Thrustmaster’s Ultimate Airbus Flight Equipment
Currently a handful hardware manufactures offer high quality and eye candy flight simulator equipment. One of them is the well known brand Thrustmaster. As with other hardware manufactures, Thrustmaster offers already for years for flight simulator enthusiasts a collection of joysticks, throttle quadrants, rudder pedal sets, but the TCA sets are from the moment Thrustmaster released it, a success. More TCA products where added and their newest set is the TCA Captain Pack Airbus Edition. Oops, for those who are new to the Thrustmaster TCA hardware or for those who don’t have a clue what it means, TCA is the abbreviation of Thrustmaster Civil Aviation.
The TCA series started with the TCA Sidestick Airbus Edition, then the TCA Quadrant Airbus Edition was added, and not long after that, Thrustmaster released the TCA Quadrant Add-on Airbus Edition. Then you also have the TCA Officer Pack Airbus, and yes, you could wait for it, the TCA Captain Pack Airbus was added to it on October 12th 2021. As a side note; on the recent held FSExpo in San Diego CA, USA, Thrustmaster revealed a complete new TCA line, dedicated to Boeing look alike equipment.
Back to the TCA Captain Pack Airbus Edition.
This pack includes all the previous components in one package. No need to think “what should I buy”, “it is useful” or “should I buy this or that component first”. None of this. The Captains Airbus pack offers all the available Thrustmaster components linked to modern twin engine Airbus look alike aircraft. That said, you can use it for flying the A320 family Series, the A330 and even older Airbus model like the A310 or A300. And before I forget it, for this review I tested the TCA equipment with both macOS and Windows 10 in combination with X-Plane 11 from Laminar Research.
Ho ho, no worries for those who like to fly the Airbus A340 from JARDesign or ToLiss. You can use the Thrustmaster set also for the Airbus A340 Series by setting a switch on the lower front of the Throttle Quadrant to 3 / 4 engines but be honest with me, a much better solution in my humble opinion is …… buy an extra TCA Quadrant Airbus Edition and mount it in-between. Then you have 4 dedicated engine throttles.
This review tests the TCA Captain Pack Airbus on an iMac Pro, running macOS Big Sur with X-Plane 11.55r2, but since your personal reporter Angelique van Campen also runs bootcamp on her iMac Pro, she will also include the necessary tests on Windows 10 with the same X-Plane configuration. She will use for this review the JARDesign A320neo, the JARDesign A330, the ToLiss A319 or A321, the FlightFactor A350 and the FlightFactor A320 Ultimate.
Who or what is Thrustmaster?
Thrustmaster: a distinguished video gaming tradition
For over thirty years, Thrustmaster has been developing high-tech video game accessories designed to satisfy and entertain all types of gamers. Drawing on its know-how and technological expertise, Thrustmaster develops products – flight simulation peripherals, headsets, and controllers – designed to offer extremely accurate gameplay, providing a completely immersive experience with optimal realism across numerous platforms.
Thrustmaster takes pride in its core values, “Passion, Quality and Innovation”, and constantly strives to improve the realism and immersiveness in legendary game worlds by offering thrilling and truly exceptional experiences. From video game enthusiasts to casual gamers, Thrustmaster accessories for PC and gaming consoles bring everyone’s dreams to life.
Hold on, this is not the complete story. It actually starts with …….
Hercules Thrustmaster: Two strong brands with passion
A designer and manufacturer of interactive entertainment equipment and accessories, listed on the stock market since 1998 and a major player in the market since 1984, Hercules Thrustmaster focuses its activities on its two flagship brands: Hercules for the digital hardware and peripherals segment and Thrustmaster for PC and console gaming accessories.
The Group is currently present in eleven countries, including France, Germany, Great Britain, Spain, the United States, Canada, Italy, Belgium, China, Hong Kong and Romania, and distributes its products in more than one hundred countries worldwide, with the aim of offering high-performance and user-friendly products to maximize user satisfaction with interactive digital entertainment. (Courtesy Hercules Thrustmaster)
Want to know more about what they all achieved? Then you must check out their History. It’s quite an impressive hardware list.
The TCA Captain Pack Airbus box
Unless you buy the TCA Captain Pack Airbus Edition directly from your local store, it most likely comes then in the flashing Thrustmaster Captains box. I got my package directly from Hercules Thrustmaster France – many thanks Hugues Carpe – and it was awesomely protected by two brown boxes. It sounds ridiculous to mention this, but for me it means that Thrustmaster takes sending out their products to customers seriously. Although the TCA Captains box is just a box and nothing more then a box, you and I see this as a part of our proud property. And of course, the inner components – the TCA sidestick, throttle quadrant and add-ons – are the most important of all. You don’t want them to be damaged during transport, agree?
The first thing when you open the Captains box is the red REMOVE BEFORE FLIGHT label. When you haven’t worked in the real aviation this will say perhaps nothing to you, but when you have worked in the real General Aviation, Commuters or with commercial aircraft this red label will mean something. Every aircraft has many covers to protect the openings and probes during long stays or during overnight stays. And most aircraft that have NWS (Nose Wheel Steering) also have a NWS bypass pin that is used during towing or pushbacks.
Anyway, that bypass pin has a red sleeve connected to it with the text REMOVE BEFORE FLIGHT. In that respect, I like this Thrustmaster red label. It brings you, in my humble opinion, by opening the TCA Captains Pack Airbus box already in the right atmosphere. So simple thought, so easy done!
