Looking at pictures from cockpits of various aircrafts, we can see two types of control-inputs.

The sidestick: Sidestick

And the yoke:


What are the advantages / disadvantages of both? When is a yoke over a sidestick used? Can the yoke / sidestick do something that isn't possible with the other option?


1 Answer 1


Initially, aircrafts with side-by-side seating configuration of pilots used the yokes overwhelmingly. The following figure shows the cockpit of Douglas DC-3.

DC-3 cockpit

Image from www.wingsovereurope.com

First commercial aircrafts, the WWII bombers and initial jet transports used them. The first Airbus aircraft, A300 had them.

A300 cockpit

A300 cockpit; image from airlinerworld.com

The yokes have some characteristics like,

  • They have less sensitivity (compared to sidesticks) and a larger range of motion.

  • They take up a lot of space and can obscure the instruments in front.

  • They can be used with either hand.

  • They can be used pretty much in all types of aircraft- from GA aircraft with conventional controls like Cessna 172 to FBW like the Boeing 787.

  • One useful thing with yoke is that the pilot and copilot yokes can be mechanically coupled, which is near impossible in a sidestick.

  • The yoke also provides the other pilot with a visual indication of the control input given.

The sidestick was first introduced in the Airbus 320 along with the FBW. It is doubtful of it would've come into being in aircraft with conventional controls.

A320 cockpit

The sidesticks differ from the yokes in a number of ways:

  • The sidesticks are much more sensitive, but have lesser range of travel. They also lend themselves to rapid movements.

  • Spacewise, they offer significant advantages as they clear up a lot of room in front of the pilot.

  • In two person cockpits, the sidesticks provide little or no visual indication as to the control input applied; for example, in Airbus aircraft, the sticks move independently and the computer interprets the actions.

  • They can only be operated with a single hand.

  • They usually require a FBW system for operation. For small GA aircraft, they are rarely, if ever used.

  • $\begingroup$ Very good answer. +1: I didn't think of the problems with sidesticks and FBW. $\endgroup$
    – jklingler
    Dec 4, 2015 at 13:53
  • $\begingroup$ I heard, that pilots could adapt to use their right/left hand to use the sidestick on either side. From my personal experience I would prefer a neutral input device, a yoke in the center or sidestick in the center. It would be far more natural. I can use the computer mouse on the left side of the keyboard with my left hand...but don't expect me to be the first one in the stats of any first-person-shooter. $\endgroup$
    – Peter
    Dec 4, 2015 at 15:49
  • $\begingroup$ "For small GA aircraft, [sidesticks] are rarely, if ever used." I believe they are coming into fashion at least for some light aircraft. The Ikarus C42 has a shared (side)stick between the two seats, for example, and that's all cables, wires and pulleys; likely the only flight control augmentation is the elevator trim. It works quite well. $\endgroup$
    – user
    Jan 1, 2019 at 17:26

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