Spitfire replica flying control project

A post from EAF79_Topsy about his project to create working replica Supermarine Spitfire controls for the PC.

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We have our first ‘Guest Post’ today from EAF79_Topsy. Topsy runs Spitfire Histories and is passionate about the Supermarine Spitfire please pay his site a visit and show your support for this project. He is a relative newcomer to 79 Squadron, joining last year. He’s a valued team member and is developing into an effective pilot in all three sims.

The Spitfire replica flying control project came about because of my interest in the immersive aspect of flying Spitfires. I can’t really afford to fly in the real thing, even in the two seat versions, and the jet fighter type joysticks we use, even if mounted on a shelf just above the knees, simply do not convey the movements or sensations of the Spitfire’s control column, which has the particularity of having the pitch axis lower than the feet and the roll axis just above the knees. So I built myself a 1:1 scale proof of concept mock-up using bits of plastic tube and a fair amount of wood carving. As you can see from the photo my first idea was to stick an old joystick on the floor and insert my Spitfire control column on top. This involved creating a physical mechanism to transmit the roll axis to the floor, a bit like the chain link assembly and lower wheel assembly on the real thing. I eagerly plugged in the system and had a fly around in a DCS Spitfire. Wow what a great sensation. Because the whole set up was a bit stiff, the control column stayed more or less where you left them and movement were really much more easy to control than on a short stick with a centering spring. It took a bit of getting used to but it was great to physically replicate what I could see in the cockpit on the screen.
SpitSimColumn
Prototype Spade Grip
So I was convinced to build a more definitive version. Having looked around websites & forums for plans, dimensions, tips or existing equipment, I soon found that there were either fully made up rigs, built out of metal costing around 2000 Euros and not very “fold away » or some spade grip designs for sticking on top of flight sticks. I realised that I would have to scratch build my own. The first difficulty was getting the proper dimensions and I ended up purchasing several copies of original Supermarine Aviation blueprints and detailed 2D drawings made from measuring 5 existing MkIX and MkXVI Spitfires. However with all this one doesn’t necessarily find the detailed drawings and dimensions of all the bits I wanted, so I have had to guesstimate some from « general arrangement » drawings.
My aim is to reproduce as faithfully as possible the control column, the throttle quadrant and the trim wheels and to place these correctly in relation to each other. The idea is to mount them on a removable bracket that can be fixed to a desk or table top. The design challenge is to incorporate modern flight control electronics into lightweight replicas (when flying behind a desk we don’t need to withstand high G’s !). Since the original Spitfire « hands on » flying controls do not have the 10 buttons, triggers and POV hat switch that we use with modern joysticks, I have had to come up with ideas on how to best incorporate these in my replica rig. I therefore plan to put a brake switch, two position firing button and « camera » button on the spade grip, the roll and pitch axis relays at the bottom of the column, a «radio» push button on the throttle handle (as on the MkIX), proportional axis relays on the throttle and propeller levers, a switch on the throttle lever gate for WEP, an on/off button activated by the mixture lever, rudder and elevator rotating trim wheels operating POV type switches and for the remaining buttons a replica radio channel selector box which sat just above the throttle quadrant.
3D design work for the control column top and bottom fittings and throttle quadrant is just about complete and will soon be sent to my father in-law for 3D printing. The 3D plan is a bit multicoloured for the moment to help identify the seperate parts, the final version will have appropriate colours.
Spitfire MkIX TQ sim
Spitfire Throttle quadrant
I plan to build and test a personal prototype in the next few weeks and once happy, we’ll be happy to make up a few extra sets at a reasonable price for other pilots.
Thanks for your interest and support

Bob « Topsy » Austin

Topsy runs Spitfire Histories and is passionate about the Supermarine Spitfire please pay his site a visit and show your support for this project.

Watch this space for more information.

Author: 79vRAF

79vRAF is a group of friends that play flight simulators online. We use historical squadron codes and mainly fly in IL2 Cliffs of Dover. Our main focus in the Storm of War campaign, but we also fly on the ATAG server. 79vRAF joined the European Air Force in August 2015 so we are now part of a larger grouping. We can be recognised online with the tag EAF79_ Our motto is "Trust, Honour, Loyalty and Friendship" recruits are always welcome.

14 thoughts on “Spitfire replica flying control project”

    1. Sorry so late in replying. I have left this detail till last because mainly because I have had difficulty in getting the proper dimensions of the grip, button assembly and accessories. Your pics are helpful for the layout of the safety switch. The main problem I have is the shape of the spade grip in the area of the button, which evolved from a single round shape to the 2 way dual function unit shown. I assume the shape of the spade grip was modified to fit in between the two pneumatic buttons but have not yet been able to find any useful photos or drawings of the area. Frustrated I plan to go and visit a real Spit in the near future.

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      1. Hello

        I think the spade grip shape was the same, just modified for the the two button firing button. I think the physical size and shape are the same as the two button grip was fitted from the Mk1b and Mk V. When cannon where fitted

        Regards

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  1. You can place a 4 button POV HAT under the “camera” button on grip, similar to what VKB did in Gladiator KG 12-B grip “B-2 Knopf” button.

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    1. Thanks for the suggestion – this seems the most likely place and is probably the easiest way to disguise the function so as not to spoil the appearance.

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  2. Nice. I also got the drawings and the spit engineering book. Been working on frame #8 and the rudder structure. Also been gathering a library of reference photos for where drawings aren’t available. It can be done!

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    1. Yup it’s a bit Sherlock trying to find the exact dimensions, but as you say it can be done. I’m amazed that the throttle quadrant has come out so well on the first attempt. It really looks and I hope feels just like the real thing.

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    1. I’ll let Topsy know. I’m sure he’ll give us updates on how he’s progressing so we’ll be able to let you know when it is on sale. Interest certainly seems to be growing!

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    2. Thanks for your interest – join the club as several of you have shown interest which encourages me to pursue the project. I have just posted a new update featuring the throttle quadrant, which was for me the most complicated part to replicate and transform for simming. The other parts are on their way to being printed except for the spade grip and accessories where I am having trouble in getting the proper dimensions. Published engineering documents of the Spitfire are rather vague on this part, presumably because it was designed and made by Dunlop and not by Supermarine Aviation Works.

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    1. I’ve given Topsy authoring rights so he should be able to update the situation himself soon. He’s still working on the project but has been away recently. Hopefully we’ll be able to post some more soon 🙂

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