Distributed By : Fighter Systems
Developed By : Fighter Systems

HOTASS Review!
By Brian "Dark Kodiak" Rubin

I must admit, when I first saw this product's title in print, I let out a giggle (as I'm sure many of you have). Little did I know that such an unassuming device, so simple yet effective in its design would totally change the way I play flight simulations. The product I speak of, obviously, is the H.O.T.A.S.S. (which, incidentally, means Hands Off Throttle and Stick Support). The purpose of this device is to allow you place a joystick and throttle in a much more natural position than most of us are used to.

The H.O.T.A.S.S. is such a simple device I don't know why it hasn't come out sooner. Once you receive the package (which is HUGE, by the way), you'll find inside, very well procted, several pieces of oddly shaped wood and a bunch of allen screws with wrench, and instructions. Luckily, I received a few extra pieces, but more on them later.

Once you've unwrapped the pieces from the seemingly mile long roll of bubble wrap, it's time to assemble. The instruction pamphlet included with the device is pretty straightforward, and I had the device assembled in ten minutes. The device is a U shaped oak wood base, which is inverted so that you may slide your office chair into the U. There are then two support towers (or three, if you order a third) that screw into any three positions in the base. There are position for the center, left, and right support towers. I'm right handed myself, so I put one tower on the left for the throttle and one in the center for the joystick. Then, on top of the support towers, you have two smaller bases to which the peripherals are actually placed upon. These small bases can be adjusted in either forward or reverse directions using the allen wrench. It was only after using the device, did I find out that the two included supports differed slightly in height, and that I had them reversed. This was easily corrected, and oncefinished, it was on to flying.

The first setup I used was a joystick by itself, a CH F-16 Combat Stick. One uses sticks and throttles by fastening them with the included velcro tape to the smaller bases on the top of the supports. Once this was accomplished, your peripheral isn't going anywhere. I spent a good amount of time only using the stick, and found that the new position of the stick, between my legs (I could say something here, but I won't J), was much more comfortable and natural feeling than it was when on my desk. It was much more comfortable to be able to sit in a natural position while playing, rather than being hunched over toward the desk.

Once I was satisfied with the single joystick's performance, I added a throttle to the mix. I first used one of the biggest throttles around, the Suncom SFS throttle. This huge throttle takes up a considerable amount of desk space, so using it was a hassle at times. Once attached to the H.O.T.A.S.S., it was a completely different experience. Using the throttle became much more natural, and with the velcro, even this huge throttle barely nudged while in use. I then tried the H.O.T.A.S.S. with different setups, including a Saitek X36 combo, two Suncom SFS sticks, a Suncom FX4000 stick, and a CH Flightstick Pro. In every scenario, using the H.O.T.A.S.S. was comfortable and much more fun than using these setups on my desk.

The icing on the cake, however, was a couple of other items included with the H.O.T.A.S.S. The first was the keyboard stand. I first thought this would be silly. Why would I want the keyboard propped up at a forty-degree angle? It was only after visiting the product's website and trying it out for myself did I understand the beauty of this simple device. This device, which consists of two dowels and supports for the ends, props the keyboard to roughly a forty-degree angle. The beauty of this item is its simplicity. You put the keyboard on the stand, then put the stand on your desk so that the two pieces on the support overhang the front of the desk (to keep it stable) and presto, you have a more realistic (for a cockpit) control keyboard. The second device, which I wasn't able to use, was the RPI, or Rudder Pedal Integrator. This device is a simple piece of black plastic than screws into the center slot on the base. This allows you to fasten a set of rudder pedals to the RPI so that they don't slip on the
floor. This also was a great idea, but as I said, I didn't use it, since I don't own rudder pedals.

I tested this setup not only with many different joystick/throttle configurations, but with many simulations as well. I must admit that my flight time became much more enjoyable, as I was in a much more comfortable and relaxed position during play. I actually found myself becoming more proficient in my flying than before the H.O.T.A.S.S. I played several games using the H.O.T.A.S.S., including Freespace 2, Falcon 4.0, Jane's USAF, Jane's Longbow 2, Flight Unlimited III, Flight Simulator 2000, European Air War, and Flying Corps Gold. Each of the experiences flying these games was compared between flying on a desk and with the H.O.T.A.S.S. In the end, I couldn't even go back to the desk, as it became so unnatural that flying actually became a chore.

You might think that, due to my glowing praise, I really like this product. Well, you'd be right. This product does exactly what it sets out to do, give one a more realistic position in which to play flight sims. I only have one gripe with the product…the price. The price for the base setup is around $80 US dollars, and if you wanted the keyboard stand or the RPI, that would be $10 and $17, respectfully. You then add the $18 for shipping and you have a decent dent in your wallet. Fortunately, the product is made of solid oak wood, and will most likely last for years if not abused, so it can be worth it in the long haul.

Overall, I have to give this product praise due to its simplicity and uniqueness in design. It's probably the best thing most of us will ever get to owning a fake cockpit for our flight simming pleasure. The product is small enough to be stowed under your desk when not in use, and doesn't get in the way if you need to get up from your chair quickly. If you use a lot of flight simulations, I highly suggest giving this product a look, because it might make your experiences even more enjoyable.

Rating : 4.5 Outta 5 Arcs !!!

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