2022: The future is here!

The year has started on a very firm footing with exciting news from various quarters. These new developments in Virtual Reality, simulator software and our own hardware will push the boundaries of our experience.

LiDAR and Augmented Reality

First off and most notable must be integration of LiDAR technology into VR headsets. LiDAR (or Light Detection and Ranging) is a method for determining ranges by targeting an object with a laser and measuring the time for the reflected light to return to the receiver.

The cost and size of the technology is reducing significantly, we now have it available in consumer products such as the iPhone 12 and 13 Pro.

By incorporating it into Augmented Reality headsets it allows objects within a certain range to be excluded from the VR world and overlaying it with the real world. The real world image is shown by use of stereo vision(thus 3D) video cameras.

What this means to our HFS cockpit builders is that you can see the physical cockpit and your hands and body while, with the distance set to just outside the cockpit, you have the the virtual world outside your canopy.

This can already be done using the VARJO XR3. It provides pixel-perfect real-time occlusion and 3D world reconstruction. The cost of this is currently prohibitive at around €6500 (with the required base stations) plus an annual subscription fee of €1495. The point though is that costs will come down as the technology is incorporated into other headsets. The Apple AR HMD is mooted to have this already and will be releasing either late this year or early next year. No doubt others will follow soon.

Implications for our Spitfire Mk.IX Cockpit

We will be providing our Build License holders with a design modification during the course of the year which will allow them to retrofit working gauges into their cockpits should they wish to do so. These gauges will work with the DCS World Spitfire Mk.IX and with the FlyingIron Spitfire Mk.IX for X-Plane. With suitable AR enabled headsets they will allow you to view the Real World cockpit while the Virtual World will be seen outside the canopy.

This also opens up the opportunity of running the HFS cockpit with a full surround screen, however that washed out 2D projected technology now becomes distinctly outdated.

View your real world cockpit inside the virtual world with LiDAR enabled headsets

Merry Christmas!

We would like to wish everyone a joyous and safe festive season and thank you for your support over the year.

What a year it has been! Having just moved our operations to Ireland we managed to find, procure and prepare reasonably priced kits to smooth the way for our builders: https://heritageflightsim.com/kits/

With the use of our kits it was possible for AFormX to complete their stunning Spitfire for the Pivka Museum in just over 3 months! https://heritageflightsim.com/2021/04/21/third-hfs-cockpit-complete-and-what-a-beauty/

It has been a tremendously popular attraction providing 300 to 400 Spitfire experiences per month to visitors over the last 8 months. It is a testament to both the workmanship of AFormX and the fundamentally sound HFS design that it did so with minimal problems.

The HFS Spitfire arrives at Pivka Museum

The year also saw the number of Build License holders rise to 48. They are based as follows:

  • Europe (24)
    • UK – 12
    • Ireland – 1
    • Netherlands – 3
    • Belgium – 1
    • France – 1
    • Czechia – 1
    • Slovenia – 1
    • Norway – 4
  • Middle East (2)
    • United Arab Emirates – 2
  • Africa (1)
    • South Africa – 1
  • Australasia (15)
    • Australia – 9
    • New Zealand – 6
  • Americas (6)
    • Canada – 2
    • USA – 4

Our builders have graciously shared pictures of their progress and I cannot help being amazed by the fantastic craftsmanship inevitably displayed. These latest photos from one of our builders in Australia:

During this time we have settled in to our new headquarters in Blackwater, Ireland. We look forward to being ready for opening the flight experience facility in early Spring.

Check-in for a First Class experience!

We look forward with great excitement to 2022. Until my next post, stay safe!

Control of 2-way switches in DCS World

With much of The Hangar interior now decorated I have (at last!) been able to work on the HFS Spitfire prototype cockpit again. It has been hugely satisfying to see her come back to life. It’s also gratifying to know that the move from South Africa by road and on the high seas, with a further 8 months in storage, have not had a detrimental effect. Everything still works beautifully!

My first task last week was to change the two Arduino Mega boards to two Leo Bodnar Joystick (LB) cards. Previously I had used the two Arduino’s to run DCSbios. That program works very nicely but exclusively with DCS World. The LB’s are necessary to give the flexibility to run the simulator cockpit in other simulation programs, notably the HFS/FlyingIron Spitfire in X-Plane and MSFS2020.

The co-developed HFS / FlyingIron Spitfire in MSFS2020

For this I had to redo the wiring from the terminal block in the front to go into their assigned positions on the LB’s. What I had not anticipated was the 2 way switches, which I had managed to get working so nicely in DCSbios, were no longer being seen properly. It is unfortunately the case that DCS World cannot judge by itself whether a switch is on or off. It requires a signal to tell it that something has happened. This means that when a switch is ON and then turned OFF, nothing happens. Only when a switch is turned from OFF to ON will it pick up the change. So if you start up the simulator in “Cold and dark” format with for instance the Magneto switch in the ON position, it will show the switch as Off. Now if you switch the switch OFF, it will still show Off in the sim. Switch to ON and the sim now knows the switch is On. Switch it OFF and the sim still shows ON. In order to show the switch as OFF you now need to switch to ON again and so forth. HORRIBLE!

