EAA Airventure is an annual aviation orgasmotron which sucks you in and, after a week, spits you out dazed and sated. It is big, it is brash, it is ALL AMERICAN. Tractors haul trailers crammed with sunburnt enthusiasts to and fro while a commentator strategically placed in the rear provides a running commentary on the passing delights ala MGM Studio Tour. Exotic aircraft types keep up a continual hum overhead while announcers whip up the crowds in a patriotic fervour. There are rows and rows of Mustangs, T6’s, DC3’s and…a Spitfire!!!

Not only that, the Kiwis have brought over my next favourite aircraft… a living breathing Mosquito. What a beautiful machine. I have only ever gazed longingly at the dusty wooden shape hanging from the roof of the South African Museum of Military History in Saxonwold, South Africa. Here it was, freshly painted with purring Merlins. Fantastic!

Photo by Colin Addis

If you can tear yourself away from the daily airshows and Shock and Awe, the real value of Oshkosh lies in its tutorial workshops and hundreds of small stalls. Here you find a wealth of knowledge just waiting to be shared.

The experience here has been amazing. The evening airshow and pyrotechnics is unique in the world.

Photo by Kieran Bell

Not least of all the owners of the visiting Spitfire were very interested in hearing about the HFS Spitfire project and requested additional information.

I also met up with Corjan, creator of Air Manager, in one of the stalls. Air Manager will be an essential link in the X-Plane 11 interface of the HFS Spitfire Simulator. Corjan is based in the Netherlands and we had a lovely chat in Dutch (sorry, couldn’t help myself, I am of Netherlands heritage πŸ™‚ What was very positive is that Corjan offered a 50% discount for commercial applications when applied to museums and educational institutions. This reduces the once off cost from Euro800 to Euro400 per licence.

Anyway, I have enjoyed my time here tremendously amongst my fellow South Africans. As per many times in the past, I understand we are the biggest international visitors group this year, again beating the closest competitor, the Aussies πŸ™‚

Plakkersfontein (squatters fountain), the South African camp at EAA Airventure
Oshkosh arrivals over 4 hours! (Note the Spitfire!)


Throughout this trip I have been overwhelmed by the enthusiasm shown for the HFS Spitfire project. My adventures on Tuesday took me to Ottawa to meet with Robert Tang who had kindly agreed to be my tourguide for our visits to Vintage Wings and the Canadian Air and Space Museum. Robert is a teacher at the Lisgar Collegiate Institute and we have been in regular contact around the HFS Spitfire project. He was joined by his colleague Angus who teaches history at the same school.

Robert whisked us through the city under the expert route guidance of Angus, who pointed out the various highlights of this beautiful city on the Ottawa river. Robert shared his fantastic vision for the project; to use the HFS Spitfire as the basis for multi disciplined learning not just at his school but at multiple schools in the region. Ultimately the students would be able to live history through flying online cooperative missions while building fundamental skills in aircraft design, construction and flight. He has been in contact with various institutions to garner support for the idea and assist with putting the necessary resources in place.

Soon we arrived at Vintage Wings, a private collection of aircraft owned by Mike Potter. All the aircraft have a link to Canadian flying heritage and are either airworthy or in the process of being prepared thus. We were shown around by the extremely knowledgeable Claude Brunette.

Vintage Wings with (ltr) Robert, Claude, myself and Angus

It was great to see Spitfire Y2K is also in the collection. She is a MkIX and the only flying Canadian built Spitfire in the world. Interestingly it also served with the South African Air Force from around 1946, mainly to train pilots who would soon be flying Mustangs in Korea.

We were very fortunate in that Mike Potter himself arrived to take his family up in his DH Beaver floatplane. Angus and Claude approached him and briefed him on what we were doing and would he be interested in having a quick look at the HFS Spitfire project. He kindly agreed and joined us in the boardroom where I had in the meantime set up the VR demo. Mike indicated he had only a few minutes available and looked impressed upon seeing photos of the HFS Spitfire prototype. It became really interesting though when he tried on the VR headset. I had started him off in the air with the DCS World Spitfire MkIX over the beaches of Normandy. He was fascinated! His time limit was all but forgotten as he tried various maneuvers, eventually even trying to land. A most pleasing result and speaks volumes about the immersion of the VR and integrity of the modeling. Mike had to rush off but intimated that he had access to various experienced Spitfire pilots who could assist in fine tuning flight characteristics of our Spitfire. Very generous, it would be fantastic to have their input on control forces etc. !

