multi-engine aircraft!
CH Products offers a great throttle quadrant as well, with enough levers to simulate a twin-engine aircraft – something you would need two Saitek throttle quadrants for. It has six programmable axis and 12 buttons, that can be configured using the custom software this product comes with.
Thrustmaster recently launched its Airbus Series flight simulator sidestick (mentioned above) and throttle quadrant. The Thrustmaster TCA Quadrant Airbus Edition is an ergonomic replica throttle quadrant, inspired by iconic Airbus flight controls. With 2 navigational axes, 16 buttons and controls (detents, switches and even a thrust reverser mechanism) for a multitude of possibilities during takeoff, in flight, upon landing and when on the ground.
The Airbus throttle quadrant can also be bought together with the matching sidestick in the Thrustmaster TCA Officer Pack Airbus Edition.
The newest flight simulator throttle on the market is the brand new Honeycomb Bravo, in our opinion one of the best pieces of flight simulator hardware available today. If you’re looking for the best and most realistic flight simulator throttle (and much more), look no further!
If you’re looking for a flight simulator throttle quadrant, we highly recommend you check out our definitive guide to flight simulator throttle quadrants:
The Best Flight Simulator Instruments and Switches in 2022
Although not really necessary, some physical switches and knobs can greatly enhance your simulator experience compared to using your mouse or keyboard to control those functions. It’s easy and fast to turn on the master switch, start the engine, turn on the lights and retract the gear with this Logitech Switch Panel (you might notice we love Logitech simulator products!).
If you really want to take your simulator experience to another level you can even buy physical flight simulator instruments, on which you can show 12 separate instruments with a touch of a button.
Now, if you really, réally want to improve your flight simulator experience, especially while learning procedures and navigation: the company RealSimGear builds some awesome flight simulator GPS hardware. Take for example their RealSimGear Garmin GNS530 and RealSimGear Garmin GNS430, simulator versions of Garmin famous GNS navigation systems. It’s a lot more convenient to turn actual knobs then zooming around with your mouse trying to turn the simulated switches and knobs by clicking them.
From their website: The GNS530 and GNS430 simulators are compatible with X-Plane 10,11, Prepar3D v3 and v4, and FSX Steam and Boxed Edition. Plugin software is provided for X-Plane v10 and v11, P3D v3 & v4 and FSX. Note P3D and FSX require Reality-XP GNS430 or the Mindstar GNS430 (sold separately through Reality XP or Mindstar)
TIP: Garmin offers free simulators to get used to the GNS430 and GNS530. You can download them here.
Other Great Flight Simulator Hardware in 2022
To help you get the most out of your flight simulator experience, there is some additional hardware that could prove very useful.
One of the problems you might experience when buying a complete set of yoke/stick, throttle quadrants, rudder pedals, switches,.. is the question where to put and mount everything. A company called Wheel Stand Pro developed a simulator stand that is compatible with all Saitek Pro Flight hardware, such as the Saitek Yoke, throttles, switches and rudder pedals. It’s a stable, portable and adjustable stand, heavily reviewed and highly recommended on Amazon by other simulator enthusiasts and pilots.
In case you’re looking for something a little more compact, PEIN Gear has developed the J-PEIN, a desk mount for your flight sim joystick, throttle and Hotas systems. Fully support almost all of flight sim game hand-control devices, such as the above-mentioned Thrustmaster HOTAS and HOTAS Warthog joystick/throttles!
Most joysticks are equipped with a head-switch, making it easy to look around the cockpit. The only downside is that it takes time to look around using a switch, and the view can sometimes “get lost”, costing you valuable seconds during a virtual approach. That’s where a so-called optical head tracking system comes into play! The TrackIr5, for example, offers you the possibility to look around the cockpit by just moving your head, just like in real life!
Tip: there is also a low-budget $10 head tracking app for flight simulator!
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Since you’re investing in all those fancy flight simulator systems, it might be a good idea to invest a small part of your budget in a decent gaming chair. Unlike normal desk chairs, gaming chairs are developed to offer more support for your neck and back, giving you the most comfort possible, for longer periods at a time. And luckily, they are often more comfortable than the cockpit seats of most older aircraft!
We personally recommend the Hbada Gaming Chair, a top-rated gaming chair that’s perfect for some hours of virtual flying!
If you’re planning on using a lot of USB-connected devices at the same time, it’s a good idea to buy a powered USB-hub. All those devices like yokes, throttles, rudder pedals, instruments, etc can draw quite a lot of power from your computers’ USB ports, especially when using a laptop. A powered USB hub plugs directly into a power outlet, taking the load off your computer’s USB ports.
This powered USB-hub provides 7 USB 3.0 ports to connect and charge 7 devices at the same time, perfect for all your flight simulator hardware!
