Microsoft Flight Simulator has finally come to the Xbox, and if you’ve already taken to the skies you’ve probably realized two things: the Xbox controller isn’t the best tool for flying, and there are no affordable wireless flight sticks available for the console. Instead of tearing up their pilot’s license, Akaki Kuumeri’s solution to the problem was to design and 3D print a complex accessory that piggybacks on an Xbox controller, turning it into a flight stick.
What’s most impressive about this hack is that there are no metal parts or gears or even screws anywhere in its construction. Aside from a few drops of superglue, it’s entirely made from PLA plastic (polylactic acid) which is the easiest and most affordable material to use in a 3D printer. The flight stick’s design takes advantage of plastic’s ability to bend again and again without deforming or snapping, and Kuumeri uses thin sheets of the material to create fully functional plastic hinges that recreate the feel of a more complex ball joint like most joysticks use.
Plastic linkages relay the circular movements of the flight stick to one of the joysticks on an Xbox Series X controller (which required the flight controls to be remapped to the gamepad’s right joystick) while the thumb buttons at the top of the flight stick translate presses to the action buttons on the controller as well, allowing throttle, flaps, and even the aircraft’s trim to be all controlled single-handedly. And the add-on doesn’t require any modifications to the controller itself. It was designed using a 3D model of the gamepad so it simply snaps onto the side and securely stays attached until it’s removed.
It doesn’t look like Kuumeri has any plans to sell finished versions of their flight stick accessory, but they have put the 3D models and files for sale on Etsy for $30 for anyone wanting to print their own, with compatibility promised for Xbox Series S/X controllers, as well as those that shipped with the Xbox One. Kuumeri claims it’s an easy print and there are no support materials that have to be removed or sanded away afterward, but they warn that “you will need to have a well-tuned printer for the joints to have proper tolerances. Otherwise, you will have to fine-tune your print settings, or sand and shave some of the parts.”
To ensure your printer is up to the task, Kuumeri has also provided a free version that can be downloaded through Thingiverse. It’s a simplified version of the flight stick accessory that lacks all of the button linkages (it only interfaces with a single controller joystick) but if you’re able to successfully print and use it, it guarantees you won’t have any problems 3D-printing and assembling the $30 more advanced version.