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Supermarine Aviation Works “Spitfire”

Intro

Spitfire, also called Supermarine Spitfire, the most widely produced and strategically important British single-seat fighter of World War II, but why is the Spitfire called the Spitfire?

Designer of the iconic Spitfire thought the name was ‘damned silly’ and wanted to call it the SHREW. According to R.J. Mitchell; “Its iconic name has become synonymous with the RAF’s victory during the Battle of Britain – but it’s been claimed that the Spitfire was almost called the Shrew. The chief designer of the plane thought Spitfire was ‘dammed silly’ and favoured calling it after the tiny mole-like mammal, according to a new book. Aeronautical engineer R.J. Mitchell has long been credited as the sole designer of the legendary aircraft which played a vital role in the Second World War.”

The British public first saw the Spitfire at the RAF Hendon air display on Saturday 27 June 1936. Although full-scale production was supposed to begin immediately, numerous problems could not be overcome for some time, and the first production Spitfire, K9787, did not roll off the Woolston, Southampton assembly line until mid-1938.

In February 1936, the director of Vickers-Armstrong, Sir Robert MacLean, guaranteed production of five aircraft a week, beginning 15 months after an order was placed. On 3 June 1936, the Air Ministry placed an order for 310 aircraft, at a cost of £1,395,000. Full-scale production of the Spitfire began at Supermarine’s facility in Woolston, but order clearly could not be completed in the 15 months promised. Supermarine was a small company, already busy building Walrus and Stranraer flying boats, and Vickers was busy building Wellington bombers.

The initial solution was to subcontract the work. Although outside contractors were supposed to be involved in manufacturing many important Spitfire components, especially the wings, Vickers-Armstrong (the parent company) was reluctant to see the Spitfire being manufactured by outside concerns, and was slow to release the necessary blueprints and subcomponents.

All production aircraft were flight tested before delivery. During the Second World War, Jeffrey Quill was Vickers Supermarine’s chief test pilot, in charge of flight testing all aircraft types built by Vickers Supermarine. He oversaw a group of 10 to 12 pilots responsible for testing all developmental and production Spitfires built by the company in the Southampton area.

I can’t wait to start with my walk-around inspection, but first something I’ve almost forgotten. Many years ago, I had my aviation training at the Anthony Fokkerschool in Voorburg, near The Hague, Netherlands. During that time, I learned everything that had to do with aviation related subjects. One of them was working on military and civil aircraft. One of them was a very old Spitfire. The work we had to do on this Spitfire varied on the type of lessons; either you di sheet metal work, undercarriage maintenance or engine checks. In this case the engine checks had nothing to do with engine. test running, but disassembling and reassembling components and study these parts.

Although it has been a long time back, I did do some work on this legendary British fighter. Enough about what I can remember from the past. Off we go to the Spitfire that’s waiting at the platform (Courtesy of Wikipedia).

But First … Installation, Updating, Manuals and Config

Installation
No special tricks are needed to install the FlyingIron Simulations Spitfire. You download the package, as of this writing “Spitfire L.F. Mk IXc 1.0.3.zip” from X-Plane.Org, unzip it, and copy and paste the Spitfire folder into the X-Plane 11.30+ Aircraft folder. You can also create a sub folder e.g. “FlyingIron Simulations” under Aircraft and copy the unzipped Spitfire folder in there. There’s no serial or activation key needed. That said, startup X-Plane 11, load the standard of clipped wing model and you’re done. Keep in mind that the model is only for X-Plane 11.30+. I mentioned it already before, this review is based on model package 1.0.3.

I’ll highlight this later once more. The Spitfire package comes in two models; the standard wing and clipped wing. That said, the Spitfire has only two different acf (aircraft configuration) files. This means the aircraft has no different configuration acf files regarding the weapons or so on.

Updating
Some words about the “aircraft updater” file as you can find in the aircraft folder (skunkcrafts_updater.cfg). Oh yes, you can always surf to your X-Plane.Org account and check on your Spitfire account page is there’s an updated version. But you can also used the Skunkcrafts Updater. The configuration file for the Spitfire is included in the Spitfire folder, but you still need the software that checks and downloads the latest updated software or files unless you’ve already installed the Skunkcrafts updater. Those who haven’t that, here some steps how to do this.

