Okay, I went ahead and did it. What, you say did I do. Well I recently purchase a Saitek 65F. Why the hell did I invest in yet another control system when I have a Microsoft Force Feedback, CH Fighter Stick and Throttle, a Saitek X52 Stick and throttle, and a Thrustmaster Cougar, well for several reasons? Oh, I almost forgot that I also have the CH Yoke.

Just too back track a little and explain the evolution of my having all these different controls. When I first got real serious about investing in flight controls, it was with the Microsoft CFS-2. My family got me the Microsoft Force Feedback and I just loved it. The feedback associated with this stick was incredible, I really felt like I was getting the actual feedback from the aircraft and it made flying more realistic and enjoyable. It didnít take long to realize I needed rudder pedals and that the MS Force Feedback sticks had its limitations. I was real reluctant to give up the force feedback, but I needed rudder pedals so I jumped in a bought the whole CH package. The CH Fighter Stick and Throttle along with the rudder pedals. Made a huge improvement over just the MS stick, but I never could get used to the Fighter Stick. It just seemed too big for my hands and anytime I reached for a button it was as if I had to take my hand completely off the stick to do it. I ultimately used the MS Force Feedback stick with the CH Throttle and pedals. Worked well for CFS-2 and the beginning of IL-2. The problem I had with IL-2 was losing the force feedback if I had to get out of the game for any reason. When it worked it was great, but it always dropped the feedback.

The next step was the Saitek X52. The size fit my hand and had many programmable options. Lost the feedback, but was able to adjust and enjoyed the stick. My only complaint with the X52 was the softness of its feel and it seemed to hang somewhat in the centered position. I would even use a light oil to lube the cone that centered the stick where it fits in the base. This was short lived and I always had trouble with the finesse associated with formation flying for example.

Enter the Thrustmaster Cougar. Great stick out of the box with few issues initially. Great feel, made you feel like you really had your hands on the real deal. I never did get used to the clicking in the throttle associated with the different ridges inside. Some people eliminated those little ridges, but I never took the time to do so. The other issue was the eventual ďslopĒ as the pot metal inside the stick itself started to wear. So the next step was to mod the stick. What an improvement, made a great stick even greater, (still hate the clicking in the throttle). At one point I was having trouble calibrating the stick. Seemed like it would never really stabilize in the centered position and after investigating I found that one of the Hall Sensors had a lose wire. Simple fix and back to normal. Then just recently I started to experience the same difficulties with calibration. Once again I investigated and didnít find any issues, however I took the time to solder all connections hoping that if that were the problem it would resolve it. So after doing all that my computer would not recognize the Cougar. Tried everything, flashed the stick a number of times, and cleaned the drivers, re-installed drivers over and over with the same results. I even tried it on my other computer with the same results. Still donít know what the issue is, but got tired of dealing with it and reverted back to my Saitek X52.

So what to do, tired of dealing with Vista, Windows 7 and trying to make it all function with the Cougar. I stated looking at different sticks. The Logitech G940 offered force feedback which I love on my MS stick. Then I started to remember how delicate it was in keeping the force feedback working within the sim. Also, force feedback equals moving parts, motors and other things that go bump in the night. I was looking for simplicity. I remember seeing a mod for the cougar that evolved around pressure sensors to control inputs to the sim. Enter the Saitek 65F with pressure sensors to control the input to the sim. Great I thought, but further investigation revealed that the stick doesnít even move. How the hell can you fly without moving the stick? Then I got to thinking is this what was being considered for the Cougar? If so maybe this isnít so crazy after all, and the part about no moving parts was real appealing. So now Iíve got one sitting on my desk and flying my sim.

Conclusion, each combination of stick and throttle has its advantages and disadvantages from programmability, feel, and price just to name a few. One thing that keeps coming up with the older sticks is the fact that the computer operating systems are changing and the software for the sticks is lagging behind. Sure there are updated drivers available, but when these sticks functioned perfectly under XP, it just does seem they work as well with the newer Windows and 64 bit machines. That also helped me make the decision to invest in a more compatible stick and throttle. 64 bit drivers and truly plug and play right out of the box. The simplest set-up I have ever experienced.

So how does it fly? I like it. The variety of force settings allows you to adjust an almost unlimited range of settings. I donít like a soft feel in my stick. (Okay, go ahead and get all the jokes out of the way). Really though, most of these WWII fighters, with the exception of later models of the P-38 didnít have boosted controls. The P-51 used gap seals in the ailerons to reduce control forces and most all fighters were somewhat heavy on the control. The harder you pushed and pulled the greater effect you had on the controls. This is how the force sensing in the 65F feels, and it is almost as if you think about it and it happens. By adjusting the forces, you can fly with your fingertips for those close-up formation flights, or you can be real heavy handed when you are engaging in a hard turning dogfight. The throttle is smooth and does have a detent at about 95% of movement that would replicate pushing the throttle into the War Emergency position. It has a very nice feel to it. There are two throttles that can be used as one or as two. I have yet to figure out how to set it up for two throttles in IL-2. It would be great for the P-38. This will be great for the upcoming A-10C that is some to be released.

So far there are two things that I have issues with. First is the attachments to the back of the throttle. One is functional and the other is for appearances I guess. Nothing pugs into it and the only thing I can see that it is used for is other attachments that Saitek offers. Anyway, I just didnít attach it to the back of the throttle. The other thing is the finger trigger. It is only a one pull trigger. On the cougar and X52 the trigger was two position and could fire either guns, or guns and cannons. It appears that it is all or nothing with the trigger pull. In the P-38 or other fighters with guns and cannons they fire all at once. Maybe I have missed something here but I donít think so.

Was it worth it? I think so. Ease of installation, most compatible with Windows 7 64 bit, and looking to the future with newer sims coming and I have no regrets. Paid $318 plus shipping.