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  • Writer's pictureAaron "Ribbon-Blue" Mendoza

Review: Yawman Arrow (2024 Release Version)

Updated: Apr 8

One of the most unique pieces of flight sim gear ever seen



The Yawman Arrow handheld flight controller is one of the most unique flight simulation devices I have ever put my hands on. This review took a bit of an unexpected turn. Turning from the standard “how does it feel and fly” review and into more of a deeper analysis of the device and its concept. This review will certainly be going off of the beaten path, as we tested it in many flight games and simulators it has not previously been advertised for. 


This review was created without any input from the Yawman team. There were no embargos or restrictions in place, though Yawman did ask that if I ran into any technical issues or needed troubleshooting advice, they would be contacted first. No major issues occured, but for the sake of transparancey, this was the agreement.


FlightSimExpo 2023 Infinite Flight Booth
A part of the FlightSimExpo 2023 Infinite Flight Booth

Meeting The Arrow 

This certainly is not a case of shiny new product excitement. Skyward Flight Media first went hands on with the Yawman Arrow at FlightSimExpo 2023. This was the debut event for both the company, Yawman, and their one-of-a-kind controller, the Arrow. 


Yawman Arrow Prototype at FlightSimExpo 2023.
Yawman Arrow prototype at FlightSimExpo 2023.

This controller had its own display at the Infinite Flight booth, where anyone could walk up and try both Infinite Flight and the Arrow at the same time. At first glance, the Arrow somewhat confused me. Its layout incorporated a familiar set of flight controls with the form factor of a well-known game console controller. But after successfully orbiting an airfield and landing a Cessna 208 Caravan with ease while using the Arrow and a PC tablet, it had my intrigue. 


We met with the Yawman team on the last day of the expo, which resulted in exchanging emails and Skyward receiving a review unit in January 2024. 


The Concept 

The company Yawman LLC is based in Carmel, India, United States of America. It was created by Dwight and Thomas Nield (aviation and airline veterans) and Jon Ostrower (Editor-in-Chief of The Air Current). Designed, manufactured and packaged in the USA, the Arrow handled flight controller is the first product from Yawman. 


According to official blog posts from the website, the concept of the controller is ease of access and travel ability while incorporating well known flight control designs such as a trim wheel, trim hat, vernier-style poles and mechanically linked rudder pedal triggers. With 7 axes and 21 buttons to back up the more specialized flight focused components, the Arrow really is standing in a class all of its own. 


That being said, the concept of this controller is so anomalous when it comes to the established expectations of what flight simulation gear is and/or should be, it is something that requires a close analysis to really understand. 


Acknowledging the Price Point 

The Yawman Arrow was originally priced around USD $250.00 during pre-release. For many this was the main point of contention, primarily since the controller itself is so anomalous the price point added to uncertainty about this device. 10 days after its official launch on January 8th, 2024, the price was further reduced to USD $199.00.


Within the announcement of this price drop, Yawman acknowledged that they heard concerns about its price point being out of reach for some people, the uncertainty expressed because of its unproven design and Yawman wanting to keep this controller competitive with existing flight simulation gear. 


However, you cannot say this was caused by failure. The initial batch of Arrow handheld flight controllers sold out the same day it launched. A second batch of controllers was released for sale on January 15th with the price drop happening on January 18th. Customers that purchased the Arrow when it was at its higher original price were automatically given a USD $50.00 refund with no actions necessary from the customer. This certainly does not sound like something a company with a failing product would do. 


At the end of Skyward’s review process for this controller, I can say that the Arrow is worth the price point. There is a lot to explain as to how I came to this conclusion. Let’s continue. 



Design, Unboxing, Feel 

The design of the Yawman Arrow is absolutely unusual for a handheld controller. To those that are familiar with flight controllers, the sliders, vernier style poles, five-way Hat swtich and multifunction wheel are immediate eye-catchers. At a glance, they let you know what the purpose of this controller is. Media showing its mechanically linked triggers in action further raise eyebrows as they do effectively act as traditional foot rudder pedals. This controller is essentially offering the functionality of three major pieces of flight simulation equipment in a single device, for a price point lower than the cost of purchasing all of those devices and needing the space to use them and store them. That is a tall order. 


People should remember that while this controller is trying to provide the functionality of three devices in one, it can still be used in conjunction with hardware like head tracking to further enhance the experience. 