When you remove the label and the white cover, you can’t miss the TCA components, packed in plastic. On your left-hand side the sidestick and on the right-hand side the TCA throttle quadrant and add-on components. It surprises me that the overall isn’t heavy, but it absolutely doesn’t look cheap at all. Yes, it is made of plastic, but it looks and feels solid.
Ok, lets see what else is in the box.
Hidden underneath the throttle quadrant you find in a small plastic bag and a leaflet with on one size in very small letters the warrantee information, environmental protection info, and where to get additional manuals, drivers and software. This all in different languages.
The other side of the leaflet is completely covered with different drawings, each showing another action to perform like how to mount the sidestick and quadrant with add-on to a table bracket. And how to modify the sidestick left- and right buttons, adding an additional quadrant (throttles) for the 4 engine Airbus A340 or A380 Series. Further on, how to connect the quadrant and quadrant add-on together although this is already done for you and so on. I’ll discuss some of them later on. The leaflet is printed in a way that it covers all possible combinations of the TCA Airbus sets.
In the same plastic bag you find 2 sets of ENG stickers. Each sticker has the engine number on it and since I received the 2 engine layout, I only use the stickers ENG 1 and ENG 2. Then there’s a thin and very long USB-C to USB type A cable that connects the throttle quadrant to your Windows PC, iMac, Mac Pro or USB hub. I guess that the cable has a length of around 1.5 meters. Next in the bag a couple of screws, connection brackets, SATA wiring and a throttle blocking/alignment tool. Except for the throttle alignment tool with Philips screwdriver at the other end, all other components are not needed unless you would like to add an additional TCA throttle quadrant.
Left- and right of the sidestick you find additional buttons in small bags. By default the sidestick is equipped with a black button housing on the left and a red button houding – AP disconnect – on the right. The “spare” buttons can be places instead of what’s mounted. A bit to your own preference. The look alike Airbus sidestick is as it is delivered in the box reflect the way it is for the captains side. On purpose I write “look alike” Airbus sidestick since the real Airbus stick has only the red button used for the AP disconnect and a trigger for push-to-walk while the Thrustmaster has an additional black button.
Anyway, that’s a bit what’s in the box.
Hardware : Sidestick Inspection
I think it’s time to check out in more detail the individual components, right?
Lets start with the sidestick. The overall weight of the sidestick including the USB type A cable is exactly 894 grams so roughly 1 kilogram. Different then with the quadrant assembly, the USB cable on the sidestick is fixed, and it also has a length of roughly 1.5 meter, so more then enough for normal use. It is the same as the separate quadrant cable, a thin and thus a flexible cable.
That roughly 1 kilogram isn’t much right, but I must say that once on the table the sidestick stays stable, feels solid and doesn’t move when operating the sidestick, even when I move the sidestick to the extreme positions. The real Airbus sidestick is and can only be moved in the PITCH and ROLL directions. No YAW is available since this is done with the rudder and brake pedals.
By default the TCA stick can also be twisted as we see with all side- or joysticks however, you can block the YAW function on the TCA sidestick. This look alike Airbus sidestick is then when you lock the YAW movement a real sidestick for your Airbus. When you have no pedal assembly then you leave the YAW stick function active. Disabling/enabling this YAW (twist) function of the TCA sidestick is done by pressing the small button on the base of stick. Press down, YAW deactivated, pressed up, YAW enabled. Keep in mind that this is only a mechanical blockage and that you still need to deassign the YAW to the sidestick.
First I need to highlight two things at the bottom base of the sidestick. First you’ll find a selector switch that modifies the sidestick for left- or right-hand usage. By default, out of the box, the sidestick simulates a left-hand position since the red AP (Auto Pilot) disconnect button is on the right-hand side. Pressing the red button feels good while a short travel is needed to activate the momentarily switch.
The small HAT switch in the middle of the stick used for your Point of Views feels solid, direct and doesn’t need much travel to view around in the 3D cockpit or outside. The black button on the left can be assigned to fit your preference while on the back you find the push-to-talk lever. The same as with this trigger, the travel to operate the COM switch is short and not much force is needed to activate.
Hold on, I mentioned before that the Captains Pack Airbus box has on each side of the sidestick spare parts. When you look closely to the sidestick buttons, you’ll notice that these are separate parts that can be removed and replaced by either a unit with a black button or with the red button. In other words, you can create you’re own sidestick button lay-out that is:
- left black – right red
- left black – right black
- left red – right black
- left red – right red
More important to mention it how you change those button assemblies and what to expect when you do it. As previously explained, on the left-hand side you see screws while on the right-hand side of the button assembly you don’t see any screws. This means that the right-hand button assembly is tightened via the left-hand button. So, when you unscrew the two screws via the left-hand button, you need to hold the right-hand button assemblies too else it could drop out. Check out the following screenshots.
Although I mentioned that the red button is used for disconnecting the AP, both switches are momentarily switches which means they both have the same “electrical” function. That said, the black button can, if you prefer, also be assigned to the AP disconnect function.
On the sidestick base we find at the front a slider which is normally, when you only own the sidestick, assigned to be an engine throttle/lever/slider, but since we have individual throttles on the quadrant, you can assign this sliding knob to something else what you prefer. I’ll discussed that later in detail when we connect the Thrustmaster equipment to our PC or Mac. At each side of the sidestick of the base you find not one, not two, not three, no, 12 momentarily switches! Wow, 12 switches to assign for your own needs.
