How’s it shaping…

As we are approaching my self imposed deadline of October pretty rapidly I thought it’s only fair to let you know where we are and what the current outlook is.

The Build Manual is progressing beautifully. We are up to Page 291 and working diligently through the build process. Since the last report we have added the detail on how to cover the fuselage frames, the door design has been significantly improved, the instrument panel assembly described, the seat construction made more robust, the canopy construction detailed, the rudder assembly, control column and elevator control assembly detailed and wonderfully illustrated.

Right now we are incorporating major simplifications to the Force Feedback design of the Rudder and Aileron assemblies. This without sacrificing any accuracy of in-flight representation. We have managed to build the full system into the fuselage rather than having it spill into the support cradle. This makes construction much easier and removal of the fuselage from the cradle very simple and fast.

So when will we publish? Well there are still all the auxiliary controls to describe. These are the components that run along the inside walls of the cockpit and below the instrument panel. Then there’s still  a description of the cabling and electronics and the commissioning process and setups for DSC World, X-Plane and IL2. And then proof reading and cross-referencing all referred to drawings, cutting patterns, bend diagrams, machine drawings and general arrangements. What that means is that I will miss my target of October but it also provides me with great confidence that we will be ready to publish during November.

So in the meantime, herewith a few extracts from the manual for your viewing pleasure….

Sample pages from Build Manual

Preparation of the Build Manual is progressing well and we are up to page 124 and completed the detailing of the Fuselage Frame build.

Various design mods have been incorporated thus far, including the beefing up and improvement of the elevator and rudder trim systems and the canopy slider mechanism.

We are still on target for publication by end October, but again, design and documentation quality will trump over self-imposed deadlines…   🙂

To provide you with an idea of the content please find a few pages herewith.

Build Manual Progress

Just a short post to let you know that we are back in the office and have started compiling the Build Manual. With the previously published Throttle Quadrant numbering over 70 pages, this promises to be a document extending over various volumes. All the experience gained during the prototype build will be incorporated. There will also be a few design improvements most of which have been completed.

This is an extract from the Table of Contents:

Our target is to publish the manual and place the simulator for sale during October, but let’s see how that goes. As always, the required level of quality will remain the most important consideration rather than time to market.

Wrap-up – American Northwest

It’s been an exciting month. First the Aero South Africa Exhibition, then the UK visits and airshows, Ontario Canada, Oshkosh and finally the American Northwest. In between I was able to recharge my batteries in Bonneville, Alberta visiting my daughter. After a 1500km dash into the Washington and Oregon states, I am finally on my way home to complete the task of compiling the Spitfire MkIX Build Manual and Plan Set.

FHCAM Spitfire

Washington State, and in particular Paine Field in Everett, turned out to be amazing. Not only is it home to Paul Allen’s Flying Heritage and Combat Armor Museum, it also hosts the Historic Flight Foundation and the Seattle Museum of Flight Restoration Centre. And if you’re still looking for something to do after all that you can always go tour the gargantuan Boeing assembly facility at the same field!

These were all very worthwhile visits. The FHCAM contains a huge collection of mostly flying WWII aircraft, including a Spitfire and a Stuka Dive-bomber that is being restored.

HFF Spitfire

The Historic Flight Foundation also have a Spitfire and were having a mini airshow when I visited. They had a Bearcat and Avenger up in the air. I was able to have a chat with one of the pilots after the show and introduce the HFS Spitfire simulator to him. He expressed interest and was going to pass on the flyer I gave him to the owner of the collection. So hopefully I will hear from them at some point in the future.

Tacoma in Oregon had a different sort of surprise. During WWII the USA built some 10 bases with massive wooden hangars to house their convoy escort airships. One of the two original hangars at Tacoma still exists, the other having burnt down. It contains an eclectic assortment if aircraft, the star of the show though is the hangar itself.

Tacoma Naval Airstation Hangar

My final call was at the Evergreen Aviation Museum which now houses the aircraft with the longest wingspan ever built – the Spruce Goose. Ironically it is actually built of mainly White Birch, but then that doesn’t rhyme very well 🙂

Howard Hughes’ Spruce Goose

The unique aircraft is immense and was certainly worth the visit.

Now back to business!

Oshkosh

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 🙂 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 🙂

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

Ottawa

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… 🙂

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