The Eurofighter Typhoon features a centered control stick:

enter image description here

While for example in the F-16 the stick is on the right side panel:

enter image description here

I find the latter configuration much more natural/ergonomical. Especially since the concept of HOTAS (Hands On Throttle-And-Stick) implies that the pilot has his hands on the same control element most of the time.

I've heard of one reasone for having a center stick is to allow for ambidextrous operation (operations with both hands, alternatively). But this seems to be counter-intuitive with HOTAS, especially since the throttle controls are still on the left side only.

I find it difficult to image an ergonomical position for the pilot while holding a center-stick and a left hand throttle control.

So what are the reasons for a center stick in the Typhoon? Any experiences of pilots having flown both types of configurations?

  • $\begingroup$ If you look at the joystick handle for the Typhoon, it is not left/right handed, it is right handed only. I doubt they have interchangeable handles for pilots. It makes sense to be right handed since the throttle is only left handed in that configuration as well. $\endgroup$
    – Ron Beyer
    Commented Jan 30, 2017 at 14:45
  • $\begingroup$ Related Why do most fighter craft have a center stick? $\endgroup$
    – aeroalias
    Commented Jan 30, 2017 at 15:16
  • $\begingroup$ Thanks. I have read the answer from the presumed dup thread. The phrase given by Eurofighter "[...] there is no reason to have anything other than a center stick" (in sufficiently large cockpits) doesnt sound well argued to me. I do concede that center sticks are the historical default, but it seems to me that most modern designs (F-35, F-22, Rafale) opt for a side stick. @ymb1, I dont like your title edit, I gave Typhoon merely as an example of a modern design with center stick. But the general question is about why center sticks would still be useful/preferred in modern fly-by-wire designs. $\endgroup$
    – Scrontch
    Commented Jan 31, 2017 at 8:19

2 Answers 2


Center mounted sticks are useful for maintaining positive control of the aircraft while operation some cockpit system on the right consoles and flying with your left hand. It’s also useful in an emergency, say if your right arm was injured by shrapnel, etc and cannot actuate the stick effectively, requiring you to fly with your left hand.

Side sticks do have the advantage of less cockpit clutter. The stick is mounted off to the right and doesn't directly block critical instruments from the pilot's view or have its range of motion restricted by flight gear, kneeboards, etc.

As far as size and weight are concerned, both center mounted and side sticks are pretty much the same in a fly-by-wire aircraft - just a 4-way transducer LRU with a handgrip attached to it. In a/c with conventional control systems the center stick was a necessity as it acted as a lever arm allowing the pilot to overcome aerodynamic forces on the control surfaces with muscle power alone and one could force a maneuver using both hands. In the age of hydraulic flight controls and fly-by-wire, this is irrelevant.

As to ergonomics, it's fairly comfortable to fly a center stick as your wrists will naturally rest on your thighs when seated and your hands naturally float to that position. Side sticks are also comfortable but require an armrest to operate effectively, particularly when pulling Gs.

  • $\begingroup$ But if your left arm was injured, you can't handle the throttle either. Those arguments in favor of a central stick are all asking for a central throttle as well. $\endgroup$ Commented Mar 2, 2022 at 14:38
  • $\begingroup$ In fact you can use one hand for the throttle and control the stick with your legs. Yes, pilots in the F-18 have a center stick and often have to control it with their legs, freeing up the throttle for another hand and the injured arm/hand can rest. $\endgroup$
    – JustACoder
    Commented Dec 7, 2022 at 16:53

Besides the issues already covered, it appears to me that older fighters would prefer a center stick so the pilot can switch hands if he needs to see behind the cockpit in either direction.

The newer USA F22 & F35 use a helmet with virtual vision and supposedly the pilots don't need to twist their heads to see behind them - though some pilots have challenged the safety and effectiveness of this feature.

enter image description here source

enter image description here picture updated source

This is a side stick F16. Note the ability of the pilot to brace with his free hand looking to his right but unable to do the same looking left because his right hand must stay on the side stick. A center stick would have allowed a free hand in either direction.

  • 7
    $\begingroup$ Could it be that the F-16 in the lower picture was re-fitted with the cockpit and wing of a BAe Hawk? $\endgroup$ Commented Aug 11, 2018 at 15:46
  • 2
    $\begingroup$ Lmao @PeterKämpf you're right that's pretty funny! $\endgroup$
    – Jihyun
    Commented Aug 12, 2018 at 1:40
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ corrected the picture :) $\endgroup$
    – jwzumwalt
    Commented Aug 12, 2018 at 2:55
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ As already mentioned in the question, I don't believe this to be a valid reason for a center stick. First, when rapidly grabbing the stick with the other hand, the pilot would probably make unwanted control inputs. Second, even a centered stick has a distinctive right-hand ergonomic layout, which would feel awkward at best when operated with the left hand or totally inoperable at worst. (Buttons are at the wrong places with respect to thumb, index finger etc.) Third, the pilot would want to hold his other hand on the throttle control, especially in an emergency situation like a dogfight. $\endgroup$
    – Scrontch
    Commented Aug 20, 2018 at 8:28

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