I can only say so far, a well balanced sidestick design and although the parts are made of plastic or perhaps even from another material, it feels good and realistic. The used material for the sidestick and base doesn’t look and doesn’t feel like cheap material. The centering spring of the sidestick is strong, but not too strong in a way that you don’t have to apply too much force to move it out of its centered position.
Oops, I almost forgot something to mention about the bottom. The TCA base has no suctions pads or other devices to prevent the unit from slipping on your flight sim desk. Instead, the base has 8 small rubber pads. These are enough to keep the base stable on the table without any movement during normal sidestick operation. Although not yet discussed, the same small rubber pads can also be found at the TCA quadrant and add-on quadrant.
Hardware : Quadrant with Add-On Inspection
Since these components are pre-mounted together, I’ll discuss them as one unit, but in fact you have from left to the right the following panel sections:
- SPEEDBRAKE lever, LANDING GEAR lever and AUTOBRAKE selector switch.
- Throttle levers with thrust reverser handles, ENGINE START levers and ENGINE MODE switch with two flat switches.
- FLAP lever, RUD TRIM momentarily rotary selector, RUD TRIM reset and PARK BRAKE lever.
The first thing I noticed is this; to keep the overall a bit more inline with the real Airbus pedestal, I personally would have decided that the PARK BRK with RUD TRIM panel was mounted at the SPEED BRAKE section since this is in real also and a bit more logical. Would ity be perhaps possible to swap these sub panels on the add-on panels? Time to contact Hugues Carpe from Hercules Thrustmaster. According to Hugues “these subpanels are not swappable.” So, we need to accept this.
When I see these two TCA components (sidestick versus quadrant) next of each other, it’s a bit weird to see it. The sidestick is I think, more or less of the same dimension as the real sidestick, but the quadrant and add-on parts are much smaller. I won’t say that they are half of the original size, but clearly tiny components. And when you think about it, it also makes sense. Lets suppose the TCA quadrant is half of the original size are even smaller then that, then a full sized TCA quadrant will be too big on your desk, so yes, it makes sense to see the tiny or miniature version of the “pedestal” TCA quadrant.
I mentioned already the small rubber pads on the bottom of the TCA quadrant – 11 in total – and honestly, whenever you move something on the quadrant it doens’t slip away at all. An easy solution and it works! When you and I look to the Airbus TCA quadrant, it looks like it’s made of metal, but actually it is plastic or some kind of. Not sure why it looks so nice which is good news of course, but perhaps it’s also the way it is painted as well as the black screws that fix the sub panels to the housing.
The overall is nicely modeled and well fitted together. This is a great example that it is still possible to get quality stuff a fair price and that looks and feels that it is made from quality materials and that it feels durable. Durable not for a month or so, no, durable for a much longer period.
When I move the SPEED BRK or FLAP handle, their travel is in both ways smooth, easy and hardly any force is needed and, every detent is felt as well as a gently click to confirm the detent position. Although the knobs are from plastic, but they are solid while the shaft is from metal. Only thing that I noticed is that I couldn’t pull – not even sure if it is made in that way – the SPEED BRK handle to the ARM position. I contacted Hugues Carpe and according to him “the Speedbrake lever do not offer the ability to be pulled up to simulate the ARM position.” This doesn’t mean that you don’t have an ARM position. More about this later when I discuss the different Airbus aircraft configurations that allows you to simulate a SPEEDBRAKE lever in the ARM position.
One other thing I would like to highlight is that the real FLAP lever has a separate plate underneath the knob to unlock the lever before moving it to the other position. That “plate” can be found also in the TCA FLAP lever however, it’s fixed to the knob so it has no unlocking function.
Next, the throttles.
As it is in real too, the A320 Family (A318, A319, A320 and A321), A350 and A380 throttles are only placed in specific positions which is IDLE – CLIMB – FLEX TO – MAX TO. It is not as old fashioned aircraft where each position means an amount of thrust. The real Airbus and TCA throttles have fixed positions on the scale and these are well felt when moving them. The same as with the SPEED BRK an FLAP handle, and there’s no cover or whatsoever that prevents any dust going inside.
On the other hand, when I look inside the throttle open space I don’t see anything, so I think that the real mechanism lies below that what you see or actually, what you don’t see! One more thing about the engine throttles. The package is for a twin engine Airbus model. That said, in the front of the throttle quadrant you find a tiny switch that stays by default to “ENG 1&2″. When you want to use the set for a four engine aircraft, then move the switch to 3&4”.
The operation of the thrust reversers is very nicely made. The lever in front of each throttle can be lifted and with the throttle in the IDLE position, you can move the throttle into the yellow arc area. Just in case; you can always lift the reverse lever, even when the throttle isn’t in IDLE, but that has no function. In real the reverser levers aren’t operable as long as the throttles aren’t in the IDLE position.
Then the other levers; the LANDING GEAR lever and the ENGINE START switches. They also feel solid although we’re talking about tiny switches. When moved to the other position, they firmly lock in that position and the other way around too. As mentioned before, the only thing I need to do it to add a sticker on the ENGINE START switch position 1 and 2. These selectors or switches are I think from plastic but when you loko closely to the ENGINE START switches you easily get the impression it’s made from metal, however, they don’t feel cold which would be the case when it was from metal. Perhaps you can see it already, the ENG ID text is transparent.
The three rotary selectors of which only the RUD TRIM is a momentarily switch, feel solid and each detent is clearly felt. In the real Airbus these selectors are light grey with a black strip, but what the heck that these are white. One note about the AUTO BRK selector. This simulates the Airbus A380 and the latest A350 selector switch since all other Airbuses as far as my knowledge goes, have only DECEL buttons and no rotary selector. Although this is different then in the A320 and A330, the configuration with X-Plane is easy and possible.
