Yoke vs. sidestick: Jury still out on what works best for pilots

BL Internet Desk | Updated on: Jul 23, 2022
Sticks or Yokes, they are essentially an interface between the pilot and the aircraft

Sticks or Yokes, they are essentially an interface between the pilot and the aircraft

Why do Airbus commercial aircraft have sidesticks and Boeing have yokes as control units?

First, what function do they carry out in an aircraft? They are like a steering wheel in a four-wheeler which allows the drivers to manoeuvre the vehicle. Almost all aircraft pre-1985 had yokes to control the plane. When Airbus switched to the ‘fly-by-wire’ system replacing manual flight controls with computer base controls, the sidesticks replaced the yoke system too. But Boeing continued with yokes, as it believed any change in the control unit could impact its pilots’ ability to manoeuvre the aircraft.

But critics of Boeing believe that control yokes are more cumbersome and use a lot of space in front of the pilot, just like the control wheel of a four-wheeled vehicle. The side-stick technology, however, offers the flight crew a clearer view of the instruments and gives the pilots more room to operate. There are other distinct advantages of having a sidestick if one goes by what the supporters of Airbus will say. According to them, those piloting an Airbus aircraft have one hand free to reach other controls like the touchscreens using the side stick while the design keeps the pilots safe.

Side sticks are also considered more sensitive and can move more rapidly, allowing the pilots to correct the plane’s course quickly. Such a system is popular among pilots as it reduces their work-load. But the yoke can be controlled with either hand, whereas side sticks require the pilot to use a particular hand to operate them. Also, the control yoke is an essential tool to operate the aircraft in emergencies, allowing for an override in emergency scenarios. Finally, the yoke design retains more general flying skills, and coordination between the pilot and the co-pilot is easier to handle, according to supporters of Boeing.

Sticks can also be found in modern military fighter jets such as F-16 Fighting Falcon, Mitsubishi F-2 and Dassault Rafale. Hence, sidesticks might get more votes than the yoke, but one must remember that they are essentially an interface between the pilot and the aircraft.

Source: aircrafttechnic.com; blog.crouzet.com; left-base.com

Published on July 24, 2022
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