Today 85 years ago a legend was born. On the 5th March 1936, Supermarine test pilot “Mutt” Summers lowered himself into the cockpit of Spitfire K5054 at Eastleigh aerodrome and nursed it into the air for the very first time. It is wonderfully appropriate then having the FlyingIron Spitfire Mk.IX for MS Flight Simulator 2020 released today!
While I have been involved in the beta testing of the aircraft today was my first flight in the official release version.
First Flight – PiRep (Pilot Report)
Eastleigh aerodrome is today Southampton Airport. It has changed somewhat over the years. What used to be a nice square field where you could take of in any direction has become a long tarmac runway running nearly North to South. As I lower myself into the cockpit I look at the windsock. The wind is blowing from the Northeast, 045 at 14 knots, pulling the long orange sock almost straight. I will need to be careful with a quartering wind of that strength.
As I settle into the snug space I feel at home. Three years of design does that. Every inch is familiar as I run my hand over the controls. Wonderful… I pull the Sutton harness over over my shoulders and lap, pushing the pin in to lock it comfortably into place. I check for air pressure, sufficient for the brakes during startup and I clip the brake handle into full lock position. Push the throttle forward to activate the electrics and the undercarriage “Down” and Fuel Pressure lights come on. Initial checks done I open the fuel cock and pump the wobble pump about 10 times before the fuel pressure light goes off. Its a pretty chilly 5 degrees out so I give 6 pumps of the primer before locking it. Stick back between my knees, magnetos On and open the covers over the Boost and Start buttons. Mixture cutoff is still off, airscrew control full forward and crack the throttle half an inch. Shouting “Clear Prop!” I give a moment before pushing both buttons with me right hand while holding the mixture cutoff in my left. With a whine of the starter motor the prop swings slowly and I bring the mixture cutoff fully forward before the massive Merlin coughs and bursts into life. Pulling back the throttle I listen with pleasure as the mighty machine settles down and starts warming up.
Taxi of the Spit is done with care. Apply the brakes just a little too much and she will dig her heavy nose into the ground. The brakes are very effective at low speed. Once I got used to the central control handle working in conjunction with the rudder pedal position I much prefer the arrangement to toe brakes. The danger with the latter is always inadvertent application of the brakes while in the heat of the moment, dancing on the rudders during landing or takeoff. (Been there, done that in my Stampe, creates a bit of a pucker moment!).
I line the long nose up on 02 and take a final look at the windsock before gently opening the throttle. The sleek silver body surges forward and I start releasing the back pressure on the stick very gradually. The tail lifts and I am able to catch the swing of the nose with a bit of rudder. There’s that quartering wind again, must keep her straight and the starboard wing down. Suddenly the rumble of the wheels disappear as she lifts gently into the air. Try not to do the beginners porpoise as I switch hands to retract the gear. I keep the boost at 8 and when I reach 1000ft I reduce throttle and swing her around onto a downwind leg for 02. Throttle right back to get the speed down from the 220mph which came on surprisingly fast. Not quite there when I get to base so I do a steep turn and that brings her down to 180 allowing me to extend the gear. I flip the flaps lever at 140 and the nose drops. Adjusting the trim she settles into a nice turning approach at 120mph, slowing down gradually as we approach the hedge. Bit more throttle to keep her at 110, not to much or she will do a torque roll at this low airspeed. Many a Spit lost… Over the runway now and letting her settle slowly, not quite taking away the throttle yet, the heavier Mk.IX still floats a little but will drop you onto the pavement in embarrassing fashion without some power. She settles down nicely in ground effect two feet over the runway, I keep pulling back on the throttle and raising the nose to keep her there. Finally she runs out of airspeed and with a sigh and a small chirp of the wheels rolls onto the tarmac. Wonderful… What! Keep focus! alive on the rudders..Keep that nose pointing down the runway..Keep the right wing down in the wind.. Gosh! that was close..Never relax until you’ve stopped!
Ah the joy! Opening up the throttle she lifts into the air again. This time I head towards Southampton and skim low past the original Supermarine works. Some signs of her past remain.
Then roaring over the roof of the Supermarine Museum where I spent a few happy hours on my trip in 2019.
I open up the throttle and start climbing. And does she climb! As we soar skywards it seems as if it won’t ever stop.
The altimeter rushes past 10000, 11000, 12000..The second gear supercharger light comes on. Suddenly a splutter. What the…! I check the fuel. The lower tank is still full. Things are going awfully quiet now.. What have I missed. Mixture cutoff still fully forward..Throttle full..Pitch fine…Fuel pump on… Fuel..Oh gosh! Fuel pressure! Quickly I flip the Tank Fuel Pressure tap to open and I am rewarded with a deafening growl from the Merlin. Thank goodness.. We continue our journey upwards. Oxygen on. At 30,000ft the world is growing quite small below us.
At 35,000 we are still climbing but boost has dropped right back to -2. The sky above has grown dark and I can see twinkling of stars.
Below I can just see the remains of Tangmere, that oh so very important field during the war. At 37000ft we are still climbing but barely. More worrying is the oil temperature which is almost hitting the stops at 100. So I close the throttle and float along for a while, taking in the wondrousness of it all.
I slow her down by gently lifting the nose. At 70mph she gives a shudder and the nose drops. I put in right rudder and keep her in a stall. he obliges with a slow spin to the right but her heart is not in it. I recover by simply letting the rudders centralise and picking up a little speed before pulling back on the stick. This time when she stalls I let her roll to the left. She likes that. Full left rudder and stick full back and she starts rapidly spinning to the left. Thus the world spins by right down to 10,000ft before I centre the rudder, build airspeed and easily swoop out of the spin, without needing much opposite rudder at all. She really is a pilot friendly aircraft. Pretty boring against the Messerschmidt Bf109 as the German pilots will assure you…
Next I put the nose down at full power as we head for Brighton Pier. The airspeed climbs to 450 in no time at all. I close the throttle but she’s still speeding up and hits the stops at 480mph. I very gingerly raise the nose and she obliges by slowing down to a more manageable speed. We zoom over the waves past the white cliffs at Beachy Head. I can see the light house but it hasn’t actually been modelled yet. Hm??! Oh my gosh. Its all so real in VR I had forgotten this was a sim..
Pretty soon we are flying past Dover Port and I decide it’s time to get back to earth.
Wow. This simulator is just so real, so convincing. The wonderfully talented teams at Asobo, Microsoft and FlyingIron Simulations have offered the world something really special. It is wonderful to be playing a small part in all of that..