The PARK BRK lever normally has ON and OFF text on the sub pedestal panel, but in this design there’s not really space for that, so Thrustmaster left that out. The PARK BRK lever works very simple as it is now; when you can read the text PARK BRK then you’ve released the parking brake else the brakes are SET.
Quadrant Part I : Throttle Alignment Calibration
This paragraph deals with the calibration of the throttle levers or perhaps it’s better to say the mechanical versus electrical sensor alignment. There’s a leaflet that explains all the steps, but Thrustmaster also provided a movie that really helps. The idea behind the calibration of the throttle levers is first to lock both throttle levers together with the included tool so they act as one and then by pressing the red Auto Throttle disconnect buttons at each TLA (Thrust Lever Angle) position.
Besides that, you also need to press the buttons left and right of the ENGINE MODE switch (CRANK – NORMAL – IGN/START). Check out the Thrustmaster movie too and before I forget it, it’s all described in the TCA_Quadrant-Throttle_Calibration Acrobat manual. You can download this leaflet via this Thrustmaster link.
But there’s a but regarding the above description. I followed for this review the above procedure with the quadrant add-ons attached and connected via the SATA cables together. Afterwards it turned out that when I tested it with the JARDesign aircraft, I had no longer correct control/functioning of the FLAP and SPEEDBRAKE levers. So what did I do wrong or did I miss something? After checking the Web I found the following document. It describes basically the same procedure as in the previous paragraph however this time with the attached quadrant add-ons connected. And yes, after I followed those calibration steps, I had again full control of the FLAP and SPEEDBRAKE levers. See some example pages below.
Quadrant Part II : Disabling TLA detents and Reverser
Disable TLA detents
That sounds a bit weird isn’t it, but although the TCA Captains Pack Airbus is a gorgeous replica for modern twin engine Airbus aircraft, it can be used of course for all type of other X-Plane aircraft ranging from GA, commuters and other brand of commercial aircraft. Only thing you and I need to keep in mind is that the current Airbus quadrant comes with TLA detents and thrust reverser levers, as it is in real, but what when you want to use the TCA equipment for aircraft who don’t have detents for CL – FLEX TO – MAX TO or don’t have a thrust reverser detent? For that we need to make a couple of easy modifications to the quadrant. You can also download the manual via this URL.
On page 6, Thrustmaster described how to disable the detents, but it’s in my humble opinion not very clear. The problem is in my humble opinion that everything in the included drawing is black and the items that are responsible for disable/enable detents are not specifically differently coloured. That said, I modified this page a bit which can be seen below on the left-hand side. On top it shows you first the detents if enabled or disabled. Since the TCA Captains set comes with enabled detents, we need to look to the right hand drawing that shows the bottom of the quadrant.
Unscrew and remove the two plates as shown and turn each – one for each throttle lever – plate 180 degrees and tighten them again. This is by the way not only an option for the throttle levers, but also for the FLAP and SPEEDBRAKE lever. Those plates don’t have actually these coloured squares. In reality there are marks at the base and indicators on each plate. Check out the second screenshot. As you can see, the mark on the plate is inline with the detent symbol. When you loosen the plate, turn in 180 degrees, the other mark is inline with the stripe which symboloses the non detent version.
Disable reverser handles
Out of the box each throttle lever has a reverser lever at the front. When you move the throttle lever to the IDLE position, the thrust reverser lever prevents you to move the throttle any further towards reverse thrust. When you want reverse thrust, then you lift the reverser lever which unlocks the throttle lever and now you can move the throttle lever further to reverse thrust.
This “disable reverser handles” feature locks the reverser handle in the UP position which means there’s not really an IDLE stop anymore. When you move the throttle lever from FLEX TO towards IDLE, you won’t feel a stop at IDLE, but you can move the handle further. This is in particular handy when you use the TCA quadrant with aircraft who don’t have an IDLE stop.
To disable a thrust reverser lever you lift the reverse lever in the IDLE position, and turn the small lever on the side of the throttle lever from the “I” postion to the “O” position. Release the force from the reverser lever. It stays in this “up” position. The interlock is now disabled and the throttle lever can be moved all the way down to the FULL reverse postion.
Thrustmaster Software : macOS
Oops, macOS software? No no, that must be a mistake, right? And indeed, this will be very easy section and it will be very short too. There’s no Thrustmaster TCA Pack Airbus software for macOS X-Plane simmers, but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t work on a Mac. Honestly, it’s very easy since it’s almost plug and play. X-Plane 11.55r2 does have the so called “joy” files for Mac and several pictures that shows the sidestick and quadrant.
Before writing this sentence, I fiddled already around and figured out how the TCA equipment works with for example the JARDesign A320neo, the ToLiss A319/A321. Besides a couple of small items you need to know or to find, it worked for the fully 100 percent, but more about that later although I’m not sure if I should explain all the required settings or changes for the twin engine Airbus X-Plane models. We’ll see.
Thrustmaster Software : Windows 10
Although Thrustmaster offers some software including firmware update for Windows, basic and advanced adjustments are build into X-Plane. Therefore, the TARGET_v22.214.171.1246.exe software should normally be downloaded to configure the TCA Airbus Pack equipment including the making of own profiles, however this is integrated in X-Plane and that makes this Thrustmaster not really needed in combination with X-Plane.