The Best Flight Simulator Books in 2022
A good pilot is always learning. Books are a great way to do that. There are a number of great books and guides out there specifically focused on using Flight Simulator as a training aid for student pilots.
Wiley's Microsoft Flight Simulator X For Pilots Real World Training is one we own and use to get the most out of Microsoft Flight Simulator.
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Frequently Asked Questions About Flight Simulator
Before concluding this article, let’s also look at some of the most frequently asked questions about flight simulator gear.
1. What are the best flight simulator software packages?
There is a wide variety of flight simulator software packages on the market, as explained above, and it can be tough to decide which one is right for you. There is no definitive answer to this question as it depends on personal preferences. However, there are a few things you should look for in a good simulator, such as realism, graphics, and features.
Our recommendation is to try out a few different ones and see which one you like best.
2. What are the best flight simulator hardware packages?
Again, there are a variety of different flight simulator hardware packages on the market. It is important to find one that is compatible with the software you are using.
3. Do I need a special computer to run a flight simulator?
No, you do not need a special computer to run a flight simulator. However, you will need a computer that meets the minimum system requirements for the software you are using.
4. Can I use my flight simulator to get my pilot’s license?
No, you cannot use your flight simulator to get your pilot’s license. However, you can use it to supplement your training and become a better pilot.
The FAA requires a specific number of hours in an actual aircraft before you can take your practical test. A flight simulator can help you increase the efficiency of your training by allowing you to practice at home, but it cannot replace the required flight time.
5. What are the benefits of using a flight simulator?
There are many benefits to using a flight simulator, including the ability to practice at home, save money on fuel and aircraft rent, and become a better pilot.
Read more about the many advantages of flight simulator here:
6. Are rudder pedals necessary for a flight simulator?
Rudder pedals are not necessary for a flight simulator, but they can enhance your experience and make it more realistic. They can make a world of difference when it comes to landing your aircraft in cross-wind conditions, or when taxiing.
7. Do I need a throttle to use a flight simulator?
No, you don’t need a throttle to use a flight simulator. However, it is recommended as it will make the experience more realistic and enjoyable.
8. What is the best way to learn to use a flight simulator?
The best way to learn to use a flight simulator is to just try it out, watch tutorial videos, and practice, practice, practice! There is no substitute for time in the virtual cockpit.
You can also join an online community of flight simulator enthusiasts to get tips and advice.
9. Can I use my flight simulator to fly real-world missions?
Yes, you can use your flight simulator to fly real-world missions. Many flight simulators have mission packs that you can purchase, which add a whole new level of realism to your experience.
10. Is it worth upgrading my flight simulator hardware?
If you are serious about flight simulation, then it is definitely worth upgrading your hardware from time to time. As technology improves, so do the capabilities of flight simulators. By upgrading your hardware, you can make sure that you are always getting the best possible experience.
11. I’m not a pilot. Can I still use a flight simulator?
Yes, you can still use a flight simulator even if you are not a pilot. In fact, flight simulators can be a great way to learn about aviation and even get a feel for what it is like to fly an aircraft.
12. Do I need to know how to fly to use a flight simulator?
No, you do not need to know how to fly to use a flight simulator. However, it will help if you have some basic knowledge of aviation.
13. Can I use my flight simulator on my mobile device?
Yes, there are many flight simulator apps available for both iOS and Android devices. X-Plane, for example, has a dedicated IOS app.
14. What is the difference between a home flight simulator and a professional flight simulator?
A home flight simulator is typically a lower-cost option that is designed for personal use. A professional flight simulator is a higher-cost option that is designed for commercial or training use.
15. Can I use my home flight simulator for commercial or training purposes?
Yes, you can use your home flight simulator for commercial or training purposes, but you will need to make sure it meets the requirements for those purposes.
16. I’m a student pilot. Can I use my flight simulator to log flight time?
No, you cannot use your flight simulator to log official flight time. However, you can use it to supplement your flight training and better prepare for your real flying lessons.
17. Do I need a joystick for a flight simulator?
A joystick is not required for a flight simulator, but it can certainly add to the realism of the experience. If you do not have a joystick, you can use your keyboard or mouse to control the aircraft.
18. Is a joystick better than a mouse?
This is a matter of personal preference. Some people find that a joystick gives them more control, while others prefer the simplicity of a mouse.
19. Can I use my flight simulator to practice instrument flying?
Yes, you can use your flight simulator to practice instrument flying. This is a great way to become familiar with the instruments and hone your skills.
20. Can I use my flight simulator to train for a specific aircraft?
Yes, you can use your flight simulator to train for a specific aircraft. This is a great way to get familiar with the aircraft and its systems.
21. Do I need to purchase a separate license for each aircraft?
No, you do not need to purchase a separate license for each aircraft. The software will come with a default aircraft, and you can add additional aircraft as you wish.