Surf to the dedicated X-Plane.Org Yoyoz Skunkcrafts Updater page. As of this writing – March 2019 – the latest Skunkcrafts Updater version is 2.2. Unzip it and copy and paste it into your X-Plane folder>/Resources/plugins. That’s it.

Start X-Plane and it will check if there’s an update for the Spitfire, and if there is, it will download and install the files. In case you want to know a bit more of this updater plugin, check out this Org Skunkcrafts user manual.


The upper screenshot shows you the Aircrafts tab of the Skunkcrafts updater v2.2. It looks like that in this X-Plane package, the only aircraft supported for Skunkcrafts is the FlyingIron Spitfire. When I had more Skunkcrafts supported aircraft like Aerobask aircraft, they could have appeared too. The lower screenshot shows the Options tab. I changed two things on this tab/window; task to execute during startup and I ticked enable audio feedback during startup. Some don’t like, but it’s a very handy option that you’re informed at X-Plane startup if there’s an update or not. Anyway, that’s also a personal taste if you like it or not!

Manuals
The package comes with an Acrobat manual named User Manual WIP, but that’s not the manual you would like to see. Within this one page file you’ll find a link to Google Docs where you can view or download the “always” up-to-date manual. It’s a different approach, but one thing is true, you always have the latest edition of the FlyingIron Spitfire manual. The FlyingIron Spitfire LF Mk IX Pilot Handbook Acrobat file is according to FlyingIron a manual under work in progress. It has a Table of Contents (ToC) and the ToC items are linking you to the right page.

For those who aren’t familiar with the Spitfire, from page 4 till and including 9 you will find some of the ins and outs of the modeled aircraft systems. It is a bit basic, but I hope that the manual will include more when updates are released. From page 10 and up you’ll find a quick start checklist, engine management, in-flight procedures, several aircraft systems explained, the VR/GUI box, and not un-important to mention, the weapons employment.

Because it’s not a in-depth manual, FlyingIron recommends the following; “We strongly recommend obtaining and reading the real-world Spitfire Mk IX operating handbook, which is available (free) here: http://zenoswarbirdvideos.com/Images/spit/SPIT9MANUAL.pdf”. That said, there’s a lot more at the Internet available when you search for “Spitfire POH”, “Spitfire Pilot Manual” and so on.

Config(uration)
I call it configuration while the FlyingIron manual calls it “essential binding” and although we give it a different name, we have the same thoughts. Before using the Spitfire, a couple of configurations or how to connect certain systems must be performed before using the FlyingIron Spitfire.

In the FlyingIron pilot handbook page 2, is written:

  • – Wheel Brakes – FlyingIron/MkIX/Wheel_Brakes – This controls the wheel brake lever and is essential for braking as the toe brakes on your rudder will NOT work.
  • Starter Coil OR Engage Starters – as these need to be pressed simultaneously we recommend you bind at least one of these keys.
  • Master Arm (custom FlyingIron command) – Needed to arm the guns and bombs correctly.
  • Fire Guns (Default) – needed to fire the guns. Using any other binding to fire the guns will cause the gun sound to not function correctly.
  • Fuel Booster Pump – FlyingIron/MkIX/booster_pump – Not essential, but the fuel booster pump is in a very difficult position to access and is much easier to access via a keybind or keyboard key combination.

Ok, let me check this myself and see if everything is logic to set within X-Plane at the settings keyboard page. Since not every simmers does this every day or when you’re new to X-Plane, you’ve got perhaps no idea where FlyingIron is talking about. It’s common to use the keyboard tab from the X-Plane Settings, but it’s not always easy to find what you need. With the following screenshots I would like to highlight a couple of “keyboard bindings” I found useful.

Let me first start with the VR box. You can either assign this to a keyboard keybind or you simple click at the right-hand side of the inner cockpit wall. Once you’ve got the VR box in view, the left-hand side is related to radio stuff (yellow square) while the right-hand side of the (amber square) box is related to toggle objects etc.

