Getting a grip..

Another week and more important milestones achieved. We managed to complete machine drawings for the mild steel and aluminium components and sent them out on enquiry. Hopefully we will receive quotes during this coming week. We also placed orders for the sheetmetal laser cutting and marking and for most of the fittings. These include component such as clevis forks and the likes.

In between all of this we have completed the painting of all the SLS Nylon 3D printed components. We have also started assembling these as far as we can.

I am very pleased with the way the spade grip has turned out. The areas which represent metal were painted with standard fibreglass resin to provide the necessary smoothness. The Dunlop Crackle, the pattern of which has been beautifully crafted into the print, was coated with a paint on rubber insulation. This provides a wonderfully tactile feel and looks great.

The firing buttons have had their internal pushbuttons installed and while the central spring is still required, work very well. Pressure on the top gives machine guns, bottom the cannon and centre you can feel both are activated.

The gunsight is shaping up nicely too. I installed the mini potentiometers and the movement of the Range and Base dials are very smooth. The safety pad has also been coated with the liquid rubber insulation. There is still quite a bit of work remaining on this, including the glass components and engraving.

Gunsight WIP

The wobble pump is coming together and was also first given a coating of resin. After painting in black some silver wear highlights were added and it is difficult to distinguish it from a real metal pump.

Wobble Pump WIP

Exhibitions, promotional tours and … Progress!

Its been two weeks since my last confes…ehm… post! and I thought I better just let you all know what’s been happening 😅. (how do you like the pic of the FlyingIron Simulations Spitfire for X-Plane 11? Alex and Dan have just released a fantastic update!)


I am happy to report that we finished all the sheetmetal DXF cutting patterns a week ago and got that off for a quote at our laser jet cutting supplier. It’s a major milestone and amounts to 330 pattern drawings, each with its engraved component number and where applicable bend lines and limits, also to be engraved. The sheetmetal is of different thicknesses and material, as per the following:

Sheetmetal DXF Cutting and Engraving Patterns

While waiting for the quotation we started the Aluminium Profiling Drawings. The Square Tube drawings have been completed and we also have completed the cutting and drilling of these of these profiles.

Some of the Square Tube Profile Drawings
Completed aluminium Square Tube Profiles

We have also managed to paint the chair and do a little further work on the painting of the SLS Nylon printed parts.

Painted seat – Upholstery to follow
De-ice pump and metering gauge

Exhibiting at Aero South Africa 4 to 6 July 2019

Exciting news is that we have booked a stand at Aero South Africa which is going to run from 4 to 6 July at Wonderboom Airport, Pretoria. Aero South Africa runs in partnership with Aero Friedrichshaven. We hope to be exhibiting our completed Spitfire Mk.IX Cockpit Simulator.

So….the challenge is on!

UK, Canada and US Tour

Further news is that we have arranged a promotional tour to coincide with Flying Legends at Duxford and the Royal International Air Tattoo in the UK and then on to Canada, EAA Airventure at Oshkosh, USA and also the Northwest of USA. We will be visiting various museums in these areas to discuss our project and give VR demonstrations. More on this in a next post…

Prototype Build Volume 2 Part 2 – Adding some colour

Over the last week we have been having a great time painting. We started with the fuselage, first taping off with masking tape all the surfaces that will receive the fuselage covering. Using a white universal water based undercoat we sprayed the wooden frame. It was my first attempt at spray painting anything bigger than a model and, having watched various videos on technique (thanks Youtube!) I started with trepidation. My fear was unfounded as with a reasonable amount of care the paint applied very nicely.

Universal undercoat applied

I have used the Tamiya XF71 as my cockpit green colour. It seems to be closest to what I could find on original paints. This being a Mk.IX Spitfire, the shade is a little darker than the early models. I was able to take a painted sample of wood to my local friendly paint merchant and after much trail and testing came up with an exact match. I now have the formula for achieving the correct shade in a water based PVA (Latex) paint.

Cockpit Green!

This paint was a little thicker than the undercoat but after thinning it with about 10 percent water it applied very nicely.

It is so nice the way the structure is now starting to look very much like the original

The painting has brought the sandwiched construction to its rights, the flat colour highlighting the details such as the lightening holes.

Structure coming into its own

Of course, I had to trial fit the throttle quadrant…

Spitfire Mk.IX Engine Hand Control

We have also had a go at painting the Nylon components. The XT3 Resin turned out to be unnecessary. It is very thick and in future I will rather use a normal fibreglass resin should I wish to get something really smooth. The XT3 tends to cover up important detailing. That said, I found that the uncoated SLS parts take paint beautifully without any further coating. I use Tamiya water based acrylic model paints and the colours lay on very nicely and smoothly with a brush. The following images give an idea. Lots of fun being had with this (and in between the creation of the sheet metal cutting patterns continues!


