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.
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.
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.