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!!

 

We have a Spitfire…

The physical build of our Spitfire Mk.IX is complete. Next week we transport it to Wonderboom Airport near Pretoria, for the Aero South Africa exhibition. I have to admit, I am very proud of the outcome.

A week after the show I leave for a whirlwind tour of various Spitfire related events and venues, taking in Flying Legends, Royal International Air Tattoo, and the Shuttleworth Collection plus various museums in England, then over to Canada, taking in Toronto, Ottawa, briefly to the US for Oshkosh, back to Edmonton and then Washington State in the US. Scheduled back here after the first week in August. If anyone wishes to meet, let me know and lets see what we can arrange.

We will then couple all the wiring and electronics. I am extremely excited to then finally be able to fly her!

There are a few design mods I wish to make around the mounting arrangement of the potentiometers for the trim wheels and possibly beefing up the seat raising mechanism before I finalise and make available the plans.

I will try report from the Aero SA exhibition, in the meantime for your viewing pleasure, herewith some pics of the completed cockpit!

 

Prototype Build Volume 4 Part 3 – Auxiliary Controls

Something really unique about the Spitfire is that, in sharp contrast to the beautiful exterior, the interior was a jumble of what feels like almost ad-hoc add-ons. Controls have been placed where there was some space. Copper tubes and cabling lay everywhere in a steam-punk jumble. This in stark contrast with aircraft like the P51 Mustang or FW190. This photo of an unrestored Mk.VIIIe HF illustrates the point:

MkVIIIe HF (unrestored)

With all the auxiliary controls in our HFS cockpit having been fitted, ours still looks somewhat bare in comparison. However, once we connect all the electronics there will be many cables running through the cockpit , all adding to the atmosphere!

Here for your pleasure a few pictures of the interior before refitting the seat and doing some cabling and copper tubing refinements.

 

 

 

 

Our progress now allows us to focus on refinement of the different design elements and getting ready for the Aero South Africa Exhibition.

Prototype Build Volume 4 Part 2 – Flying Controls

The last week and a half have seen most of the major components come together. The windscreen brow was cut out of its vacuum pull and fitted. It’s great the way it has made the whole of the windscreen structure quite rigid.

The rear glass was also cut and fitted. This completes all the glass component installation. The final fit-ups for the wing fillets were also done and the fillets painted.

Rear glass fitted

All the aluminium 2mm Bend Diagrams were completed and bending done. This resulted in a flurry of spray painting πŸ™‚

Hanging out to dry…

Work could then begin in earnest on the centre pedestal including the finalisation of the control column, rudder pedals and elevator centring mechanism, with these all having being in place today.

32 days to Aero SA…!!!

Prototype Build Volume 4 Part 1 – Take a seat!

Thought I should share how we have progressed over the last week. The seat and support frame have been completed and it looks every bit the part. With it installed the cockpit shell has suddenly been transformed. Sitting in it, albeit without any of the controls mounted, one gets a sensation of what it must feel like sitting in the real aircraft. Soon, it will be almost indistinguishable from really being there.

The seat height lever operates as per the original. It is interesting to feel the different working heights of the cockpit and how it affects the view out to the front. I fitted two 350N gas struts (the original had spring cylinders), but the forces they introduced to the frame were a little unsettling so I decided to take them out again. I am not sure what the spring force on the original is but I think I will tune them down to 100N each and see if that is manageable. As it is, the seat moves easily without them if you press your back against the rear and move the handle. Only a minimum of leg input is required.

The door has been completed and installed. Again, the latching mechanism is as per the original, and operates very smoothly.

Door completed and fitted

The column too is starting to take shape nicely.

Column work in progress

I have received the double mould for the windscreen brow section and had 4 clear acrylic pieces pulled from that. Next I will be cutting that out for fitment.

Windscreen brow double mould

 

Prototype Build Volume 3 Part 3 – Windscreen and Canopy

Some things just require more work and attention than others. The assembly and installation of the windscreen and canopy being a case in point. First, having assembled the windscreen, you need to ensure that the canopy edge matches absolutely when it is closed. So you need to assemble and install the canopy before you can fit the windscreen. You can then line the whole lot up, mark off, offer a prayer that all is good, remeasure, check again and finally commit to drilling the coaming holes.

This week has been somewhat nerve wracking in that way…

Happy to say that all seems to have come out well though.

Here are some pics and descriptions of the build this week:

Laying up the windscreen

The drilling and trimming of the Plexiglass canopy is potentially a hazardous exercise, the plexi being very brittle and prone to cracking. Using a Dremel tool at 25000rpm+ however ensures that the material melts before any stresses are induced and makes the task a lot easier. I started off using screws for the assembly however this does not clear the rear of the cockpit, so had to revert to rivets. Great care needs to be taken here to apply only the lightest pressure as the canopy will crack if you don’t.

I used a system as per the original Spitfire which incorporated bronze slippers running in the canopy rail. As I could not find bronze I substituted this with brass. Regrettably the sliding action is not sufficiently smooth, so I will redesign the mechanism with nylon rollers as used in the popular Vans RV sliding canopies.

I could then line up the windscreen with the canopy in full forward position before doing the final drilling and fixing of the coamings. The windscreen is now firmly mounted. I am still missing the top eyebrow section of the windscreen. For this I have designed a mould and have assigned a plastics vacuum forming company to manufacture it and vacuum pull a few samples. Along with the canopy, coamings and some machined parts, this will be something that I will make available at reasonable cost to prospective builders.

The instrument panel has been fitted to allow the final positioning of the internal coamings, gunsight carrier and gunsight dimmer bars. Again a painstaking process to ensure everything lined up correctly. I am very happy with the way this is coming together.

Instrument panel, internal coamings and gunsight carrier installed

Work has now started on the door. The design needed some modification to ensure that the canopy rail remains unobstructed. The machined parts for the door latches are looking great.