One of the things I love about flight simulation as a hobby is the wide range of ways that you can access the controls for a variety of aircraft. A $50 joystick with an integrated throttle is a great starting point and adequate for just about any flight sim, however, when you want to take it to the next level you start to add things like a HOTAS system, or MFD’s and in recent years we’ve seen some companies offer extra options such as button boxes that go above and beyond your standard HOTAS. Today I’m looking into a new entrant, Total Controls, and their multi-function button box.
Multi-functional and multi-aircraft
The interesting part of button boxes is that a lot of the ones I’ve seen have been either very specific to one aircraft or they have been extremely generic with the intent that you can get as creative as possible with the control scheme to suit any variety of aircraft. The design that Total Controls has gone with is interesting to me because it’s something in-between.
Looking at the design it’s very clear that this was based on the UFC from the F/A-18C. The formation and exterior lighting knobs, the number pad, jettison, hook and gear controls appear to be geared towards the Hornet. But then we also have the dobber control from the F-16C and a couple more switches here and there that aren’t specific to the Hornet. It looks like you could easily bind the same controls to that to virtually any modern aircraft that has a number keypad, gear, lights and other controls.
According to the product information page, the box is made from an all metal body and the components are intended to be high quality parts that should last a long time. The size is also a deliberately set to match that of a Thrustmaster Warthog (and first or second generation VIRPIL T-50) as this prototype image shows.
Want a total accounting of all of the buttons and functions? Total Controls is planning to put the following on the Multi-Function Button Box:
- 40 programmable buttons and switches
- Gear- and hook-handle
- Jettison button
- Seven light knobs
- Two rotary encoders with push function for the radios
If this all sounds like a good piece of additional hardware to add to your configuration, I’m sorry to report that the Multi-Function Button Box isn’t yet available.
Total Controls founder, Jonas Hernstig, reached out to me because he’d like to create this new piece of hardware but needs the initial start-up orders to make that happen. He’s looking for backers for the project through his Kickstarter page and is only a couple of weeks away from the closing of the campaign. I thought I would write about what I’ve seen so far and let people know about it. It is of course your decision if you think this is a great idea and want to support it.
Initial support that gets you the button box design is SEK 2,990 which is roughly translated to $290 USD. Prices go up from there and there are various optional backing options that come with a table mount – utilizing the same mounting system as the Warthog HOTAS.
For what it’s worth, the button box design itself looks extremely well thought out to me. Jonas has indicated to me his passion for flight simulation and wrote about it on his company and Kickstarter pages and so I’m interested to see this project happen and hopefully produce a successful first product release. Sometimes these projects start out small and grow as we’ve seen with a few other companies in the past.
Interested in more? Check out the promotional video below, check out the Total Controls press release, and look-up the Total Controls Multi-Function Button Box Kickstarter out here.
6 Comments Add yours
Looks like a really interesting concept. The problem I see (pun!) is that under a VR helmet those closely-packed buttons will be difficult to locate correctly.
I’ve also been watching this with interest, unfortunately I just can’t afford to contribute because I’m about to move house and I’ve just completed my divorce! I’m skint! Looks really good though.
I signed up for this, but I think it’s sadly going to be a stretch for them to reach their goal in the time left. I hope they’re able to do something outside of Kickstarter if that happens, as I’m certainly interested in one of these.
For VR it comes with some silicon pads so you can mark the most frequently used buttons, I did something similar with a keypad I set up as a UFC for DCS.
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Very cool. Is there anything similar to this for WWII birds? Pretty clear that this particular box is more targeted at modern aircraft.
Yeah, there’s a guy going by the name of Hegykc on the Il-2 forum who is making some seriously cool WW2 gear, including a P-38 throttle box.
Nice! The cool thing is it’s designed to sit alongside the TM Warthog.
However, my issue with it is that it’s mostly made up of controls that aren’t used too much during a flight, or ones that are easy to click “inside” the VC.
Main draw for me is the stuff I need to activate by feel while keeping my head out of the cockpit, or that are genuinely hard to use in the VC: hook and gear levers, the dobber, crs, hdg, maybe even wing fold.
But 7 lighting controls, plus two lighting rockers plus 7 avionics “On/Off actuators”? That’s a LOT of money for things that are mostly set it & forget it during a mission.
Would much rather have more tactile oriented controls for things like the TGP switches, refuel probe, rad alt minimum, baro knob, etc.
And/or other stuff like “braille” dots on the keypad buttons so we can find the “home” keys without needing to look.
I’m sure the buttons/knobs can be re-mapped, but that’s the flavor of controls that’d push this over to being a “Buy” for me.