Reilly Brennan lives in San Francisco but will always be a Detroiter at heart. He is the Executive Director of the Revs Automotive Research Program at Stanford and teaches a class on heroes and Dale Earnhardt at the Stanford d.school. He created a car photo thingy called Carmagnum.
I never laid eyes on an airplane yolk until a summer job in high school had me cleaning the greased underbelly of a Beechcraft Bonanza at the Oakland Troy Airport. I worked for Robert F. Byrne, an unbelievably cool guy for his 75 or so years, with an absolute crackshot mind and a love of women that pervaded all of his conversations like that of a 12 year old boy. A V-tail Bonanza was his commuter plane for all his various adventures and mischief to Florida, the Bahamas or wherever he pointed his yoke.
There was something special about the yoke in the Bonanza that I never forgot. It was white plastic and done in an elegant, spare way. In the last twenty or so years I’ve had eBay fantasies about hoarding a few hundred of them in a secret room somewhere. What I find fascinating about airplane yokes is the sheer diversity of interfaces and control shapes given the uniformity of the task. While some of the images you see here introduce more electronic controls into the experience, all the yokes are controlling the ailerons similarly but they look radically different. Compare these to automobile steering wheels, which are almost 99% the same shape.
Below, a smattering of some recent finds, from the rugged to the sophisticated. Enjoy. (Above is a Grumman S-2).
Cessna 336 Skymaster:
Beechcraft Bonanza Straight 35:
Avion — front and back because it’s so fruitshaped and wonderful: