How To: An Unusual Source for a Stick Grip
By Stuart Fields, for Experimenter
Here's a little trick I learned while building my Safari helicopter.
Wanting to keep my hands on the controls, I needed a stick grip that had sufficient switch locations to provide for: 1) push-to-talk; 2) radio frequency select; 3) balancer activator switch to allow for single pilot operation of the dynamic balancer; 4) on-off for a video camera; and 5) preferably a four-way hat switch to activate trim controls on the cyclic.
Well, there's an off-the-shelf version available for something more than $150. Ouch! I looked around a little and finally found an inexpensive alternative: the Thrustmaster Top Gun joystick used for PC video games. It looked exactly like the more expensive unit, so I gave it a shot.
Close examination showed the Top Gun version to be a little lighter in construction than expected, but since I didn't plan on using it in a heavy force environment, I forged ahead and got a couple of the joysticks from eBay for less than $20 each. As it later turned out I was able to get a few as cheaply (lowest cost) as $5. I used two of these on my Safari and have accumulated more than 200 successful flight hours.
On some of the units, some rewiring is needed on the hat switch to get four independent switches.
I'm presently building a Helicycle and will use the Top Gun joystick again.