320 Euro spent on a simulator gadget? Usually, that is hard to justify. Not this time. MFG Crosswind changed my simulation experience more than any other device I have, and that counts for something.
Freeing yourself from financial considerations is impossible. Crosswind cost well over the market standard. Just compare them to Thrustmaster T.Flight Rudder Pedals (85 Euro). Pro Flight Rudder Pedals from Saitek (Logitech) are slightly better – you can have them for 120 Euro (German prices). Here you have to pay 320 Euro plus shipment (another 18 Euro for most of the EU or 256 Euro + 39 for shipment to the US and Canada. Why pay extra?
There are many reasons. But one factor trumps the other. Crosswind gives the user exceptional precision in the control of an airplane or helicopter. Technically savvy users will praise Hall sensors, which give this pedals 4096 positions. That is impressive but I see the source of precision in the way, MFG (which stands for Milan Flight Gear) designed these pedals.
Let me start a little explanation of what the precision means for me. 4096 sensor positions sound good, but in practice – it is not a piece of meaningful information. My experiences with other pedals show that 4096, 1024 or even 256 – these are just random numbers (user wise). Why? Look at the pedals. The pedal movement is about 10 centimeters (4 inches if you leave on the other side of the pond). Five centimeters forwards and five backward from the center position. At 4096 positions this gives 410 positions per centimeter. 4.1 positions per millimeter. One position for about a quarter of a millimeter (that is some ridiculous fraction of an inch). Now, let me dare you with an experiment. Place a ruler on the floor and move it by a randomly selected distance. For example, 38 millimeters. Using your foot only. Did you manage? Maybe you moved it 39mm? 40? 41? 42? I could not achieve a millimeter precision even if I moved the ruler carefully. Why did I ask you to experiment? I am trying to show that the device’s precision is unrelated to the number of possible positions (although nice to have more than less). I also try to show you something else.
Try moving the same ruler by one centimeter. Do it fast and make no corrections – just make one swift move. How far from 1cm are you? Try on a different surface – smooth then sticky.
Did you notice that the smoother the surface – the better you get?
Construction – better to put the load on bearings than slides
Same happens with pedals. Moving them with your feet, you need to overcome the resistance of the bearing, springs, slides, etc. What is different in MFG Crosswind? What makes them more precise? The Thrustmaster product uses slides that support both pedals (and the weight of your feet). Plastic slides run along smooth metal guides to ensure the lowest possible friction. Thrustmaster even calls it SMART – Sliding Motion Advanced Rail Track. Unfortunately, the higher the load (pressure of your feet) the greater the drag. In addition, the resistance is uneven along the guides – so the movement can be jerky (and in my experience – often is). Saitek in their Pro Flight Rudder Pedals (25-50% more expensive than Thrustmaster) chose the rollers for support. The movement is smoother, but … still imperfect. With time getting worse and jerky as the dust collects around the rollers. The MFG Crosswind solved the problem, or rather – Milan did not solve the problem but eliminated it with a completely different structural design.
MFG designed of the product with a center base and supporting arms mounted on bearings. Arms connect with pedals using more bearings (two on each side). Thanks to the use of high-quality parts they have almost eliminated the impact of the load on the resistance. Bearings allow smooth movement proportional to the applied force.
Adjustable return spring
The other source of the precision of movement results from the adjustable return spring.
On an aircraft, the pedals do not have a centering mechanism – their position and load depending on the forces acting on the rudder. We do not see these forces flying in the simulator, so a mechanism that centers our pedals is useful. Usually, it is a spring. The more we push the pedals – the more the tension and the centering force increases.
This will be especially important in helicopters. Only slightly less important in GA planes. Sometimes a virtual pilot may wish for the strong centering force of. I do when I fly military and aerobatic aircraft. Higher forces will speed up the return of the pedals to their neutral position. Higher tension will also increase the precision of sudden movements, it is easier to get a certain position quickly. The virtual pilots of helicopters may have opposite requirements. They will push one pedal for a protracted time (e.g. at takeoff or landing). In hover, the pedal travel is offset from the neutral position. In such a situation it is easier to deal with pedals which are lighter on the legs.
With MFG Crosswind user just turns an adjusting knob and loosens or tightens the force. Turning it a couple of times make a huge difference.
If the change is not precise enough, it is desirable to reposition the spring – changing the lever arm holding the spring. The force will change accordingly. You can also replace the whole spring. With no tools and in no time.
If the spring force adjustment is not enough, there is one more option – replacing the guiding mechanism – a curvy CAM profile creates a non-linear change of force on the pedals. Small differences in shape increase or decrease the sense of the center and also change the force. Some users may prefer a curve with a strongly marked center position, others will choose a more delicate emphasis there (this is my choice). MFG provides two curves with pedals. You can order the third (intermediate profile) for an added EUR 12.50 (10 Euro if you live outside of the EU).
Other pedals I mentioned have no or limited adjustments (no adjustments in TFRP and Saitek has an adjustable spring).
When touched they appear to be of wood, but not entirely. What is it then? A short search on the internet gives the answer – a composite based on phenol-formaldehyde resins. Rigid and highly resistant to damage. After shaping, they can machine it, but it is resistant to heat (as opposed to plastic).
One can easily see these characteristics in the pedals. Using a 13mm CNC machined plates to shape the structure MFG prevented any deformations under load (the Saitek and Thrustmaster pedals bend gently while I press them with a foot). From the user’s point of view, they behave like steel. At the same time, they keep the “warm” woody feel.
Being a little oversized the metal parts look durable. For example – the spring responsible for the resistance of the main pedals axis is much longer than in the Saitek‘s pedals (I have not seen Thrustmaster‘s insights). Brake springs use a much thicker material than those of both Saitek and Thrustmaster. Not that I have reasons for concern about the durability of these components in any of the mentioned pedals, but the size and the quality of MFG parts suggest they will last forever.
On MFG Crosswind I can comfortably rest my feet (size 43 in EU or 10 in the US). There is still some room. Good support is, of course, an advantage in itself, but what is most important – is the possibility of comfortable braking. The larger the pedal – the longer the lever, and so the control over the sensor is more precise. This precision is of particular importance in the simulator, where we do not get the physical effects of the controls.
For comparison – Thrustmaster (according to the manufacturer’s description) suits shoes in size 45. When I put my foot (43) without a shoe – my fingers stick out.
The flat surface is comfortable regardless of footwear (or the lack of). In Thrustmaster pedals, again, the shaped profile does not match my foot size. Saitek’s pedals are free of this problem.
The distance between the pedals is also comfortable. I compared it with the narrow pedals I previously used – they definitely lacked in comfort. The MFG Crosswind spacing seems almost natural (almost – they are slightly wider compared with where I normally rest my feet under my desk).
Grooves under the fingers and heel increase the grip. They tend to collect dust, but cleaning is easy. Anyway, in this respect MFG Crosswind also beats the competition – it is much easier to keep its solid elements clean than to take out the dust from molds of plastic in other products.
Even more configuration options
Regulating the spring was mentioned earlier. In addition, you can also configure the angle of the pedals and brake springs (the force you need to apply to each pedal to use brakes). You can adjust the brakes in just a few minutes with a single tool (provided with pedals).
Order, delivery, assembly
Order pedals from the manufacturer. A courier will deliver them from Croatia. Take a look on the website to check the date of the next shipment – MFG produces Crosswinds in series. Usually, the wait is less than a month.
Pay with PayPal or a bank transfer. DHL delivered my set (to Poland).
Choose one of two colors – light gray and dark graphite.
The price is 256 Euro plus VAT. That is 320 Euro for EU residents or 256 for the rest of the world (customs charges and local taxes may apply).
MFG ships them well protected with styrofoam. Assembling took a few minutes. After plugging them one should download the calibration software and perform an automatic calibration. I do not know if this is necessary – I have done it according to the instructions without checking other possibilities.
I have two comments that can be useful to potential users. Spacers are optional. If the wall is near, and the floor is slippery – I recommend using them – it is a small but smart feature that keeps pedals from moving into the wall in a way that would limit their movement.