In order to cure this I tried various offerings, including vJoy which creates a virtual joystick which then needs to be controlled by something else again for the correct keypresses, in my case I tried Joystick Gremlin. In spite of some excellent tutorials in the DCS World user groups, for which I am very grateful, and some careful programming, I could not get it to work properly.

I am therefore most grateful to Avantar for having created RS Mapper! It runs in the background and recognises the current switch position and provides a very simple way of assigning keyboard presses to the change of a switch status. In DCS World it is possible to assign keyboard commands for say that magneto switch used in the example above. So within RS Mapper I would set Button 7 on the Leo Bodnar card 1 to [RCtrl-R] when the button is released (the switch is switched OFF) and [RCtrl-T] when the switch is switched to ON. In DCS World for the Spitfire control settings I would assign (RCtrl-R] to the keyboard action of “Magneto No.1 OFF” and [RCtrl-T] to the keyboard actions of “Magneto No.1 ON”.

As you can see you still need an action to determine the key position within DCS World. So if the switch is OFF and you do a cold and dark start the switch is also off in DCS. Turn the switch ON and you will see it turn On in DCS. If the switch happens to be OFF when you start off in flight, the switch will be On in DCS. If you then switch ON the switch will at least remain On in DCS and from there get back into sync.

Hopefully someday EagleDynamics will be able to take the hint and have a chat with Avantar to ask him how he did his code, it would be so much nicer having the functionality built into the sim than always having to find workarounds. In the meantime, I hope this helps others.

That said, it’s great to be back in the air in the HFS Simulator!

Builders Update, Windscreens, Canopies and Force Feedback

Build 012 Progress

Really nice to see this excellent build coming together from one of our builders in Australia!

New batch of Malcolm Hoods

Last week the batch of 6 canopies from a UK supplier of real world Spitfire Malcolm Hoods arrived. We managed to procure these at a good price point and are very pleased with the result. What is particularly gratifying is that the canopies match our tooling exactly, proving the accuracy of our own model. Five of the canopies are already spoken for but we have one available. Contact us for further details should you be interested.

Malcolm Hoods all in a row…

Windscreen Brows now ready

Our batch of 50 new windscreen brows have finally arrived. The quality of the new mould is superb and really vindicates the time, effort and cost to get there. They are available at €70 each to Build License Holders.

New windscreen Brows in 3mm Plexiglass (two to a panel)

Force Feedback – Let it blow!!

One of the elements that hugely increase immersion in VR is wind. We have been working on and completed the design of a wind blower system that will work on two fronts, one external and one internal. The external units are two 140mm high efficiency fans mounted either side of the windscreen. They will blow once the engine starts up and while the canopy is open. The wind force will increase as a function of propeller revolutions. There will also be a yaw effect in that the side towards which the tail is yawing will have a higher velocity blow. The external units will be mounted on swivels so can be moved out of the way when not being used.

When the canopy is closed the external units will shut off and only the internal unit will work.

The internal blower will also work off the prop revs and be powered by a 60mm fan. The design mimics the vent used in the real Spitfire, being positioned just under the forward right cockpit coaming, in our case though the vent blows toward the pilots face. We have already produced the units and will be fitting them to the prototype in the next few weeks, so I hope to report on their efficacy in the next post!

New Windscreen Brow Mould

This week saw the arrival of our new Spitfire Mk.IX Windscreen Brow mould. That’s the clever little curved glass screen that sits above the Armoured Windshield.

Our previous mould was very nice but did not survive the journey by ship to Ireland, the MDF base having picked up moisture and developed a hairline crack in the finish. Not serious, but enough to create a light mark on the vacuum pulled clear acrylic.

Hairline crack visible on original mould

It presented an ideal opportunity to relook the original design and see if improvements could be made. We were assisted in this by Brett, one of our build license holders who also runs an amazing prototyping and restoration outfit near Melbourne, Australia called RRET (Restoration Reverse Engineering Technologies). Brett has an original complete windscreen and did a scan for us by which we were able to make a comparison of our design to the original.

Brett’s build with original Spitfire MkIX windscreen

While there is obviously some difference in functionality between a wartime cast armoured window and a replica for an Augmented Virtuality cockpit, the scan proved the accuracy of our design.

As a result we were able to refine our design before having a new mould made.

We commissioned a specialist tool and die maker in the UK to fashion a new one out of aluminium. This was cast in rough form before being CNC machined and mounted. The result is a work of art.

The finished new brow mould

The mould has been sent to our vacuum forming supplier and we are very excited to see the result in acrylic in the next week or two!