Next we scooted back over the Ottawa to the Canadian Air and Space Museum to meet with Kimberly Reynolds and other staff members. Kim looks after the educational projects of the museum. I gave a presentation on the HFS project and They were very supportive of the project and the educational initiative started by Robert.

When I was going to provide them with a VR demo I was greatly embarrassed to discover that I had left the Rift-S hand controller back at Vintage Wings. Without hesitation Robert and Angus scooted us back there and then on to the airport in time to shepherd me on to my flight back to Toronto.

What a day. What fantastic people. With the likes of Robert and Angus this project cannot help but be a success. Thank you, I feel privileged to know you.

Sim2do, Shuttleworth and on to Canada

I had received an invitation from Kenneth Mockford to visit his Sim2do simulation centre at Mildenhall. So on Saturday morning I met up with Kenneth and his charming daughter Serena.

Kenneth Mockford – Sim2do

Kenneth has converted his passion for flight simulators into his profession, offering from advanced flight training to basic flight experiences. His facilities contain five simulators, all built by himself. These consist of a 737 cockpit, Lynx helicopter built in a real section, a F35, basic flight trainer and also a racing car simulator. He has done a fantastic job in creating these and I was given the opportunity to fly the 737 under his expert guidance. In turn I demonstrated the power of VR and we discussed the HFS Spitfire Mk.IX simulator at length. I felt it was a really productive meeting and we shall see how this develops into the future.

Sim2do’s Boeing 737 simulator, built by Kenneth

The day had cleared up nicely by the time I headed to Bedford, home of the Shuttleworth Collection. What an amazing assembly of aircraft, including the oldest original flying aircraft in the world, a Bleriot Flyer! There is little that compares to the beauty of doped white cotton coverings, polished aluminium and the smoothly varnished warm wood colours of these early aircraft. Both originals and replicas adorn the hangars.

The airshow is a very relaxed affair with spectators picnicking on the lovely rolling green lawns.

Regrettably the older, more fragile aircraft were kept in their hangars due to blustery wind conditions. Nevertheless we were treated to a wonderful show which included a Spitfire, Hurricane and Lysander.

Gloster Gladiator interior

The highlight to me was seeing Alex Henshaw’s Percival Mew Gull flying, looking as fresh as the day he started off on his record breaking London to Cape Town and back flight. An amazing record which stood for more than 70 years and was only recently broken by Chalkie Stobbard of South Africa. The Gull was joined by the sleek red twin engined DH Comet, another race winner of that era. There was also an exhibition by an Extra 300 doing end over end flic flacs and other indescribable things which should simply be illegal in any aircraft! All in all an incredible experience, culminating in two tiny sixties racers zooming to and fro in the dusk.

Sunday morning meant an early start to get to Heathrow and board the flight to Toronto. I stayed over in Hamilton to ensure I could miss the traffic and get in the Canadian Warplane Heritage Museum early Monday morning. I had previously written to them about my intended visit without receiving any response. They have a lovely collection of aircraft including a Spitfire and a Lancaster. It was great to be able to get close to their restoration section, some fantastic work being done there. The shop has an incredible collection of books, well worth the visit on its own. I was very tempted to buy a number of them but needed to restrain myself given airline weight restrictions. They have a super friendly staff who were very enthusiastic about the HFS Spitfire offering. I left some brochures with them to pass on to their management team, hopefully I will still hear from them some time in the future.

Having said my goodbyes I headed for Flight Deck Solutions, based some 30km north of Toronto. Peter Cos and his brother Steve started this business over two decades ago and have grown it to a major supplier of professional flight simulators to various flight training centers and airlines. Even Boeing counts amongst their prestigious list of clients. They are able to produce up to 3 full cockpit simulators in a month. I felt very humbled by the interest shown by Peter in my Spitfire simulation. Regrettably both he and his brother were out of town in various parts of the world to attend to commissioning tasks of some new installation but I was ably assisted by their staff. I do hope however we will still be able to meet at some time in the future.