The second remark concerns the stability. As I mentioned – in contrast to the Saitek and Thrustmaster, MFGs do not support feet with a large base. This can negatively affect their stability. If you need to increase stability – it is worth adding a base. For a while, I considered a piece of plywood 60-80 cm wide. Give them a change if you have the same urge. It may pass. I have not added the plate and I do not see a need now. I leave it as a suggestion. MFG provided mounting holes.
Milan Simundza, the designer of these pedals, manufactures furniture too and I feel that the product shows hints of coming from under a hand of a craftsman. I can see it in quality, ergonomics, and finish. Coming from a family with aviation traditions Milan is a pilot himself (300 hours), and an enthusiast of simulators.
As he wrote – he created the first pedals for himself, dissatisfied with those he used.
… nigdy nie mogłem wziąć udziału w porządnej walce kołowej z pierwszej wojny światowej z tamtymi pedałami. Szczególnie w moim ukochanym DR1, w którym orczyk jest krytycznie ważny. Szukając nowych pedałów, nie znalazłem nic godnego uwagi, przynajmniej nie w cenach, które były w zasięgu. To było koło 2007 roku i globalny kryzys już trwał, zmniejszając znacznie liczbę zamówień w naszej firmie meblowej. I nagle miałem czas i zapał by zrobić sobie pedały. I zrobiłem. Polatałem z tym pierwszym modelem jakiś czas, ciągle je modyfikując, wyrzucając jedne części i wymieniając je na nowe, aż doszedłem do czegoś co działało nieźle… Ale, potem stwierdziłem, że można je poprawić znacznie, więc zrezygnowałem z pierwszego modelu i zrobiłem coś kompletnie nowego… tak koło 2009-2010… poprawiałem je stale. Jednego razu znajomi wpadli do mnie spróbować lotów wg przyrządów na moim symulatorze – tak dla wprawy. I ich te pedały zwaliły z nóg. To oni przekonali mnie, że można je robić też dla nich, a potem dla innych też. Zmodyfikowałem je jeszcze, żeby dobrze wyglądały, żeby można było je wytwarzać w większej liczbie (na początku to była jednorazowa produkcja). I zaskoczyło. Ludzie dostrzegli korzyść jaką daje mój produkt i w miarę jak kolejni kupowali je, fama się rozchodziła i staliśmy się standardem dla pedałów lotniczych. Tłumaczenie i redakcja – WP.
Before I decided on MFG, I wondered if I really need a toy that expensive. The decision was not an easy one – I used Saitek X52 for a long time and its vertical axis replaced the pedals. Perhaps I would still use it if it were not for the helicopters in DCS. The Z-axis on X52 is usually sufficient for flying a plane but in a helicopter … it’s a poor substitute. I also spent more and more time on military airplanes. Suddenly the lack of precision of directional control was directly responsible for me not hitting my targets when in aerial combat. As Milan mentioned in his story, serious fun in a dogfight (I prefer the Second World War, but the effect is similar) was not possible without pedals.
The first step for me was to buy a cheaper product. “I do not need the most expensive equipment” – I rationalized. I accepted plastic, I accepted a smaller size, but it did not work for me. Sometimes they had an advantage over Saitek (it’s easier to keep the pedals pushed for a few minutes – e.g. while hoovering the Huey), but sometimes it was like I was back to the keyboard controls (Thrustmaster pedals could have been less precise in air combat than Saitek joystick was).
So I read about the pedals. A lot. The conclusion was clear – wherever people seriously approached the simulated flying, MFG Crosswind pedals appeared in the discussion. And everyone praised them.
Change so big…
And they were right!
I switched to the MFG Crosswind pedals, and I felt flying UH-1 Huey in DCS was completely different. A light helicopter lacking stability augmentation systems requires the most precise control. Now I got this helicopter under control. And so was the combat. I was finally able to make tiny adjustments to my aim. And, I am sure, you know how big is the difference between hitting the enemy and shooting past his plane.
The difference is not limited to helicopters and military aircraft. There is also much greater control on crosswind landings. And even in a 747 taxiing with Crosswind has changed.
As I said – this was the biggest equipment related change to my simulated flying.