However, this is different for the Windows firmware update software. For a common reason Thrustmaster doesn’t has any firmware software for macOS since Mac isn’t really a platform for games according to Hercules Thrustmaster. I do agree that Mac isn’t a gaming platform, but I don’t think that X-Plane is a game, but it’s a highly sophisticated flight simulation program and standard available for both Windows, macOS and Linux. Perhaps a firmware update will also be available for macOS in the near future.
Connecting and Configuration : macOS/Windows
This section was initially planned for macOS simmers, but after I tested the connectivity of the TCA equipment with Windows 10, I noticed that the way I need to connect and configure the sidestick and quadrant was the same. Therefore this section is now dedicated to both macOS Big Sur and Windows 10.
I’m not aware on how this goes with other flight simulators, but connecting hardware to X-Plane is in most cases easy and straightforward. There’s not really a need that you need to connect the TCA Airbus Pack before starting up X-Plane to your Mac. When you connect the TCA USB cable to your Windows PC, iMac, iMac Pro, Mac Pro or an USB hub, in all cases X-Plane will detect upon startup that hardware is connected and that it needs to be calibrated. When this was the first time, it will ask you to configure the new hardware else you can always make changes to the Thrustmaster TCA hardware via the Settings menu.
There’s one thing that I could have explained in the hardware section, but on purpose I left it out and inform you right now about it. Out of the box it turns out that the mounted throttle quadrant and add-on components aren’t electrically interconnected. This means that when you connect the USB-C to the quadrant at the front and the other end in your PC or Mac, X-Plane only recognize the quadrant and not the SPEED BRK and FLAP sub panels. Oops, that’s weird or isn’t it? No, it isn’t since these additional panels aren’t electrically connected to the quadrant. To do that you take from the small plastic bag the two flat SATA cables and connect these at the bottom to each other.
After this, X-Plane recognized the TCA sidestick and the TCA quadrant with add-on components. On both the PC and Mac I also noticed that it showed me a picture of the Thrustmaster rudder pedals which I don’t have. Not a problem, but I had multi assignments for the YAW channel namely a YAW channel configured for the rudder pedal device and for the YAW sidestick. Besides this, I also noticed that on both the sidestick and quadrant most switches, levers or selectors are correctly assigned. Some are left open for you to assign your own function to it while for some like the ENGINE START selector it was assigned as Crank : Not assigned. Nice, but this doesn’t work. So, it depends a bit on the add-on aircraft if an assignment works or not or that you have to follow special steps to get it working.
Shall I offer you in that case a bit more in-depth dedicated aircraft configurations?
ToLiss Airbus A319/A321
Before starting discussing the configuration for one of the two ToLiss aircraft, I urge you to download the following file from X-Plane.Org user hotbso. When you’ve downloaded this file, upzipped it. Then in the X-Plane/Resources/joystick configs you seek for the files TCA_Q-Eng_1-2_Mac.joy and TCA_Q-Eng_1-2_Win.joy. Add at the end of these files for example “original” like this – TCA_Q-Eng_1-2_Win (Mac).joy_original – and then copy and paste the downloaded files you’ve unzipped in this folder. What’s the background of this; it adds in a software manner a SPEEDBRAKE ARM function. Ready to continue?
Connect both TCA components to your PC, Mac or USB hub, startup X-Plane. At startup X-Plane tells you that it found uncalibrated devices. You can either choose for calibrating or ignore it. It doesn’t make a difference what or which steps you do. When you select ignore, then you can always start afterwards with the calibration.
When X-Plane is up and running as well as the Toliss A319 (or A321) you can find out easily if the sidestick(s) works by moving them, but I can tell you, it doesn’t move/reply in the ToLiss A319/A321 at all. Remember what we said before, the TCA Airbus components aren’t yet calibrated. So select from the X-Plane menu Settings – Joystick. It will tell you that both TCA Airbus components needs to be calibrated. Assuming you know how to start the calibration process, you follow these steps, and after you’ve calibrated both the sidestick pitch, roll and yaw as well as the throttles, we first need to make some changes to the ToLiss A319/A321 ISCS (Interactive Simulation Control System).
See the following movie that shows you more or less all the steps to perform, at least, I tried not to forget something. First you see the calibration process followed by the adjustments for the thrust reverser in the ToLiss ISCS and finally, the configuration of the SPEEDBRAKE ARM point. The SPEEDBRAKE lever on the TCA has no option to pull the handle when in the RETRACT position, so another way is provided to simulate this ARM position.
So far I can conclude that besides the workaround for the SPEEDBRAKE ARM function the TCA Captains set works flawless with the X-Plane ToLiss Airbus A319/A321. Almost all functions are assigned and yes, it makes sense that some buttons on the sidestick must be disabled like those of the LANDING GEAR and FLAPS. This for the simple reason that the quadrant add-on has a landing gear lever and the flap lever. At the end you’ve got lots of buttons to assign for your own. What I miss a bit are momentarily switches on the sidestick that offers you PITCH, ROLL or YAW trim. I noticed that PITCH trim was assigned to two buttons on the sidestick base, but I wonder if this works. We’ll see when I do the flight testing. Next in row is configuring the JARDEsign A320neo.
JARDesign Group A320neo/A330
The same as with the ToLiss aircraft, you first need to follow a couple of steps before you can successfully calibrate the TCA equipment with the JARDEsign A320neo. First, startup X-Plane and load the JARDesign A320neo or the A330. By the way, for the JAR aircraft no additional files or whatsoever is/are needed. If the X-Plane joystick calibration window pops up, you can ignore it. Taken from the JAR document “open X-Plane Settings – Joystick and assign command jd – TCA_MasterSwitch1ON to the ENGINE Master Switch position 1 in the ON position.
