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.
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!
Really nice to see this excellent build coming together from one of our builders in Australia!
Superb looking instrument panel
Seat- great reproduction of the original paper based composite colour
Panel wiring looking superb
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.
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.
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!
60mm fan mounted outside the cockpit
Vent inside the cockpit mimics position of original vent box
Vent box is designed to direct airflow toward the pilots’ face
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.
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.
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.
Scanned comparison – Profile
As a result we were able to refine our design before having a new mould made.
New brow design
New brow mould design
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 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!
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.
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.
Arrival of the kits
Sorting the round aluminium profiles
Opening the treasure trove
Mild steel laser cut parts
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.
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!
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.
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!