Solent Sky and Castle Bromwich

Ancestral home to Supermarine, Southampton is a lovely modern city with broad pedestrian sidewalks and buzzing with bistros, cafes and shopping centers. Weaved in amongst modern tasteful apartment buildings the old city walls stand solid in defiance to many wars past. The Solent forms a massive port with huge freighters plying it’s straits. This abundance of water formed the base and inspiration for some of the most beautiful flying boats ever designed.

The Solent Sky museum is the place to visit if you are even remotely interested in viewing one of the fastest, piston engined floatplanes ever devised. The Supermarine S6B is simply a gorgeous machine. The ancestry to the Spitfire is clear. It is the engineering that went into it though that is amazing. The wings have a double layer and engine cooling is achieved by pumping the cooling water through this. The wings are also ventilated internally, having small air intakes in the leading edge. The cockpit is tiny.

How anyone could fit in it is incredible, but then these things were built for speed, not comfort!

At the controls of the Short Sunderland Flying Boat

I spent a good deal of time with the folk there giving a VR demo and having a chat about the sim. It really is a wonderful museum.

Next I headed off to Castle Bromwich. Near what used to be the shadow factory for building the Spitfire and made famous by Alex Henshaw in his wonderful book “Sigh for a Merlin”, I met Mark. He is a lecturer at a local College which is very close to the original works. Mark had noted that there was very little recognition of the importance of the area which has since disappeared and is now part of the Jaguar-Landrover works. He has therefore been doing some great work with his students in keeping the history of the Spitfire alive. We have corresponded over a long time due to his interest in the HFS simulator, so it was great to finally meet him!

The South of England

The last few days have been an emotional rollercoaster. From the exhilaration of the beauty, artistry and sheer genius of the Spitfire design to a comprehension of the sombre and dark days where it had to give account of itself. At stake was not only to save a nation, but indeed to protect the world from a menace which threatened to engulf all individual freedom.

This morning I was looking out over a cold gray Atlantic at the coast of France. I could not help but picture the Spitfire formations, so vividly engraved in my mind over the weekend, rising valiantly to meet the dark armada of evil. For evil it was. There were no gallant knights of the air here. This was a bitter fight for survival.

Capel-le-Ferne Battle of Britain Memorial, near Folkestone. The three white lines seen from above form a huge propellor.

This feeling was reinforced by my visit to the Kent Battle of Britain Museum. There is no joy of flight here. No delight in engineering beauty. Artefacts, twisted and broken, cover the walls. Wrenched back out of the earth, cleaned and tagged with an obituary. It is a sad grave, honouring those individuals who fell from the sky and were embedded in the soil of Kent.

This sombre memory could be lost at great cost to humanity. Millions perished as a result of fascism. We may never allow its resurgence. The rise of populism is a harbinger of tragedy.

But enough of such dark thoughts…

My mood soon lifted when I arrived at Headcorn Airfield. The smell of freshly cut green grass permeated the air while light aircraft regularly took off and landed on this idyllic strip. Here I met the good folk at Aero Legends. Regrettably Ben Perkins, their MD, was not able to attend but his staff were quite engaged by the potential of the HFS Spitfire and Augmented Virtuality.

Original Fieseler Fi-103R “Reichenberg” suicide buzz bomb… More successful amongst the Japanese.. Amazing part of the collection at the Headcorn Museum.
One of many Stampe’s hangared at Headcorn… Sooo beautiful!!!

Then up to Biggin Hill’s Heritage Hangar where their General manager, Darren Dray, kindly agreed to meet with me. We had a great discussion and Darren showed me around their facilities. WOW!! He mentioned they had around 15 Spitfires in the shop in various stages of rebuild and overhaul. It was amazing! Best off all, there was an original (read not Buchon/Spanish/Merlin!) Me109 that they were working on. Incredible visit!


