Since the cockpit is based on a Thrustmaster shell, it’s original construction had a space for the Thrustmaster Block 50 F-16 Flight Stick (FLCS), which – in it’s day – was the most advanced joystick on the market. I had it installed for many years, modified for use with the EPIC I/O system. It worked flawlessly and I was quite happy with it – except for one detail: it was made from plastic, and even though it looked authentic, it felt like a toy.
In the winter of 2006 I finally decided to purchase the successor of the FLCS, the HOTAS Cougar (also by Thrustmaster). Physically it is almost identical to the FLCS. But the Cougar is made from metal (ZAMAK, a Zinc/Aluminum/Magnesium/Copper alloy) , and metal makes a big difference. First of all, the stick is heavy; the weight of the handle is evident during use. It feels cold to the touch and warms during use – all these may sounds like small details, but they add realism. The Cougar connects to the PC via USB and comes with fancy software for programming the switches. It is not as sophisticated as EPIC, but it gets the job done.
The stock Cougar is a fine piece of equipment, but I decided to make it even nicer by adding two modifications, created by ingenious flight sim enthusiasts. The first is a new gimbals system, the second a replacement of the stock pots with a set of new positioning sensors for X and Y axis. The following photos show details of these modifications: