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!
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.)
By the 4th January 2021 AformX had received their CNC routed plywood and the 3d printed nylon 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.
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.
Eastleigh in 1939
Spitfire Mk1 at Eastleigh
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..
Amazing how quickly time flies when you are having fun! Here we already at the end of the second month of the year… The year has started off with a bang and we have some great news to share.
First off is AformX who are building an HFS Spitfire cockpit for the PARK OF MILITARY HISTORY PIVKA. We were hugely pleased when Saso Knez of AformX approached us late last year and purchased a build license and kit set. Saso and his team are very experienced simulator builders, having built some 30 VR based Pipistrel simulator training cockpits already. They have also built a MIG21 simulator for the museum in the past which has become a very popular attraction in the park.
The team’s experience really shows in the speed and quality of the build. In just over a month they have made some remarkable progress. They also adapted the fuselage length, making it longer and incorporating the radio access hatch. Here are some pics of their build taking shape.
The build is causing great excitement and the museum has posted the following article (roughly translated from Slovenian with Google Translate):
“SPITFIRE FLIGHT SIMULATOR IN MILITARY HISTORY PARK IN SPRING
The Supermarine Spitfire went down in history as one of the most famous, beautiful and famous aircraft of all time, and in battles in the sky it was also distinguished by exceptional aerodynamics and excellent maneuverability. During the Second World War, the mentioned planes also operated in the Slovenian sky. One of them, the Spitfire MJ116, piloted by guide Peter J. Clark, crashed on Ižanska cesta in Ljubljana in September 1944. The uninjured pilot managed to bounce back in time and land safely on the outskirts of Ljubljana, while the plane crashed soon after the fatal hit and sank into the swamp ground over the years. In 2019, on the occasion of the 75th anniversary of the downing of Spitfire, the Archaeological Research Consortium for Ljubljana, on behalf of the Museum and Galleries of the City of Ljubljana, successfully carried out the first part of lifting the remains of the aircraft. In the second part of the research, the archeological team managed to extract the heart of the plane, the famous Rolls-Royce engine Merlin 63. The excavated remains were then transported and exhibited in the Military History Park.
A permanent exhibition is also planned in the Park, and a new and technologically advanced flight simulator will be set up in the immediate vicinity of the wreckage of the aircraft before the summer. The simulator is being developed by the renowned Slovenian company AformX, which already has an extremely popular MiG-21 flight simulator among visitors in the Park. The new simulator will represent an upgraded and even more unique experience, it will be placed only a few meters away from the original Merlin engine, the cabin will be in a 1: 1 ratio, and visitors will be able to fly over photorealistic Slovenia using VR goggles. At the same time, it confirms the excellent cooperation between the Military History Park and the young company AformX from Trbovlje and the encouraging news of the year, which will be full of uncertainty and additional challenges for the entire economy, especially for museums and tourism.
From the hands of AformX soon in the Military History Park! New flight simulator with the legendary Supermarine Spitfire!
In what has been a bit of a breakthrough we have been able to secure the 203 off SLS Nylon printed parts at an all-in price of €1700-00 (that’s about US$2000 and less than half of the Shapeways cost). That should reduce the cost of the overall build from around US$10k to US$8k, so quite a saving.
We have been able to do this by having nested the parts and taking up a full build block from the manufacturer.
The parts will be made on an industrial scale HP Jet Fusion 5200 Series printer in a grey PA12 Nylon. This gives a beautiful finish, greater toughness and slightly higher resolution than the EOS based SLS Nylon PA12 which you get from Shapeways. Shapeways itself charges a considerable premium (almost double!) for the HP process.
This link provides some more info on the printer, materials and process:
To wrap up with the announcement for this blog, we are SOOO excited about the imminent release of the FlyingIron Spitfire Mk.IX for Microsoft Flight Simulator 2020! We have been involved in the Beta testing and I can honestly say, it looks stunning and flies really well. It is early days for MSFS2020 development and so the full version with all the controls functional is not yet possible, but all the essential functions are modelled and it is joy. She’s going to be wonderful to fly in HFS cockpit, I cannot wait!
Our motto: “Making Historical Flight Accessible” is underlying to the tagline in our website address: “We shall remember them”. Through our work we wish to not only share the beauty and joy of flight, but importantly, pay tribute to the millions who took up arms to defend us from the dark insanity that was sweeping the world . It is our mission to ingrain that knowledge in generations to come, so that we may never allow the forces of tyranny to sow their dark seeds again.
The year of 2020 has been a tough and sad one, with many lives and livelihoods lost.
This Last Post is dedicated to all of them. (This tribute, recorded at the Menin gate, Ypres, is performed there daily by a team of local buglers.)
The year has fortunately brought us many blessings and high points too.
We managed to sell 24 Build Licenses for the full HFS Spitfire Mk.IX Cockpit and have been thrilled to see a number of these builds rapidly taking shape.
We managed to move our business to Ireland in spite of the difficulties imposed by travel restrictions and lockdowns.
We have obtained a wonderfully atmospheric building in which to set up base and build on what we have started by sharing the wonderful experience of flight and keeping history alive.
We have made many new friends who share our interests and have been extremely supportive and encouraging of our efforts.
For this we are very grateful.
The world may never be the same again, but we enter 2021 with great expectation and excitement. There are many things happening which promise to make it a great year. So while this is our Last Post for 2020, it is also our Reveille for 2021!
2021 – a year full of promise!
VR for Microsoft Flight Simulator 2020
There are some fantastic developments in the world of flight simulation. Not least is the coming of Virtual Reality in MSFS. I am waiting with great excitement for the download to become available in the next hour or so while I write this. Not only that, FlyingIron Simulations will also be porting our jointly developed Spitfire Mk.IX to the platform. I can tell you from flying their beta that nothing will beat cloud surfing in MSFS with the HFS Spit in VR!
G-Force Seat Update
The HFS G-Force Seat design concept is complete. It is looking great and will provide 4 seat air cushions and activated lap and shoulder straps.
The design uses a very simple and cost effective approach, using readily available components.
The prototype will be built in the new year before the designs are published in an update. It will be suitable for all existing and future projects. The design pictures tell the story:
3D Printing Upgrade
Other exciting news is that we will be lowering the current printing cost of the 203 SLS Nylon printed components. All this while improving the quality and ease of purchase!
Our Shapeways shop, while providing good quality printing has been a nightmare to work with. This is because each component has to be added to the order basket individually. Their system can also only handle 100 items per order so you would need to place 3 orders, each with shipping cost, and then request for them to be shipped together. Despite many interactions with their management, we have not been able to change this.
We are happy to say that that we have established a supplier relationship with a printer in Italy who has been very accommodating and well priced to boot. Not only that but the printing is done with HP Multijet technology, which provides a premium finish to the end product. (Shapeways charges a significant premium for HP Multijet printing so we never went that route).
In future our builders will be able to place their order with me for the full package and their components will be drop-shipped from Italy. We are busy reducing the cost which is pushed up by the minimum price of multiple items by binding them together with tabs and sprues. This will allow them to be priced as one article rather than say 10 switch levers. The following is an example of the gears and other items held together with a sprue:
It requires quite a bit of extra work from our side to join these models together and each part needs to be numbered with their assembly number for purposes of identification. Once done however it will make life easier and cheaper for everyone. Expect to have this ready by the new year.
The HP Multijet gives a very nice finish as evidenced by these samples. It will mean that when paint wears off it will leave an authentic looking cast iron finish:
European Supplier of Plywood Flatpack Kits
One of our builders has indicated he will be offering plywood flatpack kits to Build License holders of the Spitfire Mk.IX cockpit. Contact us for more details.
DCS World Developments
Finally Eagle Dynamics have provided a few glimpses of their new clouds. This looks very promising, as does one of their new models in particular….wink…heheh… We look forward to this greatly!
I cannot phrase it any better that Nick Grey of Eagle Dynamics:
Have a safe and Merry Christmas and we look forward to the New Year!
It has been 2 months to a day that we arrived here on the beautiful coast of the Emerald Isle. In that time there have been some major developments which I am very excited to share with you today!
Heritage Flight Simulation Centre
We are creating the HFS Flight Simulation Centre where you will be able to experience the wonder of flight through the magic of Virtual Reality.
An agreement is being finalised on a physical home for Heritage Flight Simulation here in the sunny South East corner of Ireland. This will also provide a wonderful opportunity for all to come visit our workshop, have a cup of coffee and see how the Spitfire Mk.IX HFS Cockpit looks and works and how it is built.
For those wishing to train in or simply experience the Spitfire Mk.IX cockpit we will be taking bookings. HFS Build License holders will be able to do so for free 🙂
Manchot Design: Make In Workshop
As some of you are aware, Heritage Flight Simulation is part of Manchot Design Limited, my company now being registered in Ireland. We will be making available our workshop equipment and design expertise to others at minimal cost. Anyone who wishes to give expression to their creativity will be able to do so without having to invest in expensive equipment of their own. Other than what you would normally expect from a well equipped workshop, there will also be a large CNC router able to process full plywood sheets, a professional 3D FDM printer, workspaces with high speed WiFi and more to come.
More on these and other exciting developments coming soon!
A number of our HFS Spitfire Cockpit Build License Holders have been kind enough to share photos of their progress. I am so very impressed by the quality of all these builds!
Seat Support Frame
Seat and Armour Plate – The seat cushion has a Realteus ForceFeel pad incorporated!
Fuselage taking shape
Earlier photo of fuselage
It is so nice to see this new build taking shape!
Fuselage – early
Fuselage – current
Fuselage – current
Fuselage – early
Excellent labelling work
Now here’s something you don’t see every day..Builder 012 is also busy with a full size, flying version of the Spitfire Mk.IX.. It helps to practice! 😉
We will be relocating to Wexford, Ireland from South Africa in the middle of August. It will take a few months to get our new premises established but this should not affect any of online activities. We are looking forward to being more centrally located and will be able to offer more direct services to our European clients. We are also looking at the possibility of taking the prototype cockpit over to the UK for the airshow season next year. Otherwise, visit us in Wexford for a cuppa and to experience the magic of flight first hand.
21 Licenses – We have come of age!
We have reached quite a milestone having issued Build License No.21
We have also shipped 8 canopies and seven metal, spring and moulding kits to various parts in the world. For those interested, a few kits remain available but anyone interested will have to wait until they have been shipped and unpacked in Ireland. Note too that it may take a while before I am able to restock given our relocation.
G-Force Seat Progress
The next step in the development is coming along nicely. We have elected to utilise air wedges instead of flaps/paddles for the g-force seat in order to prevent any pinch points. The four slave wedges will be inserts in the seat upholstery. The air will be pumped from four master air wedges which will be neatly located in the wing cradle. The setup will use SimTools to control electric actuators which compress the master air wedges at the appropriate moment to simulate g-forces. In addition there will be a belt tensioner which tensions and slackens the seatbelt. The effect is created when, for instance, you go into a loop; the two bottom slave wedges inflate while the seatbelt slackens, providing the feeling that you are being pressed down into your seat. In contrast to a motion simulator which can only provide this sensation for the briefest of moments (and costs megabucks), the pressure is sustained throughout the loop. The activation of the airwedges) whether inflating or deflating) and the seatbelt tension, also provide sensations of sway, acceleration, deceleration and roll.
We are also working on the development of a proper leather cutting pattern for the seat upholstery which will capture the look of the original while providing G-Force functionality.
Flying Veterans give thumbs up!
I was privileged to have two very experienced aviator friends come over to try out simulator. One of them is an RAF veteran with a huge diversity of aircraft in his logbook. I was very fortunate to have done my training on the Stampe under his expert tutelage. Each flew a mission in the new DCS World Channel Map. In addition to some expletives there were gasps of wonder and much fun was had. I think the pictures tell the story…
Fitment of Wing Fillet undersides
It’s been a while but I finally got around to fitting the undersides of the wing fillets. The very elegant shape is now complete (other than some paint required).
My next post will hopefully be from the Emerald Isle.. Stay safe everyone!
I am pleased to announce the release of Rev 1.5 of the Build Manual. Thanks for everyone’s help in continuing to improve this product. As you know it is a significant piece of work and feedback is extremely important and much appreciated.
A significant change has been on the electronics side. I have much simplified this with the use of Leo Bodnar joystick cards which has the following advantages:
You can run any simulation program off it, the cockpit is simply a large (or in this case 2 large) joysticks as far as the computer can see.
There is no duplication of electronics for different simulators
There is no interference between electronics systems
The Leo Bodnar cards have their own push in terminals, so no more barrier terminal blocks required
The Force Feedback system still runs of DCS-BIOS and hence is limited to that simulation currently. We are however working on running this off SimTools which will make it available to X-Plane and IL2 as well, among others.
In addition, this will make the forthcoming G-Seat modification work on all those platforms too. That is the next exciting step in this development!
So, I have been working on improving my video techniques, so hopefully this one is a little better than the previous video 🙂
Nevertheless, what I am trying to show is the fidelity of the HFS Cockpit systems and how beautifully they interact with the DCS World Spitfire Mk.IX. Here in the following video I demonstrate the start-up procedure for the Spit. It’s a little rough, I really need to work with a checklist off a kneeboard until I become really adept at the process and checks required. It’s enough to get the engine going however.
The Intro photos are from the Wally Brunton collection of the South African Air Force No.4 Squadron in Italy, 1945. Maj. M.V. ‘Wally’ Brunton was the OC. No.4 Squadron, Italy, 1945.
This year is the SAAF’s 100th anniversary!
Dedicated to all those brave South Africans who gave their all in the fight against tyranny. As you can see from the photos they came from all walks of life in South Africa. We shall remember them…
We are extremely pleased to be able to share with you a demonstration of the HFS Spitfire Mk.IX Simulator in action. In this video you will see a short mission in DCS World using the lates WWII Normandy scenery. We hope you have as much fun watching it as we did making it!