The instruments and the compass have had their decals applied but still need their clear plexiglass covers. In spite of not being finished, they are starting to look really good 🙂

Instruments with faceplate decals, glass still to follow
Morse Switchbox was not coated in order to preserve fine details. Looks great nevertheless!
Undercarriage Control Valve Block with one 1/4″ BSP hose fitting in place
Rudder Trim Wheel paint is complex but coming along

The Hood is Good!

I mentioned in an earlier post last week that we potentially had some good news on the Malcolm Hood. Typically these are made in the UK by specialist firms. A quote I received in July of last year amounted to GBP850 (US$1130). It was therefore important to find a means of making these considerably cheaper for our simulator.

The Malcolm Hood is just such an important part of the look of the Spitfire, we had to get it right.

The good news is that we have manufactured a batch of six of these locally. It still needs to be shown that we can manufacture them consistently with good quality. It remains more of an art than a science. If we can, we will be offering them at a significantly lower price point (read less than half).

We have manufactured ours from 3mm clear Plexiglass. This is the common thickness used for gliders and general aviation aircraft. The Spitfire typically uses 5mm but is subjected to considerably more force (500mph wind?!!) than our simulator!

I am therefore happy and proud to share a few pics of the hoods, including one which has been loosely placed on our prototype build. Looks rather handsome, methinks…..

Update to Terms and Conditions

As a result of a query we have received we have updated the Terms and Conditions which were perhaps a little onerous for our Throttle Quadrant.

It has always been our intention to allow the plans to be used for building a commercial simulator. Purchasing a plan set allows you to build one throttle quadrant (or simulator when those plans become available). You may use that simulator for commercial purposes, e.g. for a museum. (note however that as we have no control over build quality we cannot accept any liability for accidents or injuries that may occur as a result).

Another bit of news is that it is now only possible to log in to the site with your USERNAME (so please don’t use your email address, you will be locked out). This is as part of our ongoing security processes. If you have any problems logging in or other questions, please contact myself through use of the Contact Form.

Prototype Build Volume 2 Part 1 – SLS Nylon Components Received

We are entering the next phase of our build having received all 200 SLS Nylon 3D printed components. It is exciting and most gratifying to see how everything just works straight out of the box. Components clip together effortlessly and work beautifully.

Morse Code Signalling Box showing perfect fit of parts and fine detail

In this example we are displaying the Morse Code Signalling Box assembly. Internally the electronics components, in this case 3-way rocker switches, slide in and work beautifully. The custom recreations of the position switches clip perfectly onto the M2013 switches.

Morse Code Signalling Box internal view of the rocker switches

The SLS Nylon PA2200 is incredibly strong, having a tensile strength of 48MPA and it can take up to 163degC. You can find the full specifications here.

Our components have been printed in white, which will provide the best base for painting. The finish is slightly grainy and porous given the laser sintering technique. Hence we will be painting the objects with a resin base coating to give it a smooth finish. We will be trying out the XTC-3D product for this, which is readily available.

We will be coating our parts with XTC-3D to provide sealing and a smooth finish

Once the protype build is complete, we will be making all the components available through our shop on Shapeways.

We will be providing regular updates on the progress of the finishing and detailing of these parts. However the priority for now is to complete the DXF cutting patterns of the metalwork so that we can get those into manufacture. We have completed the 119 parts to be lasercut cut from 0.9mm aluminium sheet and have started on the 2mm sheet patterns. Only around 220 to go!

Numbering complete!

We have made steady progress over the last two weeks. The numbering, adding of metadata and checking of all components has been completed. This has allowed us to extract all the SLS Nylon 3D printed pieces and start generating the sheetmetal DXF files. We have also made good inroads into the development of a bespoke, low cost Malcolm Hood.

STL Files all generated

An STL file has been generated for each of the 200 SLS Nylon components. They have all been uploaded to Shapeways. These will be made available for purchase once the Prototype Build, Plans and Build Manual have been completed and proven correct and functional.

Generation of sheetmetal DXF files in progress

Our design contains 330 sheetmetal components as follows:

  • Aluminium Plate
    • 0.9mm – 119 pieces
    • 2.0mm – 134 pieces
    • 3.0mm – 14 pieces
    • 4.5mm – 44 pieces
  • Mild Steel Plate
    • 2.5mm – 19 pieces

A DXF cutting file is created for each of these components. The file is layered to allow engraving of the part number and bend lines prior to cutting. The images below illustrate this for component number 08-03-04-15:

Those components that require bending will also each have a bending diagram to provide guidance on the bend angle and direction.