Row of Merlins at Biggin Hill Heritage Hangar

I then made my way down to Tangmere. I thought I would have a quick half hour to look around by the time I arrived at 16H30 (closing is at 17H00) but the crew there were just shutting up shop and indicated that 16H00 was last visitors through the gate. No amount of pleading nor the fact that I had come all the way from South Africa could change this. Ah well, you win some, you loose some… πŸ™‚

Tonight I stay over in Southampton, home of Supermarine and birthplace of the Spitfire. Tomorrow morning I go visit the Solent Sky museum here in the city and then make my way up North.

Southampton docks

Duxford Day 2 and on to the Channel

Sunday at Duxford was another visual and aural delight. The second flying day of Flying Legends is probably a day you want to attend if you couldn’t make the Saturday. It lacked the fantastic Red Arrow display of the day before and dare I say it, “only” 12 Spitfires flying instead of the previous 15. And thus we get spoilt!

The Simply Spitfire MkIX.. Simply stunning!!

All 5 of the Buchon Me109’s were out and, together with the Spit’s, were weaving entrancing figure S’s across the sky to the delight of the crowds. They would come diving in from behind, presenting fantastic photo opportunities across the crowd line before zooming up into a wingover to do it all again. Fantastic! I will post photos once I have sorted through the 600 odd I took over the the two days πŸ™‚

I had arranged with Steve and Terry Arlow of Simply Spitfire to bring along my VR kit and gave them and their crew a little demo flight in the DCS World Spit. I think they really enjoyed it πŸ™‚ I was also given the opportunity to sit in their MkIX cockpit. It really looks stunning and they have done an amazing job. Not only that but I believe there is also a MkII on the way! Now all they need to do is couple up some basic controls and allow visitors to sit in the cockpit and fly in VR… That would be something!

Yours truly in the SS MkIX
Happiness is…

Tore Larsen contacted me on the Saturday evening to let me know his two sons would be there Sunday and it would be nice if we could meet. Tore has a fantastic MkIX cockpit he has built in Norway and finished it off with an HFS Malcolm Hood. It was really good to be able to meet up with them and have a bit of a chat. I told them that they should not mention it to their father, but from what I can see, his sim could really use some of our HFS components… hehe πŸ™‚

I set off for Manston airfield near Margate today to meet up with Robert Westbrook of the Spitfire and Hurricane Memorial Museum. Not only do they have a beautiful static Spitfire and Hurricane there, they also have a really nice Spitfire cockpit set up.

It is ideal to provide the broader public the opportunity to experience flight in a Spit. The controls have all the required functionality and are nicely harmonised. Best of all, Jerry who is a WWII veteran pilot with many aircraft types in his logbook, provided me with instruction. I felt extremely privileged to be able to spend time with this man who is in his nineties yet as spritely as they come. After having made a bit of an “arrival” on landing their sim ( I managed to stall it in three point attitude while still 5 feet above the ground) Jerry was very kind to mention that any landing you could walk away from was a good landing πŸ˜‰

Next I set up my little VR demo for their team and all found the experience amazing.

Jerry trying out the VR

Who knows, there may be an HFS sim flying there some day to provide a more advanced type of experience to those who wish it. I would be thrilled. As it is, I think Robert and his team are doing an amazing job!

Simply Spitfire

Duxford Day 1

With Terry and Steve Arlow of Simply Spitfire

Wow, what a day! There are times in life when your mind fails to take in what lies before you, it is simply too stupendous to comprehend in one sitting. I experienced that once before when first standing on the rim of the Grand Canyon. Today was another such day. 15 Spitfires parked in a line along the flightline. Another three in front front of The Aircraft Restoration Company, later to be joined by the Silver Spitfire. This was aviation porn on an incomprehensible scale…!!! And it only got better from there…

I arrived early, at about 7h15, only to find out that the gates only opened at 08h00.

Almost first in line!

While looking at the queues forming rapidly, imagine my surprise when I overheard the two gentlemen in front of me conversing in Afrikaans. Turns out they are from Pretoria (some 60km from Johannesburg which is where I stay in South Africa. Daan and Danie are airline pilots with Comair and were also on a Flying Legends RIAT binge trip! We had a lovely chat and I was pleasantly surprised that they had heard about the HFS Spitfire MkIX Cockpit from a friend who had attended the AeroSA airshow!