Within the amber square you can see that you can toggle objects like the wheel chocks, tie down rope, GPU, radio panel, GPS, gunsight and the external (under the middle of the fuselage) fuel tank. An AP is implemented which I assume is a basic AP that holds the current pitch and roll. As stated in the manual how the battery was connected to the real aircraft, the modeled FlyingIron has for your convenience a separate battery switch.

At the bottom you find the landing light switch and the switch that allows you to swap between a Rolls Royce Merlin 70 or 66. As far as I’ve seen during the many tests, by default the Spitfire comes up with the Merlin 66 engine.

According to the pilot handbook page 12 “The Merlin 66 engine was designed for the LF variant to achieve better performance at low altitude. Many later productions were created with the Merlin 70 engine, leading to the HF variant, which was designed for high-altitude performance. The largest difference comes in the form of the supercharger – the Merlin 70 has its 2 stages built with a much higher critical altitude, leading to much better performance at altitude with no significant difference at low altitude (below 15k ft).”

So, to toggle the simulated/implemented objects from the VR box, you can either click the object you want on this VR popup panel or you can assign a key combination to it. The following screenshot shows you one example on how to show/hide the GPS popup panel which is mounted underneath the left-hand side of the main instrument panel.

Thorough External Inspection

First Impression
It’s a sunny day here in Canada. It’s a great day to have a first glimp of the FlyingIron Spitfire and my first impression while looking to the modeled Spitfire is wow, awesome, and more of those nice words. The nice words are mend seriously! I’m really impressed by the overall modeling and although I didn’t check if every detail is the same as on the real Spitfire, the quick look I had on 3D drawings, tells me that the FlyingIron is very accurate.

Ok, there’s one thing I see and I won’t say I don’t like it, but I have my thoughts; the 3D effect of the rivets and screws. To be sure with this, I checked 100s of photos and yes, I must conclude that the 3D effect (NML files) of the rivets and screws on the fuselage, wing and empannage, is a bit too enthusiastic. It’s a bit too much!

Curious as I am, I contacted the developers from FlyingIron and they came up – lucky for me – with this “We have got a lot of feedback regarding the normal maps and it’s something that we will be tweaking in the near future.” Not sure when this will happen, but we – Andy and myself – and other simmers are aware of it.

Back to my quick Spitfire look and feel.
The livery I had chosen has some kind of weathering on the overall body. For example, clearly visible on the propeller blade tips, but also on some places of the wings, empennage and fuselage. Further on, there’s also a lot of dirt near the engine exhaust tubes and some would love to see more weathering or more dirt, but that’s also a personal taste. What is see so far is good and perhaps painters will make it even better by painting their own creations.

Before I forget, the model comes in two flavours; clipped wing or the standard (wing) configuration. The clipped wing has ID “Spitfire L.F.Mk IXc CW” while the normal Spitfire ID equals “Spitfire L.F.Mk IXc”. On the following screenshots you see what I mean with clipped wing and standard configuration.

Whatever you think, my first impression was useful and not only that, it is worth the 3D modeling. Time for a more in-depth inspection.

In-depth Spitfire Check
I mentioned it already before, the 3D model is great and as far as I’ve seen, accurate. The propellor blades are absolutely “used” and the tips are weathered too. There’s also a lot of dirt on the engine cowling which is something you may expect with these exhaust outlets. The main gears or undercarriage is with this model not easy to reach, but with some effort I can say the the wheels with landing gear struts and fixed landing gear doors is well modeled. These parts look a bit new and have hardly any weathering or paint damages.

I know, weathered or not is also a personal taste of the developer and on the other hand, Spitfires flying around these days are mostly privately owned or from a club and they do everything to keep it as new as possible. The yellow wheel blocks are modeled too, but perhaps and yes, that’s my personal taste, these could be a bit more “being used”.

From the landing gear I walk along the leading edge to the wing tip. I’m aware it’s a personal feeling, but I go more for the standard Spitfire model thus with the normal wing tips. I’m pleased with the paintings although I would like to see a bit more “used” Spitfire skin, but this has nothing to do with the overall model.