If not yet done, power up the A320neo or the A330. Power up means connect electrical power to the aircraft because you need a working MCDU. On the MCDU click the MCDU MENU button, then LSK (Line Select Key) 6L (SETTINGS), followed by LSK 6R (NEXT PAGE). On this page select the TCA QUADRANT ON (LSK 2L) and SPOILERS AXIS ON (LSK 5L | for A330 LSK 4L). After this, go again to the X-Plane Settings – joystick where you can reassign the ENGINE MASTER SWITCH ON position to Eng 1 on: Engage starter #1.
Further steps aren’t needed. As Eugeny Romanov from JARDesign said to me “it should work out of the box” and I can confirm that this is correct. However, a couple of things are different compared to what I saw with the ToLiss. Advantage of the JARDesign aircraft is that no other software or script is needed to get it working with the TCA equipment except from the steps above to perform.
Things that work differently “out of the box” are the AUTO BRK selector and its positions versus the JAR aircraft e.g. switch in BTV means LO mode, switch in LO means in the JAR aircraft MED and switch in 2 means MAX braking. SPEEDBRAKE lever in the RETRACT mode on the TCA quadrant means spoilers ARMED. With the SPEEDBRAKE handle on TCA between RET and 1/2 means spoilers RETRACTED. Spoilers HALF works correct however, SPEEDBRAKE lever in-between 1/2 and FULL means in the aircraft already FULL.
These are the small differences I noticed. Not a problem since the function works, but it is slightly different then in the modeled aircraft. Overall I can say that it works very well and when you’ve programmed as I tried to show you in our video the A320neo first, it will work also for their A330. There’s no difference except then that the throttles and their markings on the pedestal are different then on the A320.
Flight Factor/QPAC A350
I also planned to check out the TCA equipment with the Flight Factor A320 Ultimate, but for some reason I couldn’t get the aircraft working, so I decided to go first for their A350. For your information, it’s not out of the box working, but Flight Factor included a leaflet with the instructions. The Adober Acrobat leaflet resides in the A350 folder and is named Thrustmaster. I’d found it not so clear and therefore I’d made another video that shows you all the steps.
Basically the steps to follow aren’t difficult, as long as you follow the instructions. When you do that, you can use the A350 with the TCA Captains equipment. The steps to follow are:
– Calibrate the sidestick (pitch, roll and yaw) and throttles as is common with all aircraft.
– Assign certain functions according to the leaflet.
– Other system/function assignments are using basic X-Plane commands.
– With an electrically powered A350, select from the OIS display “Joystick Actions” and make the necessary changes. As I already highlighted with the ToLiss, you might have seen that this page has basically the same settings/functions as at the ToLiss ISCS joystick page.
When you and I follow the above steps and to visualize it together with a video, I must conclude that all functions on the TCA equipment are correctly assigned either with the default X-Plane commands or from Flight Factor. For some reason I couldn’t find anything that makes it possible to assigned a button or command code to the GND SPLR ARMED position however, it seems that no special assignment is needed. It turns out that the GND SPRL ARMED position of the SPEEDBRAKE lever is the FULL RETRACT position. This can be seen on the DU’s and on the WD/E where’s written SPEEDBRAKE ARMED. When you move the handle slightly out of the full retract position, it’s disarmed. A little tricky, but it works!
Everything is working as expected, no, as I had hoped for, including the SPEEDBRAKE ARM mode or it’s better to say the GND SPLR ARM mode, but it took a bit more effort to get it so far, at least, when you compare it with the previous discussed aircraft.
But what is the story with the A320 Ultimate from FlightFactor?
I did some tests with the A320 Ultimate, but I wasn’t happy. Let me make one thing clear; this has nothing to do with the Thrustmaster TCA Captain equipment. It’s more how the Airbus aircraft thus its software deals with the A320 Ultimate and the TCA. I contacted Flight Factor Roman Bezerin for this and it turns out that Roman will test it once more and let me know. If this will be in time for this review I don’t know yet, but I’ll keep you in the loop.
I discussed a bit how the TCA equipment worked with macOS X-Plane, but I promised to check it also for you with Windows 10, right? After several tests on Windows 10 with the same X-Plane 11.52r2, I can confirm that configurations with the previous aircraft and other not dedicated Airbus aircraft are the same, but for Windows there’s some additional software too, right? Yes, it is indeed, but this has nothing to do with the correct assignment of the TCA sidestick and quadrant. This works out of the box directly with X-Plane and in my humble opinion no other Thrustmaster software is needed.
Hold on, what about GA aircraft or other twin engine commuters and commercial aircraft? I didn’t test all available default or other manufactures, but overall can be said that for most aircraft all assignments work out of the box, at least all default X-Plane commands. And yes, I’m also aware that when you have a GA aircraft with a PROP and MIXTURE lever then you run into problems, but I may assume that when you decide to buy or bought already the Thrustmaster TCA flight equipment, you’re not going to use it with GA aircraft, right?
I think it’s now time to check the TCA Captain Pack Airbus Edition with one of my favorite Airbus aircraft, the ToLiss A319.
Are you ready too?
