Saitek Aviator Flight Stick Review (X360)

Saitek Aviator 360
Saitek Aviator Flight Stick. Mad Catz

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If you love flight combat games like Ace Combat 6 and Tom Clancy’s HAWX but haven’t ever played them with a real flight stick controller, you really need to give the Saitek Aviator Flight Stick a try. A flight stick will absolutely make a big difference in how much fun you have with these games, and for just $50 the Saitek Aviator is a pretty darn good investment.

Find out more in our full review.

Note:  The Saitek Aviator Flight Stick is no longer easy to find new in box, so you'll have to buy it used.  Unfortunately, it is a bit expensive these days, even for used ones.  

Quick Hits

  • Title: Saitek Aviator Flight Stick
  • Produced By: Mad Catz
  • Genre: Flight Stick Controller
  • Pros: Price; surprisingly intuitive; works great; definitely makes flight combat games more fun
  • Cons: A bit of a lightweight

Features

The Aviator Flight Stick is a one-piece unit and the only setup you need to do is put together a little hand rest on the stick with a couple of included screws. The throttle lever is on the back of the unit and offers a wide range of movement so you can set your speed. The stick itself has full 360-degree movement as well as yaw control by twisting it left or right. On top of the stick there is B, Y, X buttons (and the X button has a cover over it you have to flip up like a real missile button in a real jet), and the trigger on the back of the grip is the A button.

There is also a small control stick on top that takes the place of the right analog stick on a normal 360 pad for camera control. On the front of the unit there are buttons for the bumper buttons, stick buttons (like when you press in the analog sticks), Back and Start, and another control stick that represents the d-pad.

There is also a switch on the side of the unit that lets you select between two modes where the button assignments are slightly different. Mode 1 is for HAWX and Ace Combat 6 and Mode 2 is for the Blazing Angels games.

It should also be noted that the Aviator Flight Stick is compatible with both the Xbox 360 and the PC, so for $50 you can get a lot of use out of it if you are a big flight sim/combat fan.

Performance

A features list a mile long doesn’t mean anything if a controller doesn’t function well, however. Thankfully, the Aviator Flight Stick handles like an absolute dream and is far more intuitive that you would ever think it could be. I have to admit, this was actually my first time ever using a flight stick with a game, and I had zero trouble getting used to it. In fact, I actually found I played far better using the stick than using the standard controller. I don’t know if the games or the stick are just incredibly well designed or maybe I’m just a natural fighter pilot, but using the stick made a big difference and made Ace Combat 6, Ace Combat Assault Horizon, and HAWX significantly more fun.

It does take a little getting used to because the buttons aren’t where you expect them to be (the A button is the trigger, the Y is where B used to be and B is where A normally is …) and you have to play using two hands.

I play with my right hand on the stick and my left hand on the throttle (but you could play the other way around if you want) and occasionally you have to move your throttle hand down to the front of the unit to press a button or use the d-pad stick to select a different weapon or issue commands to your wingmen. You’ll have to look down at what you are doing for a while at first, but eventually you get used to where everything is and can use all of the controls without looking.

When you get everything figured out, which only really takes a few minutes, using a flight stick is an amazingly natural feeling. When using a controller there are so many buttons to control throttle and yaw and camera and everything else and it is actually quite complicated. When using a flight stick, all of the controls you need are within easy reach and you can do multiple things at once without contorting your hands into claws trying to hit all of the buttons you need to. It makes the game far more intuitive and satisfying and fun and once you use a stick it is hard to go back to a regular controller for flight games.

My one small complaint about the Aviator stick is that it is really, really light. Gamers have been trained over the years to not trust lightweight accessories, particularly from third-party manufacturers, and it is easy to be kind of skeptical of the Aviator when you pick up the box and feel how light it is. We have used it for a couple of weeks now with no problems, though, so in this case you shouldn’t worry too much about build quality. Another slight concern with the weight is that it might slide around too much during use. No worries here either, as it has rubber feet on the bottom so if you play it with it sitting on your desk or coffee table or even your lap it doesn’t move around too much despite not having any weight to it.

Bottom Line

All in all, the Saitek Aviator Flight Stick is highly recommended for fans of flight combat games on the Xbox 360. We tried it with Tom Clancy’s HAWX and Ace Combat 6 and immediately fell in love. Using a flight stick really does make flight combat games better and more fun and they should be required hardware for serious fans of the genre. You also really can’t beat the $50 pricetag for not only great performance with Xbox 360 games but it is also fully PC compatible as well. The Saitek Aviator Flight Stick is a great product that we highly recommend.

Disclosure: A review copy was provided by the publisher. For more information, please see our Ethics Policy.

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