22. Can I use my flight simulator to fly around the world?
Yes, you can use your flight simulator to fly around the world. There are many scenery packs available that will allow you to explore different parts of the world.
23. Can I use my flight simulator to fly in real-world weather conditions?
Yes, you can use your flight simulator to fly in real-world weather conditions. This is a great way to experience different weather conditions and learn how they affect your flying.
24. Can I use my flight simulator to fly online with other pilots?
Yes, you can use your flight simulator to fly online with other pilots. This is a great way to meet other pilots and learn from their experiences.
25. What are the system requirements for a flight simulator?
The system requirements for a flight simulator vary depending on the software you choose. However, most simulators will run on a PC with Windows 7 or higher.
26. How much does a flight simulator cost?
The cost of a flight simulator varies depending on the software you choose and the features you want. However, you can expect to spend anywhere from $60 to $500 for a good quality simulator, including software and basic hardware.
27. Is a yoke or joystick better for flying?
This is a matter of personal preference. Some people find that a yoke gives them more control, while others prefer the simplicity of a joystick. Whichever is better also depends on the type of aircraft you’re flying most often in your sim.
28. Can I use my flight simulator to get my pilot’s license?
No, you cannot use your flight simulator to get your pilot’s license. However, you can use it to supplement your flight training and become a better pilot.
29. How realistic are flight simulators?
This depends on the software you choose and the settings you use. However, most simulators are designed to be as realistic as possible and can provide a very realistic flying experience. Just look at these pictures of the new MSFS and you’ll see how incredibly realistic flight simulators have become.
30. Can I use my flight simulator on my Mac?
Depending on the specific flight simulator software, you should be able to run it on your Mac. Make sure to check the system requirements before purchasing. This also goes for any hardware you plan on purchasing.
31. I’m not a very good pilot. Can I still use a flight simulator?
Yes, you can still use a flight simulator even if you’re not a very good pilot. In fact, it can be a great way to practice and improve your skills. Just make sure to start with an easy setting and work your way up.
32. Can I use my flight simulator for commercial purposes?
This depends on the software you choose and the license you purchase. Some simulators are designed for personal use only, while others can be used for commercial purposes. Make sure to check before you buy.
33. Can I use my flight simulator to train for a job?
Yes, you can use your flight simulator to train for a job. This is a great way to become familiar with the equipment and procedures you’ll need to know.
34. What other uses are there for flight simulators?
Flight simulators can be used for a variety of purposes, such as training, entertainment, and research.
35. Can I use my flight simulator on my laptop?
Yes, you can use your flight simulator on your laptop. Just make sure that your laptop meets the minimum system requirements for the software you choose.
Just keep in mind laptop screens are usually smaller, which can make it more difficult to see some of the smaller details in the simulator.
36. Can I use my flight simulator with a virtual reality headset?
Yes, you can use your flight simulator with a virtual reality headset. This can provide an immersive experience and make you feel like you’re really in the cockpit.
However, when using a VR headset, it may more difficult to interact with your flight simulator hardware components, such as physical buttons, knobs and switches.
37. Can I use my flight simulator without an internet connection?
Yes, you can use your flight simulator without an internet connection. However, you will need an internet connection to download the software and updates, use real-world weather or fly only with other pilots.
38. I’m not a very technical person. Can I still use a flight simulator?
Yes, you can still use a flight simulator even if you’re not very technical. While it does require some setup and configuration, most simulators are designed to be user-friendly and easy to use.
39. Can I use my flight simulator on my Xbox?
This depends on the software you choose. Some simulators are designed for PC only, while others can be used on consoles as well.
For example, Microsoft Flight Simulator X is not available on Xbox, but their newest MSFS 2020 version is! Just make sure to check before you buy.
40. Can I use my flight simulator on my PlayStation?
Again, this depends on the software you choose. Although there may be some flight simulator games available for PlayStation, the most popular flight simulators, like X-Plane, FSX and MSFS are not.
41. Where can I buy a flight simulator?
There are many places you can buy a flight simulator. You can purchase them online from sites like Amazon or eBay, or you can find them in stores like Best Buy or GameStop.
You can also purchase them directly from the developers themselves, like X-Plane or Microsoft.
There are many incredible pieces of hardware and software available for flight simulator today. Whether you are on a budget or are ready to invest in a serious flight simulator setup, the article above should include some great options for any budget and goals.
If you’re serious about building a great home flight simulator cockpit, we highly recommend checking our step-by-step guide on building a home flight sim here:
Love flying airliners, such as the Airbus series? We have created a separate guide on building a realistic Airbus home cockpit!
… and on building a Boeing home flight simulator cockpit!
We hope you found the value you were looking for from this article. If you still have questions about which flight simulator gear is right for you, feel free to reach out to us anytime.