Using the TCA Captain Airbus Pack
As said before, I’ve decided to go for the ToLiss A319 which is one of my favorite small sized Airbus aircraft. I took place in the virtual left-hand cockpit seat. This means that my TCA sidestick is on my left with the AP disconnect button on the inside (right-hand), as it is in real too. The quadrant is on my right-hand side, again, the pedestal is in real also right of the captains seat. Both TCA hardware components are situated on my desk. I’ll try to keep myself focused on the TCA equipment and leave the Airbus A319 as it is although I would like to tell you more, but lets focus on how it feels to use the TCA equipment on the ground, in flight and during the approach.
The first thing I noticed with my seat at the correct height, is the nice feeling of my hand palm resting on the base of the sidestick. The base is actually the same as on the real Airbus sidestick. The advantage of such a base is that when you let your palm resting on the base, you become “one” with the sidestick. And this means that you have optimum control of ROLL and PITCH inputs. Another interesting thing to tell you is that with my handsize the sidestick has the perfect height and shape. Some of the Saitek joysticks I own are much bigger and not always convenient to control the aircraft or fighter, whatever you use.
Anyway, the overall shape of the sidestick top is also perfect in my opinion, but what do I mean with that? I can – I’m left handed – while firmly holding the sidestick easily use with my thumb all the buttons and the HAT switch. The HAT switch seems to be smaller then others I’ve seen but because of it’s size it feels you’ve got more and direct control over the viewing angles.
I did mention this before, that at the base of the sidestick you’ve got 12 buttons, free to be assigned to your preference. I left the PITCH TRIM assigned however, with the ToLiss A319 and their A321 no need for manual trimming assignment since this is no longer applicable in the real aircraft and the modeled one. The PITCH trim is integrated in the sidestick function and controlled and monitored by the FMGES (Flight Management Guidance and Envelope System).
As mentioned before, I need to use the YAW function on the sidestick because I don’t own pedals. YAW not only means that it is used for the rudder, but also for the NWS (Nose wheel Steering). This works perfect, direct, and it offers a nice centerings function, but not too heavy. I didn’t feel any slack or whatsoever. Even during the takeoff it’s so easy to keep the A319 on the centerline as well as, and not unimportant, pulling the sidestick for rotation and then smoothly control the sidestick for further climb or when needed, to correct for ROLL. What I didn’t use was the “throttle” selector on the TCA sidestick or I should say, it wasn’t assigned to the throttles because I have the throttle quadrant.
So the sidestick is perhaps the most fascinating device and it feels as real, it looks as real and it flies as real, but what about the quadrant and add-on?
As mentioned before, the real size of the TCA components is a bit bigger but when Thrustmaster had made it the real size, then it will be too big on your desk. Besides that, is it really worth to have the same size? My personal opinion is that this size is perfect and all the buttons, selectors, switches and levers work smooth, detents are noticeable, so only one word is needed …. awesome!
It all starts with the engine startup procedure. It may be a bit tiny, but placing the ENGINE MODE selector in the IGN/START position feels good, it feels realistic and since it’s perfectly linked to the ToLiss A319, it does what it has to do; activating the ENGINE START circuit. Then, assuming all other conditions are fulfilled, you switch the ENG START selector 2 to ON and after that ENGINE 1 switch. The start process is something from ToLiss, but the moment we need to taxi a lot of TCA features are needed to do that successfully. We place the ENGINE MODE selector back to OFF, release the PARK BRK, then place the FLAP in the correct TO position, arm the SPEEDBRAKE handle and apply some thrust. Each switch or selector position ends with a firm detent or click. We call that solid switching!
All of this sounds so easy, and yes, it goes so easy by using the TCA quadrant due to the switching material that is used. I can’t check the actual switches or selectors that are used unless I open the whole throttle quadrant, but it feels as if durable materials are used. It is difficult to describe what I feel, but it feels so real, so familiar although it has been a long time ago I’ve been sitting in the A320 cockpit and tested all these switches, knobs or selectors. That this feeling is extraordinary. When you see it, you believe it and your brain will say .. yes, this is it!
The moment I start with the taxi phase, it is playing a bit with the thrust levers. And, yes, I mentioned this before, remember that you set the friction a bit higher in a way that it feels more real and that some force is needed to move them. I’ve increased the friction to almost the maximum value. With the provided tool that’s not easy, but important to tell you, you can’t really over tighten the friction screw. So my tip is …. don’t use a Philips screwdriver to adjust the friction. Most likely you will then apply too much torque and that can damage the internal friction system. So use the included tool.
During the taxi you can use the throttles as if there are no detents, but when I turn onto the runway, I slide the throttles forward to the FLEX TO position. That’s the second detent position from IDLE. No need to worry, the ToLiss A319 tells you on the PFD MFA that the TLAs are in the FLEX TO position. After liftoff, I don’t do much with the quadrant except then for retracting the landing gear, retracting the flaps, and when flashing on the PFD MFA, to place the throttles to the CLB position. Always weird since the CLB detent position is also the TLA position for CRUISE. From that moment, you and I don’t do much with the quadrant since there’s no need BUT when you like to fly the A319 manually, you can keep on using the sidestick. Flying the A319 manually with the sidestick is easy and in this case easy means accurate, no slack. Everything small movement I make, is directly transmitted to the A319.
The moment you descent, start with the approach and final approach, you can if you want – no, actually, you must do it since it feels so easy to fly and using the sidestick – disconnect the AP and fly the last part of the flight manually. Basically I can say that due to the accurate measuring system of the sidestick, no slack, good, but not too strong centered sidestick, it’s easy to keep the FD (Flight Director) bars in the middle. I’m impressed and happy that it worked out this way.