The package of the Yawman Arrow is simple and effective. The box being decorated on all sides with non-labeled diagrams is definitely one of the more memorable packaging designs I’ve seen in a while. In fact, this box is so sturdy and good-looking, I’d recommend keeping it long-term for storage of the controller itself when it is not in use. Heck, you could even use it during travel to keep it protected, since the foam mold in the box does fit the controller like a glove. 


The 2024 release version of the Yawman comes in the color White Sands - a reference to the White Sands Missile Range in New Mexico in the United States of America. Personally, I prefer any handheld device I use to be darker in color since it is less prone to show staining from dirt, grime, grease that any handheld device eventually gathers. I would have loved to get my hands on the dark blue colored Arrow that was shown in pre-release promotional material, but I digress. This isn’t really a huge deal. 



Taking it out of the box and holding it for the first time, its weight is comparable to any game pad for game consoles currently on the market. I was expecting a bit of a lead weight controller because of all the flight specific controls that have been incorporated. I was definitely wrong about that. 


The click, rotation, slide and pull of just about everything available felt good with two exceptions. 


The shoulder buttons felt strangely mushy. It simultaneously feels like I need to press them with a bit more force than you would think is required, while the tactile button click feedback was so minimal I sometimes had to double-check if the buttons were depressed all the way. 


The vernier style-poles are both one of my favorite parts of its design and the most likely to be accidentally snapped off parts of the design. These poles are made of the same plastic the other buttons are. When fully extended, there is a bit of a danger of accidentally damaging them by maybe putting the controller down in the wrong way or the poles getting wrapped around something within the play space. In a future Arrow updated design, I would like to see these reinforced, possibly made of some type of metal. 



The linked mechanical triggers have their own dedicated section within this review, but I can say that these are the signature feature of this controller. They worked quite well, even during intensive use. They mimic the familiar feel and function of rudder pedals well. 


The five-way trim hat switch does feel a bit more fragile than the study thumbstick with center press, but I have no worries about breaking it. Having it used for trim, aircraft camera controls and similar functions is recommended. 


The multifunction six-pack button layout took a bit of getting used to, as just about every game controller since 1995 has stuck with the traditional four button cross layout to some degree. That was more of a mental adjustment for me. Within a few flights using the Arrow I was happy to have these buttons readily available. A big part of this was because they could be reassigned to new functions as needed. 


The position of the USB-C connection was good as it is high away from the triggers, and not in the way of controls I would need to cross my fingers across the pad to reach. By being positioned high on the back of the controller, the USB-C cable also remains out of the way during use. 


Because there are so many non-standard moving parts - the vernier poles, twin sliders and triggers - I would say paying attention to cleanliness and storing this controller properly would be a good move. Do not eat crumbly snacks that could potentially get jammed into this controller or let too much grime build up in these parts. The Arrow requires less maintenance and cleaning than full sized flight equipment, but it is still good practice to make an effort to keep it clean. 


Thorough Testing

The review process for the Arrow was something we really wanted to do in our own way. Since the earliest public introduction of this handheld flight controller, there have been a handful of popular flight simulators the Yawman team paid special attention to support. The frequently mentioned titles are Digital Combat Simulator World, Infinite Flight (Android), Laminar Research X-Plane (PC, macOS), Lockheed Martin Prepar3D, and Microsoft Flight Simulator (PC). It is safe to say that the main demographic of customers are semi-pro or professional flight simulators for this device would primarily find themselves flying in these titles. So these are safe bet titles to ensure compatibility with. They even have well documented profiles for Microsoft Flight Simulator and X-Plane 12. 


Example page from Yawman Arrow documentation.
Example page from Yawman Arrow documentation.

In fact, compatibility is a focal point in what the Arrow offers. It touts the potential to have every button on the controller reconfigured as needed. This allows the controller to easily assign functions that are specific to each aircraft. A very handy feature. You could assume that any personal computer game or sim that could recognize the Arrow via USB could be played with the controller.


This is where Skyward Flight Media’s testing focused. Certainly to test the hardware and functionality of the Arrow, but also to challenge the concept of the Arrow itself. More on this later. 