After having been overwhelmed by the flightline walk I happened past the Simply Spitfire MkIX. What a beautiful piece of work, built by Terry Arlow over very many years. I had been in contact with his son Steve Arlow through the Facebook Spitfire Projects group. He had mentioned he would be at Duxford and it would be nice to meet. He also mentioned that “they would be there with the MkIX ” Not until I saw their Spitfire did I realize the connection and what he was referring to! What a nice young man. We spent a very long time chatting, also with Paul, another enthusiast Spitfire cockpit builder from Belgium. All so very interesting! I will introduce Steve and Terry to the Virtual world tomorrow by taking my demo kit along. I am sure that they may benefit from making something like that part of their Spitfire experience offering πŸ™‚

Next I was hugely excited by discovering Romain Hugault had a stand and was selling various books and artworks at the show. I am a huge fan of his work. If you haven’t come across the name, Google it!

Not only were his works for sale but the man himself had popped in for a book signing session. We had a little chat and I explained what I was doing with the HFS Spitfire. Imagine my surprise when he not only signed my book but set about drawing a beautiful MkIX for me! I am so chuffed!

Romain Hugault drawing my Spitfire MkIX
The man is such an artist!

Next up I met David Jandečka, who had come to Duxford from the Czech Republic with his charming lady friend in part to meet with me. I am deeply humbled. David has been building the HFS Throttle Quadrant and I guess we must have done something right for him to say that. Well, I was relieved he hadn’t come over to beat me up! πŸ™‚

Then the flying started. 15 Spitfires in the air! Amazing!! And it went on and on. So many rare and wonderful aircraft. Total sensory overload. Don’t know if I will be able to survive tomorrow!! πŸ™‚

Cost estimates published

With the completion of the prototype Spitfire Mk.IX Simulator Cockpit we have been able to tot up the final numbers:

Of course this is dependent on your local conditions and available services and could swing either way as a result.

Once you have purchased the plans you can schedule your expenditure according to your requirements, purchasing your requirements on an as needed basis.

The base pricing for the portions supplied by HFS, i.e. the plans, SLS Nylon parts and Malcolm Hood, is in US$.

Exchange rates for the other currencies will vary and therefore the GBP and CAD costs are indicative based on recent exchange rates.

The turnkey (ready to run) simulator cost needs confirmation and is option dependent. So drop us an email if you would like to have a quote.

Aero South Africa – What a response!

I am truly humbled by the response we received from our visitors over the last two and a half days. Thank you to everyone who made the time to visit us at the Aero South Africa Exhibition and thank you for your interest and wonderfully encouraging response. I also have to thank my wife Caroline who valiantly made time to take everyone through what Heritage Flight Simulation was about and explain the Spitfire offering while I had my head down providing hundreds of Virtual Flight demonstrations. Also without my daughter Kathryn pitching in on Saturday we would have floundered in the midst of all the interest.

Of course the kids loved the VR and all flew pretty well in the DCS World Spitfire. Talk about the Playstation generation!

What struck me the most though, was the reaction from real world pilots. We had many visiting our stand, including retired and active airline, commercial and recreation pilots. Without exception they were the ones who were truly gobsmacked. I could not have wished for better! I believe the experience in the actual cockpit will be unsurpassed.

We had a Visitors Book going where individuals could register their interest in being notified when our Spitfire Experience at Krugersdorp Airfield is up and running. This is expected to be towards the end of this year. The experience will entail an hour of tuition in the HFS Spitfire Mk.IX cockpit with a qualified instructor from the Aviatech Flight Academy. This will encompass basic operational procedures such as start-up, taxi, take-off, basic manoeuvres and landing. Upon booking you will be sent the Spitfire Pilots Notes in preparation. Eighty six people have already expressed interest by signing up in the book! Many left comments as well, such as “Fantastic!” “Love it!” “Can’t wait!” “I want one!” and “Amazing!”

Thanks again!

Here follow a few pics from the preparations and the exhibition…

Loaded for the trip to Wonderboom Airport
Ready for opening day
After the second day with my lovely wife Caroline. Her calm ways got me through all this!
My wife Caroline and daughter Kathryn….What a team! Thanks ladies!!