DCS Spitfire : Time to get it right !

Don’t get me wrong I like DCS a lot because of the detail it offers with over 80 clickable controls in even the rather simpler WWII cockpits and the even more numerous complex systems that are modeled in jets. In this respect DCS stands head and shoulders above the other combat flight simulators like the IL2 battle of series.

However, I fail to understand why the very popular Spitfire LF Mk IXc still has two glaring design faults that have persisted since it’s launch nearly 3 years ago – we are well beyond what might be called the « early access » period where some faults could be tolerated.

The two glaring design faults that I refer to are :

  1. Control column movement
  2. The engine start procedure

Through their partnership with Flying Legends the ED design team visibly had access to the airworthy Spitfire LF Mk IXc MH434, a real WWII veteran, and to its’ display pilots. I assume that tons of photos were taken of the real cockpit in order to accurately design the virtual 3D cockpit. I also assume that the ED team had access to public documents about the Spitfire, in particular the reproduction of the Air Ministry’s « Pilot Notes for Spitfire IX, XI & XVI Merlin 61, 63, 66, 70 or 266 engine ». So no real excuse for not getting it right at the start, nor for not putting it right since.

So what’s the problem with the control column ? Well, if you take the trouble to look down the column in DCS you will see that it rotates in pitch around the elevator control rod attachment which remains fixed and one can see the bottom of the column moving fore or aft as the case may be.

In the real aircraft the base is fixed and it is linked to the aileron control drum by a universal coupling, to allow for column angle changes. More importantly fore and aft column movement pushes and pulls the elevator control rod. Technically speaking, in the current DCS Spitfire there should be no elevator movement and ailerons should flap around in the wind as their control cables would be stretched by the fore and aft movement of the column base. A secondary effect of this incorrect « cinematic » is that the top of the column does not have a correct fore & aft amplitude due to its incorrectly high pitch rotation point.

Regarding the start procedure, I really fail to understand why this has been programmed with an incorrect process. Here we are in the domain of pure software programming so I am at a loss to know why this was incorrectly designed when abundant documentation is available and when real  Spitfire display pilots who tested the module must surely have pointed this out.

Below is a comparative of the DCS and official Pilots Notes procedures for the Merlin 66 engine. In DCS the sequence of pre-start operations (except for the idle cut-off lever) is not controlled, ie they can be done in any order.

Pilots Notes M66DCS Spitfire
Fuel Cock ONFuel Cock ON
Ignition switches OFF(check both off – default setting)
Throttle 1/2 in – 1 in openThrottle open until u/c status indicator illuminates, then 1/2 in – 1 in open
Propeller speed control fully forwardPropeller speed control fully forward
Idle cut-off control fully aftCheck idle cut-off control fully aft (default setting)
Supercharger switch Auto Normal PositionCheck Supercharger switch Auto Normal Position (default setting)
Carburettor air intake Closed or Filter in Operation(No apparent incidence in DCS)
Switch on main tanks booster pump for 30 secs (or  operate the hand wobble pump for that period)Switch on main tanks booster pump for 30 secs (or  operate the hand wobble pump) until the fuel pressure warning light goes off
Set the idle cut-off control forward to the ON positionNO leave this aft in the default position
Operate the priming pump until fuel reaches the priming nozzles (3 to 18 strokes according to fuel type and air temperature)Operate the priming pump the required number of strokes (This is not correctly modeled in DCS. The engine will start with 3 strokes even at -12°C)
Switch ON the ignitionSwitch ON the ignition (Both Magneto switches)
Press the Starter and Booster-coil pushbuttonsOpen the covers, Press the Starter and Booster-coil pushbuttons
When the engine fires release the starter button; keep the Booster-coil button depressed and operate the priming pump (if required) until the engine is running smoothlyOnce the propeller has made two or three rotations, advance the idle cut-off lever to the ON position
Screw down the priming pump then open up to 1,000 to 1,200 rpm and warm up at this speedScrew down the priming pump, close the starter & booster covers, then open up to 1,000 to 1,200 rpm and warm up at this speed
Check that the fuel pressure warning light does not come on then switch ON the main tanks booster pump.Check that the fuel pressure warning light does not come on then switch ON the main tanks booster pump.

From this comparison we see that the main issue is the wrong use of the idle cut-off lever which should be advanced to the ON position before pressing the Starter and Booster buttons. Once the engine has started, the Starter button should be released and the Booster maintained with perhaps some strokes on the primer pump if required until the engine is running smoothly. This doesn’t seem impossible to replicate in DCS.

Also of note is the fact that in DCS the pre-start procedure can be completed in any order. This may also be true in the real aircraft, but there was a reason for the official start up procedure, so why wasn’t this programmed in DCS ? Again not that difficult to do.

While DCS is a simulator and the modules are not designed to be used for cockpit familiarisation prior to flying real aircraft, with so much attention to detail in general it’s a pity to see these two glaring errors in the iconic Spitfire.

In conclusion ED spend a lot of time trying to get things right for a number of their aircraft modules, but in spite of the Spitfire being probably the most popular WWII module little has been done specifically and solely on the Spitfire apart from revised sounds and corrections to the green tint of the armored glass.

So ED, for all the Spitfire fans in the community, how about getting the wonderful Spitfire right at last !

PS Community pressure helps ED to prioritize their bug fixing list !

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