Here is a list of titles we tested the Yawman Arrow in:


  • Absolute Territory

  • Ace Combat 7: Skies Unknown

  • At Skies Edge

  • Comanche

  • Digital Combat Simulator World

  • Flight of Nova

  • Frontiers Reach

  • GroundFall

  • Infinite Flight

  • Manta

  • Microsoft Flight Simulator 2020

  • Nova Squadron

  • Nuclear Option

  • PCSX2 (Emulation Software)

  • Project Wingman

  • ReDream (Emulation Software)

  • Roger Meatball

  • Simple Planes

  • Strike Fighters 2

  • Tiny Combat Arena

  • The Brew Barons

  • Underspace

  • Xemu (Emulation Software)

  • World of Aircraft Glider Simulator


Many of these titles are clearly not flight simulation titles. Some of the listed names are actually emulation software that lets people play old games and simulators from game consoles from long ago. We tested even more titles through those emulators that are unlisted. The Yawman Arrow worked with every one of them. 


Yawman Arrow.


Justifying the Arrow

Skyward tested the Yawman Arrow in a solid block of unusual titles to use flight simulation gear in. Some may even view it as unnecessary. Many of these are decidedly not flight simulation titles. However, Skyward reviewed the Arrow from the point of view of a potential buyer that is outside the dedicated semi-pro or professional flight simmer demographic. 


Someone that has an interest in simulated flight, may or may not have some flight simulation gear and is having a bit of a hard time justifying the cost of the Arrow, when there are similar sized controllers that could potentially be pressed into service to fly in these same titles. 


A frequent question we have heard about the Arrow since its introduction is whether something niche like a handheld flight controller is a viable purchase. References to larger units of flight simulation gear, like flight sticks, throttles and rudder pedals, could be purchased around a similar price point. Or if the controller is so specialized, you would only be able to use it on what less flight simulation focused users would consider “one or two games”. This is what shaped our perspective when we tested the Arrow. 


After many hours in various titles with a variety of aircraft, I do feel like the Arrow does justify its concept. There is a place for the Yawman Arrow as it made the smart move to be versatile enough to be compatible with non-pure flight simulation titles, while being purpose built for full-fledged simulation titles. 


It is hard to rationalize plugging in a full hands on throttle and stick setup with 30-something buttons to a flight sim lite that could be played with an Xbox Controller. The Yawman Arrow offers similar functionality with the small footprint of a game pad, while being easy enough to use by just plugging in a single USB. 


Also, keep in mind that this controller does fulfill the same functions of a dedicated rudder pedal, dedicated yoke / flight stick and dedicated throttle. Individually buying all those units would cost around USD $800.00 to USD $1000.00, depending on the manufacturer. 


Mechanically Linked Triggers

The star of the Yawman Arrow is undoubtedly the patent pending mechanically linked triggers. Back in 2023, I was obsessed with their feel and functionality. While my feet were accustomed to rudder pedals moving in concert with one another, my fingers certainly were not. I am not certain about how exactly the triggers are linked (nor do I want to dismantle the controller to find out!) but it does feel like there is some type of heavy-duty compression spring in the device. The constant level of opposing pressure while pulling these triggers contributes to the accuracy of rudder pedal inputs. Rather than being able to perform 100% deflection rudder inputs with no resistance or feedback, the counter-pressure in the mechanically linked trigger makes rudder inputs more deliberate and accurate. 


Yawman Arrow mechanically linked triggers.
Example of mechanically linked triggers.

This is great for flight simulators, which are inherently slower paced and rely on precise inputs for smooth flying. Does it work for fast, action packed flight arcade titles? Certainly. I have no doubt that the mechanism itself is designed well and can withstand constant heavy-duty usage. Just from a press or two, you can feel that its build quality is very good. I do not feel as though this part of the controller would fail very easily, even with me rapidly pressing either trigger back to back. 


Personally, I always ask myself if I would want to use these triggers - or more traditionally a rudder pedal - heavily in a flight game that really does not require high precision. It becomes a question of long-term use. As I continue to use this controller for the rest of the year, I will most likely circle back in on this subject specifically. 


A Controller for Adults

While it does look like a controller you would see plugged into a PlayStation 5 or Xbox Series X, I would not recommend letting young people use unsupervised. The D-pad, six-pack buttons and left joystick are quite sturdy. My concern lies more with the trim wheel, vernier style poles, twin sliders, five way hat switch and linked triggers. Setting the linked triggers aside for a moment, the rest of these buttons and switches do feel like they would break if maximum hand strength inputs would be made to them frequently. 


