For many years now, Saitek have been producing high fidelity hardware for many platforms, and recently with the release of their Pro Flight Range, sales of FS specific wares have been boosted significantly.
The Saitek Pro Flight Switch Panel was announced in 2008, and release followed soon after. It is compatible with Windows 7, Vista and XP. It is compatible for FSX, however users have played with the SDK to produce an interface, which caters for FS2004 compatibility too.
The Panel is obviously designed for general aviation aircraft, perfectly suited for Carenado’s excellent range of high-definition aircraft. However, it is still able to work in tandem with commercial aircraft, such as the PMDG 747-400X, Captain Sim 757 and others.
I bought my panel from ebay for around £50, however they can be picked up cheaper depending on where you go. It arrived boxed and sealed, just like it would be if it were purchased from Saitek’s official GameShark store.
Upon opening the box, you’ll discover various important
documentation, and a “Pro Flight CD” which contains the Saitek
SDK (Software Development Kit), which allows for various
tweaking of the Panel. However, I haven’t really used this CD as
it’s horribly complicated, but the advanced computer wizard
could always give it a shot. The package also contains some
Allen Keys, spare nuts and bolts and also some Velcro Straps,
which can be used to attach the panel to your home cockpit
The Switch Panel itself has a solid plastic construction, with metal rivets holding all in place. The Panel plays host to 13 rocker switches, one landing gear lever and one magnetos rotary switch to start the engine of your bird. The Panel also shows off three gorgeous LED lights, which glow green/red depending on the condition of your landing gear. I have personally mounted my panel using some wood, metal brackets and screws into my home cockpit setup, which I find to be brilliant for my simulation needs.
You can fix the panel to your desk using the supplied Velcro strips. If you already own a Saitek Pro Flight Yoke System, you can also mount the switch panel on top of the yoke unit using the screws provided.
Installation is painfully easy, it’s a simple plug ‘n play type
product (unless using FS2004, in which case the special
interface is required).
The Panel works in real-time with the Sim, which means if you
turn, lets say, the pitot heat on, the Sim will react in
real-time to this and the relevant switch will be moved in the
|Starting the engine with the Panel is realistic to perform.
After ensuring the fuel cock is on, simply rotate the magnetos knob to START, the return to BOTH after the engine has started.
As said before, this will happen in real-time with the Sim; to the starter knob on your aircraft (in FSX/FS2004) will move at the same time.
The Landing Gear Lever is one of the main parts of this panel.
Simply moving the Lever up will begin transition of the gear in
the Sim, and you will be informed of all progress via the 3 LED
lights next to the lever.
|Gear in transit with combinations of red, amber and green lights|
Saitek have configured the panel to give the Simmer (rocker) switches for alternator, battery, avionics, fuel pump, de-ice, pitot heat, cowl flaps, panel lights, beacon, strobes, navigation lights, taxi lights and finally landing lights. Each switch, with the exception of the two master switches (alternator and battery, which are red), is black with a white outline, with a clear label written underneath.
Another thing that’s great about the Panel is the fact that it is virtually lag free. Now I would only class myself as a medium to moderately advanced PC user, so I don’t really know if hardware does cause frame rates to drop very often, but the Panel just runs silently in the background, not interfering with any applications or programs whatsoever.
However, no review would be complete (and fair, for that matter) without looking at some of the few negative aspects of this product.
One of my main nags is that Saitek refuse to ship the product with FS2004 compatibility and support. The interface that I mentioned before is brilliant, but Saitek have not endorsed this as an official part of the Switch Panel, so if you’re experiencing FS2004 problems then support is limited.
Another problem is that the product doesn’t really come with a lot of mounting options. Two double-sided Velcro straps are supplied, along with a few screws. But that’s it. I had to personally mount my Switch Panel in an overhead style, using my own brackets, countersunk screws and materials, which to be honest Saitek could have provided.
There is another “thing” that some people may find annoying. I call it a “thing”, because it’s not really a problem on Saitek’s front, it’s just a problem with how the switches themselves look.
In a real general aviation aircraft, the master switches, light switches, de-ice and cowl flap switches all look different. However, every single switch on the Panel looks exactly the same, except for some colour variation on the master switches. However, I must admit that if I were to write more issues, I’d practically be clutching at straws to find some. The issues stated above are only minor, and do not really detract from the Simulation performance itself.
Another positive is that this switch panel is a reliable,
cheaper alternative to some of the other Panels on the market,
such as the ones by VR-Insight and GoFlight. The nearest
VR-Insight equivalent, the M-Panel, is well over double the
I think it’s time to start summing up the review now. I’ve spent many hours (hundreds since purchase) flying in the Sim with this Panel, and not once has it malfunctioned/refused to co-operate with me.
It’s a brilliant piece of kit. Low-priced, effective and fun! It really brings a new hands-on experience that you’ll find yourself grinning after retracting that landing gear, or after hearing that gorgeous combustion engine kick into place upon your command.
The SDK is a neat piece of software, but it runs like something that NASA donated to Saitek. Overcomplicated, but useful if persistence is what you give. The software has the potential to do great things, and will do if operated correctly.
Thanks for reading!
Overall, this Panel is a must-have for any Simmer who loves a hands-on hardware experience. Reliable, affordable, useable. Good job Saitek!
- Easy to use, plug ‘n play style hardware product
- All the important switches are there, and all move/turn correctly
- Always works, hardly ever a problem experienced
- Well priced
- SDK allows for software to be developed for the Panel
- What Simmers need
- Lack of mounting options that ship with the product
- Not much in terms of FS2004 compatibility/support
- All rocker switches look exactly the same, bar the masters
My score - 8.5/10