What else can I add for you to the massive review? One thing I can say ….. wow, that was a great experience. Besides that the TCA Captain Airbus Pack Edition looks gorgeous, it also works for some X-Plane aircraft “out-of-the-box” while for others a couple of dedicated commands are needed or in case of the ToLiss Airbus A319/A321, a modified “joy” file was needed. Overall, I can’t complain at all looking to how it works with X-Plane on both Windows 10 and macOS.
In case you’re wondering why Thrustmaster called it the “Captains” set while no new components are added. You have individual TCA components, you have the Officers set and now also the Captains set. The difference between the Officer and Captain sets are the add-on quadrant components.
Anyway, the components are made as far as I can judge of durable plastic – I can confirm this after I talked with many other simmers who own these TCA parts already for a while – while some visible parts are made of steel like the axis of the FLAP and SPEEDBRAKE handles. Although the ENGINE MASTER switches look like metal, they don’t feel cold so I assume these are made of plastic or a sort of plastic. All the rotary selectors including the PARK BRK lever have firm in-between positions or in case for the PARK BRK lever the end position. It feels solid.
The markings near the SPEEDBRAKE handle, the throttle levers and the FLAP handle are unique for the modern Airbus aircraft. The Captains set may be initially mend for twin engine Airbus aircraft, but you can also use it with 4 engine Airbus models like the A340-500 from JARDesign, the A340-600 from ToLiss or the older A380 from Peters Aircraft. You can use it with these aircraft as it is – don’t forget to select the switch from ENG 1&2 to 3&4 – or even better, buy an additional quadrant throttle set and place it in-between the Captains set.
As mentioned before, the set is typical delivered in the Airbus light blue cockpit colours, but you can use it with all kind of other X-Plane aircraft. I didn’t test them all, but in general I can say that it works with every other aircraft. Most of the assignments are using default X-Plane commands.
I felt it better or more realistic to introduce a bit more friction to all levers. Ok, the easy moving SPEEDBRAKE and FLAP handle isn’t a big deal however with a bit more friction it feels more realistic. So this is a bit up to everybody, but the throttles need for sure more friction also preventing you from too easy moving the throttles to the wrong position, thus passing too quickly the intended detent. With the provided tool with Philips head on one end, you can gently turn the friction screws.
I personally find this a better way then seen with other hardware simulator developers who offer a large knob. The reason I bring this up is that turning such a knob goes much easier with the disadvantage in my humble opinion that you can easily over-tighten the friction while the way you do it on the Thrustmaster TCA equipment, you have a tiny tool to add more friction in a more gently way and prevent over tight the mechanism.
As you might have noticed in the movies I’d include in this review, I don’t own any pedal set – perhaps that will be a new review – but in case you own, you leave of course the toe brake assigned as they are by default, but I suggest that the YAW on the sidestick is disabled. In that case you remove the YAW assignment from the sidestick and use the mechanical lock at the front of the sidestick base. This mechanically prevents you from twisting the sidestick as it is in the real Airbus too.
As I mentioned before, the Thrustmaster TCA hardware only comes with small rubber pads on the bottom, but surprisingly when using for example the sidestick, the whole unit stays stable and doesn’t slip away or gets lifted when making large movements. I’ve seen many ways of attachments, but these small rubber pads work great. Although the quadrant is also equipped with small rubber pads, flipping of the base won’t happen since you only have levers that are moved in one or the other direction besides the switches and rotary selectors.
I’m know myself being that enthusiastic about the TCA Captain Airbus Pack Edition, I will buy an additional throttle quadrant set to make it suitable with 4 engine Airbus aircraft. Suppose you’re also with that thought, then keep in mind that you leave the selector switch at the lower front of the throttle quadrant in the position ENG 1&2 and of course, don’t forget you need to connect at the bottom the SATA cables. Ok, one thing is a bit odd and that is that you will then have two ENGINE START selectors. Yeah, that’s different then in the real Airbus!
Where can you buy it?
As I’m living in Europe, the Netherlands, I can buy it at many places, but let me help you out. You can go to the dedicated Aerosoft store page, or you look at the dedicated Thrustmaster store page, but for sure many other online stores offer it too.
Last but not least, did I cover everything?
I hope I did, but I know myself, afterwards I always think .. oops, I’ve forgotten this or that. But the overall review should give you a good idea how I experienced the TCA Captain Airbus Pack Edition. Before I forget it …. I would like to thank Hugues Carpe from Hercules Thrustmaster France who gave me the opportunity to review this flight simulator hardware.
Angelique van Campen
|Add-on:||Payware Thrustmaster TCA Captain Pack Airbus Edition|
|Publisher | Developer:||Aerosoft | Thrustmaster|
|Description:||Realistic hardware rendition of Airbus A320 Series flight equipment|
|Software Source / Size:||Download / N.A.|
|Reviewed by:||Angelique van Campen|
|Published:||October 26th 2021|
|Hardware specifications:||- iMac Pro
- Intel 3GHz Intel Xeon W / 4.5Ghz
- Radeon Pro Vega 64 16368 MB
- 64 GB 2666 MHz DDR4
- 1 internal shared 1TB SSD (Big Sur 11.x)
- 1 internal shared 1TB SSD (Bootcamp Windows 10)
- 1 external 2TB LaCie Rugged Pro SSD (Big Sur 11.x)
- Saitek Pro Flight System X-52 Pro and X-56 Rhino
- Honeycomb Alpha Flight Controls
- Honeycomb Bravo Throttle Quadrant
|Software specifications:||- macOS Big Sur (10.15.x)
- X-Plane 11.5x