It is not that the build quality is bad, it is because this is something adults would never do; especially those that are familiar with flight simulation equipment. They know it does not take a lot of force to adjust trim, fuel mixture or throttle settings. For example, someone familiar with a flight stick knows they would not need to slam the stick fully to the right to roll, but someone unfamiliar would frequently do this. That increases the rate of wear and tear on the device.  


Someone younger that may mash or pull too hard has a real chance of damaging the more specialized parts of the controller, in my opinion. If a younger person is to use these controls, a bit of guidance to help them understand how to properly use it is recommended. The Arrow really could be used as introductory flight sim gear, but again, some guidance would be needed. 


Higher Fidelity = Better Experience

Something that became clear after three days of testing was that the experience was better the more high fidelity the aircraft being piloted was. This has less to do with the design of the controller itself and more to do with how many systems people can interact with in the aircraft cockpit. The Arrow can keep the most important controls and systems at your fingertips, but attempting to map every function available in something like an Airbus A320 is neigh impossible. Unless you have a full sized flight deck in your home, any device would have problems with this. But, the Arrow does very well since the core systems can be easily managed while looking around the cockpit in sim and manually clicking the systems or using a keyboard. 


Functions like trim wheels, thrust reversers, fuel mixture settings, etc. feel very good on this controller, so being able to use them to their fullest is great. 


Spaceflight

We also tested the Arrow in fictional space environments. Space sims often require even more lateral, vertical and diagonal control than any atmospheric aircraft simulator would. Space simulation rigs regularly have two or more flight sticks, which function very differently from standard aircraft. This can be addressed by assigning some of the buttons on the D-pad to be modifier buttons that activate a second layer of controls (or more layers if needed) when depressed. The vernier-style poles were helpful as reverse thrusters, the trim wheel helped during reentry as we used it for minor pitch corrections, 5 way hat switch was used for the reaction control system to make fine adjustments during flight. 


The most realistic simulator we used to test space flight with the Arrow was Flight of Nova. It presents newtonian mechanics, realistic gravitation and orbital physics, atmospheric density inspired by Earth data, aerodynamic drag corresponding to vessel shape, drag / air friction energy calculations, real-time accurate orbital data and a full-scale body diameter 12’700 km planet. 


With the Yawman Arrow we were able to launch from the surface of a planet, go into orbit, plot a course for rendezvous and successfully dock with a space station. 


Space simulation is not something I have an extensive amount of experience with, but the Arrow supported me enough to be successful. This is an interesting thing to note. 



“Desktop Mode” 

It is not talked about a lot in their promotional material, but Yawman does mention that the Arrow has a “desktop mode” of sorts. They released a short video about this on January 26th, 2024. Holding this flight controller in your hands is the preferred way to use this device, but unlike game controllers of similar design, its triggers and even the multifunction wheel have enough clearance to let the controller lay flat on a hard surface and still have all of its buttons accessible. 


A few cross-country flights I did in Microsoft Flight Simulator demonstrated the usefulness of this feature. During taxiing, takeoff, landing and parking, holding it in my hands felt necessary to me. But during the long legs of the flight itself, laying the controller down onto my desk and flying in this way allowed me to relax my arms and hands while maintaining full control. This was an unexpected way to use the Arrow, but I cannot deny that it worked well. 


Closing

I am a bit surprised at how much I came to enjoy using the Yawman Arrow handheld flight gaming controller. While this was a review, I did not feel as though I was forcing myself to use it. It became very natural to plug this controller in, take a few minutes to assign some functions for the first time and go flying. I am someone that frequently preaches the effectiveness of desk mounts for flight simulation hardware, and I must admit that it was nice using the Arrow in lieu of constantly having to shuffle all that equipment around. 


With its current functionality and price point, it does seem valid to me after a little over three weeks of testing it in titles it was both built with in mind and titles it probably never would be used in normally. I cannot say that I am about to throw out all of my flight simulation gear to solely fly with the Arrow, but I can say that it will be a frequently used part of my collection for sure. 


Skyward Flight Media would like to thank the Yawman team for presenting us with a review unit to create this review and giving us all the time needed to do it in our own way. 


 
About the Writer

Co-founder of Skyward Flight Media. After founding Electrosphere.info, the first English Ace Combat database, he has been involved in creating flight game-related websites, communities, and events since 2005. He explores past and present flight games and simulators with his extensive collection of game consoles and computers.

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