Since the first production model came out in November 2017 I have made a few modifications based on user experience which are now integrated as standard into the N°3 kit that is just being delivered.
The first modification concerned the adjustment of the spring strut which holds the control column an 11° angle aft. The first user felt that the spring tension was too stiff, so I advised him to slide the column attachment bracket slightly downwards to give more leverage and therefore relatively less tension. However I realized that any movement of this fitting could upset the “rest” angle of the control column. This has been overcome by raising the anchor point at the other end of the strut. This also adds realism as this strut now looks even more like the elevator control bar.
The second mod concerned the limited rotation of the pitch control of 24.5 ° which only used a small share of the potentiometer’s 273 °, making control and tuning too coarse. This has been overcome by adding a multiplication gear on the pitch axis, which I was able to 3D print and send to the first user. This mod is now standard on production units.
The third modification was to add gearing to the elevator and rudder trim wheels. I decided to do this mainly to give a more realistic feel, particularly on the elevator trim wheel, which in the real aircraft rotates quite a lot for relatively little change in trim. This control was very sentsitive on the initial production unit and a significant reduction gearing now gives it a smoother and more realistic feel.
I also made several minor modifications to help with production assembly and 3D printing, to ensure that parts fit together with less adjusting and that they be easier to print, but I won’t bore you with the technical details here.
I am just pleased to say that the third production unit which I tested last week in DCS was a real dream to fly, being more precise and feeling sharper than my old prototype which I still use online. It’s weird checking out brand new controls on a Spit, it feels like flight testing a factory fresh aircraft.
Going on I am now under friendly “pressure” to develop the right hand side of the cockpit, which notably contains the “chassis” control. Wouldn’t it be great to have to change hands on take-off to operate this lever without “porpoising” like many novice Spitfire pilots.
However I don’t intend to develop the right hand side cockpit wall for just one control, so I have been studying what would be nice or useful to have to supplant controls that are currently activated by mouse or keys. Talking of the mouse, one of the challenges is to find out how to keep a mousepad somewhere above the knees, forward of the chassis control and out of the way of the spade grip, as the Spitfire cockpit is very narrow and there is little space available for such a modern accessory.
The result will be an add-on to the existing kit which will most likely comprise the lower instrument panel with booster & starter buttons, fuel cock, ki-gas primer, fuel tank pressure selector, fuel contents button, supercharger test button and the right side cockpit wall with the wobble pump, chassis control, chassis emergency release lever and external fuel tank jettison handle. I will most likely add the flap lever, navigation lights switch and magneto switches to the existing left hand side of the instrument panel. Space will be left in the middle where the blind flying panel normally sits so that virtual pilots using IR tracking can still see their screens and place their keyboards.
In time I plan to develop a full VR cockpit where the pilot will find all the controls that are available on the most complex simulators without having to resort to mouse or keyboard.
I already offer demos of the existing setup at exhibitions and events, and this has led me to think that I should build a complete mobile cockpit section made out of wood, aluminium and 3D plastic parts. The idea would be to take it round to airshows and museums to offer a Spitfire flying experience for those of us who cannot afford or who don’t want to sit in the back of a Tr8 or 9.