The first Airbus had yokes but they changed to the sidesticks after a while But Boeing is still stuck with yokes even with 777-300ER decades later.

The sole purpose of the yokes are seemingly for the Cessna students to stick their charts and for some instructions on the airliners which I think isnt worth blocking the screenes.

One more thing. Is it true that its impossible to manual reversion an sidestick aircraft?

Why though? Boeing simply wants to keep R&D low or there are some other reasons? They are known for using the same design to keep costs down but didn't they ever tried to innovate the mechanics?

Perhaps just another example of design philosophy between the west and the east?

  • $\begingroup$ "The sole purpose of the yokes are seemingly for the Cessna students to stick their charts " -- wow-- is this a question, or a rant? $\endgroup$ Mar 13, 2021 at 17:51
  • $\begingroup$ @quietflyer I just couldn't think of a better advantage of yokes. They seemed to be perfect for putting your tablet or navigaton charts and easily access them without putting them over the windshield or put on the kneeboards on your legs. $\endgroup$ Mar 13, 2021 at 18:42
  • $\begingroup$ "Is it true that its impossible to manual reversion an sidestick aircraft?" - the yokes are actually connected to the control surfaces with pulleys and cables. When you pull up, you are really pulling up. It might need a strong pull if the electrics aren't working, but it's there. The sidesticks are only inputs to computers so you had better hope the computer is working right or else you crash. Of course, all planes have lots of computer redundancy. Airbus planes have "direct law" where the computer simulates a direct connection in case its sensors are broken so it can't do processing. $\endgroup$ Apr 6, 2023 at 20:10

2 Answers 2


Sidestick controllers for the 737 have been evaluated (at least by NASA), and there was some disagreement with this being too major a change from older airliners. The 737 with its high-bypass engines and design that has almost stood up to this day was a revolutionary aircraft already.

Airbus was entering their A320 into the market in 1987, a full 20 years later than the 737. Before the A320, if you wanted the most advanced large narrow-body, it was - technically, it was the 757, but since you didn't want to pay the cost and weight premium it commanded, and narrowbodies mostly serve shorter routes - it was the 737.

This meant Airbus needed a disruptive design with killer features to have any shot at the market. So they gave the A320 the most sophisticated fly-by-wire system, convenient sidestick control, and a ULD-supporting cargo hold. There was less concern about commonality as it was an all-new type anyway.

Both got what they wanted. Boeing got, with the 737, an airplane that was easier to retrain 707 pilots for. Airbus went from minimal market share to roughly equal footing with Boeing by differentiating their offering with the A320.

As time went on, both kept playing to their strengths. Boeing wanted to keep retraining pilots between their models easier, so they kept the yoke. There's still a lot of innovation in the background, but the pilot-perceived change is reduced when possible. Airbus kept developing their glass cockpits with further reduced pilot effort.

  • $\begingroup$ Boeing also has a different basic philosophy with respect to the pilot's place in the airplane, tending to keep the pilot deeper in the control loop you might say, with a bit more authority over everything, than Airbus, and their pilots had more design influence within development programs. And they tended to dislike side sticks. $\endgroup$
    – John K
    Jul 20, 2019 at 14:21
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ @ymb1 I'll have to check for better sources, edited it to be less-definitive in the meantime. $\endgroup$
    – Therac
    Mar 12, 2021 at 18:49

There are very good reasons to implement coupled column/yokes for aeroplane control: they are right in front of you, you can apply force with both hands, and you can feel immediately what input the other crew member is giving. The force sensors in our hands are very precise feedback instruments that should and can be fully utilised.

The upside of the side stick for passenger aircraft is...actually, what was the problem that needed to be solved? More room for the lunch table?

The F16 used side sticks because of the 9g accelerations that accelerate arms all over the place and can be the source of Pilot Induced Oscillations - best to support the arm with the armrest and control the aircraft by wrist movement. Not a lot of movement because the sticks are almost fixed, and use the force sensors in the hands for pilot feedback.

Column/yoke combinations provide the clearest feedback on what the condition of the aeroplane is: hydraulics ON, autopilot ON, trim position. The 737 is about the largest plane that can handle manual reversion, and one requires a column/yoke or a centre stick for that.

  • $\begingroup$ Boeing continues to use columns on their full FBW designs because that's what their flight ops contingent, and a lot of pilots generally prefer, and they feel strongly enough about it to live with the 150lb or so weight penalty of the columns, torque tube, etc, even though there are no control cables. On the C series program there was a long debate over whether to go in the Airbus or Boeing direction, and the decision was made to use side sticks for the weight saving. $\endgroup$
    – John K
    Jul 20, 2019 at 14:26
  • $\begingroup$ Not only can you use a yoke with both hands, you can use it with either hand. If you use a sidestick, you'd have to have one on either side of the pilot to get the same capability. $\endgroup$
    – jamesqf
    Jul 20, 2019 at 18:20
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ This is a very old discussion I have heard many arguments from Boeing and Airbus. In my airline, old A340 pilots assigned to fly B787 really misses the sidestick. In the other hand, Boing pilos assigned Airbus feels confortable with sidestick very fast. $\endgroup$ Mar 12, 2021 at 15:38

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