Via the aileron and the flaps I reach the AFT fuselage section and oops, I believe the “rope” is placed a bit too tight around the fuselage. But first it is worth to highlight the great view I have into the cockpit. Ok, the canopy may be closed for now, but looking thru the well looking plexi glass canopy, I see an awesome modeled 3D cockpit. Ok, that’s for later.

So the rope … oops, that’s not how it should be, but for sure with an update, this will be a bit more slacken. The typical Spitfire tail with the tail gear or tail wheel, looks good, very good to be honest. The tail assembly is modeled with great precision as well as the horizontal and vertical stabilisers.

On the rudder and elevators, I see trim balance tabs or just balance tabs. For this I need to check a real manual to see what they have, but all the manuals I found, none of them talk about the flight control cable system, so I guess that ……… the ailerons, elevators and rudder have a balance tab system and only applicable for the rudder and elevator, a trim.

In case you think this or think that I haven’t seen it, the top of the vertical fin. At first, I thought “what a weird looking top vertical fin … not nicely rounded, but so sharply edged”. Then I figured out that many different Spitfire configurations have seen daylight and with so many different configurations, also so many different vertical stabilisers/fins. At the end, it’s correct when you look to the vertical fin rounding.

So overall a well modeled Spitfire, but a couple of things should be double checked and if the developers find that too, being updated. I’m talking then about the oversized rivets and screws on the bodywork, the fuselage AFT rope which is too tight modeled, a bit more weathering or damages would be welcome and then in particular on the main landing gears.

Oops, almost forgotten .. the “I assume” white tail light at the rear of the rudder. At the rudder trailing edge you’ll find, I suppose, the white navigation light bulb, but I think something went wrong since the light – as you can see on one of the previous screenshots is not white, but it has the same color as the rudder. Oops, it’s also painted, but I’m sure that the developers has seen this themselves and with the next update it solved (I hope).

The Cockpit

Time to check the cockpit, but for that it would help when we can open the canopy. Me and Andy, we were desperate looking to how to open the canopy and the left-hand door. We couldn’t find it in the manual, so worth to email FlyingIron. According to them (when you know it’s so easy) “In order to open the door on the left-hand side, you must have the canopy open. This can be done by clicking the canopy handle which is located above and forward of the pilots head (assuming it’s closed). I’ll have to double check, but opening the canopy should also work via the default keybind.”

What said, once you know, it’s so easy. As far as I’ve seen, the model comes up always with a closed canopy. That said, how to open the canopy?

From the outside, you can click near the front top of the canopy and then it slides open. There’s for this no key bind option possible with this model. For opening the left-hand side door, there’s no need to sit in the cockpit. As you can see on the following screenshot, you can bind a key to it – I used keyboard combination Command + N that allows me to open/close the left-hand (and only) cockpit door.

Once the canopy and left-hand door are open (remember, in this order), you’ll be surprised about the modelled 3D cockpit and then in particular the way it looks like, the way is smells … oh no, you can’t smell anything, but it’s an old used thus weathered cockpit and that is well made. But it’s not only that. It’s also the way, for example, the copper lines are made and routed along the sidewalls. Everywhere I look, I see used painted objects which are sometimes so real, incredible! The FlyingIron 3D modelers did an awesome job. So many tiny details are included, so many realistic looking parts.

Clearly can be seen that every indicator is handmade with great precision, decals are sharp as well as the previous mentioned indicator scales, as well as signs and so on. Unless I missed something, but I can’t find any decals or text on the instrument panel that isn’t sharp. No, it’s all razor sharp.

The control stick, wow, that’s modeled with so much love, you can see that. As mentioned before, at many places you see used painted Alu sidewalls. At some places I see nuts that hold components together, but those nuts are so real.

At one of the pictures you’ll see the FUEL ON/OFF lever. It’s not just the fuel lever that makes me happy. It’s more then that. It’s the plate itself with the text on it, the pop rivets, so real and this is only a small piece of all those objects you can find in the modeled 3D cockpit. I get the impression that a lot of real photo material is used or FlyingIron has a super skilled artist painter in their team who makes digitally brush paint literally everything from brand new, to old fashioned to heavily used/weathered.