Spitfire Build Manual now available as Soft Cover Book

The HFS Spitfire Mk.IX Cockpit Build Manual comprises 520 pages. As many can attest, this is a lot of printing. We have now made the task easier for you by publishing the manual in A4 soft cover book form. It has turned out to be a magnificent work that is equally at home on your coffee table as it is in the workshop.

Pricing is €35 which compares very favourably with if you were to have your local copy shop run off an (unbound) print (expect around €70). Shipping will be charged at cost . The printing is done at Lightning Source and shipped direct from the UK.

The book is only available to Build License Holders.

Contact us for your copy.

New metal kits in stock!

Part of the new consignment of metal part kits

License holders will be glad to hear we have new kit stock and it’s looking great! The kits are for all the lasercut aluminium and mild steel parts, both flat and profile sections. Our new supplier based in the UK has done a magnificent job and we are able to offer these kits at extremely competitive prices. Please contact us for details.

Some of the trickier bends have also been done with a CNC bending machine. This was done on 14 of the parts in total. The quality of the result looks amazing.

Our Spitfire arrives at it’s new home!

The Spit arrives at HFS Blackwater!

We have been so busy with putting in place the next phase of Heritage Flight Simulation’s development that we have had very little time to post all the news.

We last said our bon voyage to the prototype HFS Spitfire Mk.IX cockpit in August 2020. After journeying by road and ship I collected her from Dublin in November. The Irish Light Aviation Society (ILAS) very kindly agreed to let me store her in their hangar near Wexford. I was finally able to fetch her at the end of last month and she is now installed at the new Heritage Flight Simulation facility in Blackwater. We look forward to seeing her run soon!

 

Poetry in Motion!

FlyingIron Simulations and Heritage Flight Simulation have made it to the cover and index page of PC Pilot Magazine!

The review of our Spitfire Mk.IX for MSFS leads with the title of “Poetry in Motion” and rates it an exceptional 95%. We are extremely proud of our contribution in creating this exceptional aircraft simulation.

 

The reviewer, Derek Davis, sums the simulation up as follows: “In short, FlyingIron’s rendition of this iconic aircraft does not feel like any other Spitfire simulation I have flown before. It’s such an immersive audio and visual experience that, coupled with the photorealism of Microsoft Flight Simulator, you almost feel like you are flying in a real Spitfire. Very highly recommended”

To read the five page review and interview and a whole lot of other interesting articles besides, head on over to your nearest bookstore to pick up a copy or you can get it digitally here: PocketMags

And don’t forget, you can pick up a copy of the simulator here at FlyingIron Simulations or on the in-game marketplace of MSFS.

 

 

Third HFS Cockpit Complete..and what a beauty!!

Yesterday the AformX HFS Spitfire Cockpit arrived at the Pivka Museum in Slovenia. This is the third complete Heritage Flight Simulation cockpit, after the prototype and the one at The Aviator Experience in Tauranga, New Zealand. It has been a pleasure working with Sašo Knez and his most capable team over the last few months.

The official handover will be taking place in time to come and will be the subject of a separate post, right now I would like to share with you the timeline of this amazing build. They have done an exceptional job in just over 3 months.. a stunning achievement!

The AformX HFS Spitfire arrives at Pivka Museum on 20 April 2021

Sašo Knez, co-owner of AformX and Chief Test Pilot at Pipistrel Aircraft contacted me in November of last year for information on building the HFS Spitfire Mk.IX simulator cockpit. They placed their order on the 17th November. Ongoing problems with Shapeways (they provide a good product but ordering the required 203 parts is a monumental pain) had me rethink the supply strategy and got me on to our new supplier Weerg in Italy. (You can now order the package direct from myself at a fraction of the Shapeways price 🙂 The Shapeways shop remains open as an option for now however.)

The AformX Team

By the 4th January 2021 AformX had received their CNC routed plywood and the 3d printed nylon parts.

4 January 2021, receipt of the CNC routed parts

I was able to send off their metal parts kits, mouldings and canopy on the 14th January and it was in their workshop by the 21st January. Now work could begin in earnest. The following photos provide a timeline of the amazing progress achieved.

5 January 2021

 

6 January 2021

 

8 January 2021

8 January 2021

18 January 2021

21 January 2021 – Arrival of the HFS kits

22 January 2021

25 January 2021 – note the extended fuselage in order to incorporate the radio hatch and aerial

25 January 2021

25 January 2021

25 January 2021

28 January 2021

1 February 2021

1 February 2021

5 February 2021

5 February 2021

9 February 2021

17 February 2021

 

24 February 2021

24 February 2021

24 February 2021

25 February 2021

18 March 2021 – Note the Pipistrel simulator in the background. AformX have built and supplied over 30 of these already.

18 March 2021

18 March 2021

21 March 2021 – Note the riveting detail added! Amazing work!

23 March 2021

23 March 2021

20 April 2021 – Complete!