Malcolm Hood Manufacture

Great news is that we have progressed significantly with the manufacture of a low cost Malcolm Hood. It will be made with 3mm Plexiglass. This is the standard for GA aircraft, hence should be suitable for use on a real aircraft. We have fabricated the necessary tooling and I hope to be able to report on further progress in my next post.

Malcolm Hood 3mm Plexiglass

Prototype Build – Volume 1 Part 5: Wood build completed

This week saw the completion of the wood components build, other than the covering which will be done when the internals are complete. There also remain a few bits and pieces related to the canopy but these will have to await the fabrication of the metal parts prior to gluing up.

Completed seat pan with fibreglass covered back

The seat pan was redesigned as I was not happy with the 6mm plywood seat back. It just looked too flimsy for what will need to be a very robust construction, so now the whole pan has been redone in 12mm plywood. I also incorporated a few tabs in the sides, bottom and front that now provide accurate assembly guidance points and additional strength.

Keyed construction assists simple assembly

The rear of the seat requires careful filing and sanding to incorporate the correct angle offsets. Here a 12″ sanding disk is a heaven sent. The rear supports provide the correct angles when gluing it up.

The seat back was then covered with fibreglass to provide additional strength and durability.

The balance of the work consisted of the gluing up of Frame 9 and then finishing the related intercostals. The antenna mount which doubles as the seat belt harness anchor point was also installed.

That concludes the building for the time being. We need to finish off the numbering and application of metadata for the metal and 3D printed nylon parts before we can generate their cutting, bending and printing files and drawings. There are still 800 to go out of the 2000 or so, so all shoulders to the wheel to try finish that in the coming week! It is soooo much more fun to build 🙂

Prototype Build – Volume 1 Part 4: We have a fuselage!

It’s been a week of hard work but I am amazed at how well everything has come together. I set out to design something that could give the pleasure of building a life size model of the Spitfire Mk.IX, as one would a small scale model plane out of a kit. I am happy to say that that was exactly the experience!

A lot of the time spent was simply waiting for the epoxy glue to harden, which could take anywhere between 12 and 18 hours. If I had unlimited workspace I could have done a lot more things in parallel and things would have gone even faster still. However I want the prototype to be built in a home workshop in order to experience the same potential problems customers may have.

The parts fit together beautifully. It was a delight to be able to simply drop the screws in place for the instrument panel in order to set the distances correctly for the panel supports. The translation from the 3D Cad model to the cutting patterns has gone extremely well. I am preparing assembly drawings as I proceed, picking up on pertinent points to be noted in the Build Manual. So hopefully that will be nearly ready for publication when the prototype build has been completed.

We have captured the weeks build on a time lapse camera and has resulted 1,5 minutes of video 🙂 You can check it out here:

Week 1 of the build caught on camera

The intercostals remain to be placed which I will do over the weekend, except for Frame 9 which will only be placed once the rudder pedals are positioned. Other than the seat, the door frame and the canopy supports that just about concludes the wood part of the build. Now we will focus on getting the rest of the numbering and checking done (900 to go out of a total of 2000 odd components!).

And then we start preparing the platework cutting and bending patterns. In the meantime we can make aeroplane noises while sitting in the cockpit!

Prototype Build – Volume 1 Part 3: Start of Cradle Assembly

CNC Lab have done a stunning job of the routing and we were able to collect all of it yesterday.

Who thought you couldn’t fit a Spitfire Cockpit in a Landrover?!!

Fortunately all fitted very well into the Landy. The routing was all done with a 3mm bit, even the 21mm plywood. This has resulted in an excellent finish and very accurate drill hole sizes. It is wonderful what CNC Routing, laserjet cutting and 3D printing have done for the engineering industry and hobbyists particularly. It allows absolute accuracy of your bespoke components at reasonable cost. All it requires is accurate 3D modeling. And that is hopefully where we at Heritage Flight Simulation earn our keep!

Beautifully made main and flying instrument panel backings (will have an aluminium cover)

The parts are so accurate it is a doddle to do a quick dry fit of our first task, the cradle. Here my able assistant Caroline can be seen holding up Frame 11 (which originates from a previous test of waterjet cutting plywood) on the dry fit cradle bits.

The CNC routing is so accurate I cannot but be amazed at how beautifully everything lines up.

Anyway, that was yesterdays fun 🙂 Today we set up a time lapse video camera which hopefully will capture the build from start to finish at 5 minutes per frame. That should have us complete the build in about 10 minutes. Of video…heheh!

We have also started gluing up the box sides and wing spars of the cradle.