I don't think the Sidestick in Airbus aircraft is an ordinary gaming joystick that is plugged via USB into the Airbus Computers. I guess it is something very special, because it's one of the most important and critical parts of the aircraft.

  • What are the differences between an ordinary gaming joystick and an Airbus Sidestick?
  • $\begingroup$ Related on our friend Quora: How does the control joystick in Airbus aircraft work? and beautiful images too at AirCockpit. Is your ordinary joystick like this? $\endgroup$
    – mins
    Commented Jun 3, 2017 at 14:04
  • $\begingroup$ You should consider making this into multiple questions. (cost, mechanism, etc.). You are basically asking four questions here. $\endgroup$
    – Jimy
    Commented Jun 3, 2017 at 14:11
  • $\begingroup$ @JimyPP Sounds good. $\endgroup$ Commented Jun 3, 2017 at 14:13
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    $\begingroup$ Much more reliable. My Saitek X52 broke just 3 years after I bought it, I had to screw it open and solder broken wires to get it working again. $\endgroup$
    – kevin
    Commented Jun 3, 2017 at 16:21
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    $\begingroup$ The differences (1) is what's happening when the game over screen comes up; (2) the context of what "crash" means when using either stick. :( $\endgroup$ Commented Jun 3, 2017 at 17:32

1 Answer 1


First of all, I'd like to make clear that I highly respect Airbus cockpit design and implementation of envelope protection.

Now to the question. The Airbus side stick is a lot stronger than a game joystick and very reliable, but is functionality-wise the same as a gaming joystick, just a stick loaded by a passive spring force sending back position signals. It had to be that way in the 90s when the sticks were designed, although we were already running digital force loops in real time @ 5000 Hz on a Motorola 68020, and had the technology to couple two sticks in software. Did it for Mercedes and for quite a few simulators, but sadly not for Airbus.

So how it could for instance be implemented for the A320 side stick: program the passive forces that are there now for normal operation but always couple the sticks, program a stick pusher for when in alternate law and stalling, and leave the current override button solution in for when the Control Loading System fails. We were part of an aircraft company then and making the system airworthy would not have been a problem.

  • $\begingroup$ Well, the spring provides all the feedback there is to provide. The side-stick does not command control surface position, it commands specific wing loading for pitch and roll rate for roll. So both position and force correspond to that command and there is no need for anything active. And springs are much simpler, and thus reliable, than active component would. $\endgroup$
    – Jan Hudec
    Commented Jun 3, 2017 at 21:30
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    $\begingroup$ I agree, the design phylosofy of Airbus has done away with active feedback of flight parameters and for good reasons. But how is it not beneficial to directly feel what the other pilot is inputting on the stick? $\endgroup$
    – Koyovis
    Commented Jun 3, 2017 at 21:51
  • $\begingroup$ @JanHudec The 777 yokes are FBW but provides force feedback. The difference being (afaik) that Boeing doesn't have the different control laws. I'm not sure how one would decide how to correlate the different control laws to stick resistance. $\endgroup$
    – TomMcW
    Commented Jun 3, 2017 at 23:59
  • $\begingroup$ Yes the B777 has an onboard version of what in simulators is called the Control Loading System. Program any force characeristic you like, and couple multiple sticks in real time. $\endgroup$
    – Koyovis
    Commented Jun 4, 2017 at 3:05
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    $\begingroup$ Only one pilot should be making input at any time. Pilot monitoring can see the input on their PFD and dual input is handled by warning and needs to be dealt with by better CRM anyway. Also because the side-stick is less accurate, the input is often series of brief nudges rather than smooth movement (especially in roll). The other pilot couldn't have their hand on the side-stick if it reflected that. $\endgroup$
    – Jan Hudec
    Commented Jun 4, 2017 at 10:11

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