Another master piece is the gunsight and control. It’s positioned in the middle of the cockpit, near the front – logically – and at eye sight of the pilot. But that is not what I wanted to say. I want to highlight the beauty of the modeling and for example also the Plexi glass window that’s on top of it. It’s not easy to see, but when you change your viewing angle a bit, you see the units glass. In one word … beautiful!

I looked in every corner, went down to the pedals, went even to the area behind the pilot, but it’s lucky a “close cockpit”. What is that … a “closed cockpit”? I mean that there’s no gap or whatsoever visible where you can look and see the outside thus a place where polygons are not connected to each other.

Andy will do the systems and their functionality, but for me this is already a success. Of course, I don’t know how the real Spitfire flew and how this modeled FlyingIron Spitfire flies, and I don’t know how real the flight dynamics are implemented. But for sure Andy will try to figure this out for you. I know that the 3D cockpit is modeled with a lot of love for the Spitfire!

Engine Start Procedure

Normally there’s no need of adding a complete engine start procedure in a review, but I felt it would be a good idea to do it as well as, where needed, to include some screenshots. I won’t write a complete tutorial, but I’ll do my best to give you the right idea how to follow all the steps. As guide, I use what the FlyingIron pilot handbook offers, and added some of my own words.

When you find it convenient, you can tick “Show instrument instructions in the cockpit”. When you position your mouse on a lever, light, switch, knob and so on, a small popup window tells you which or what component it is. You can find this option via X-Plane “Settings” – tab “General” – under section “Flight Model”.

Step 1:
Battery / (GPU) – ON (Via keybind or VR Box Panel)

The following screenshot shows you the VR box and as you can see, I only pressed the BATTERY switch and the WHEEL CHOCKS (white squares). All other I left out, but you could also add the GPU (Ground power Unit). That saves you at least battery power and that you’re draining the battery. Although the BATTERY is ON, there are no lights in the cockpit illuminated. One note for the GPU as electrical power source. Keep in mind that the GPU alone is not enough. You need always the battery switched ON else you won’t see the red FUEL PRESSURE WARNING light which is controlled via the battery and not via the GPU.

Step 2:
Throttle – MOVE FORWARD TO ACTIVATE INDICATOR SWITCH

When you move the throttle lever forward, the green undercarriage (landing gear) DOWN light illuminates as well as the red FUEL PRESSURE WARNING light.

Step 3:
Prop Control – FULL FORWARD

The prop control is the lever positioned right of the throttle lever. To make it a bit more clear, at the next screenshot you find all the three engine related levers together with their identity. As far as I’ve seen, upon loading of the Spitfire, the default position of this lever is already in the full forward position.

Step 4:
Carburettor Air Filter lever – FILTER IN OPERATION (FWD)

Although it’s clearly marked on the modeled panel, I found it a good idea to add a screenshot of this lever as well as the lever in the correct FWD position. I also marked in he screenshot the position of the electrical FUEL PUMP switch.

Step 5:
Fuel Tanks – ON. Select the lever as can be seen on the screenshot to ON.

For clarify, see the screenshot below. This screenshot also shows you how to prime. It’s very easy when you know how to do it. As explained in the screenshot, to prime fuel (pull out and push in the gold coloured knob) you need to move the knob several times in and out. Before you can do that, you first need to unlock the knob by turning it counter-clockwise.

Step 6:
Set the FUEL MIXTURE lever to IDLE/CUTOFF.

See screenshot from step 3 with the engine related lever identifications.

Step 7:
Set the External Fuel Tank to OFF.

For clarify I added a screenshot although as far as I’ve seen, at start-up the default position is always OFF. Anyway, the following screenshot shows the lever which is located right of the pilot seat near the floor, in the OFF position.

Step 8:
Set the engine throttle to around 50 percent travel range
although a bit less won’t harm when the engine picks up RPM.

Step 9:
Booster Pump (electrical fuel pump from screenshot step 4) or Wobble Pump

Operate until LOW PRESSURE FUEL light extinguishes, then set FUEL BOOST PUMP switch OFF or stop with the wobble pump. Assuming you go for the easy way, using the electrical FUEL PUMP switch, monitor the red FUEL PRESSURE WARNING light. When it extinguishes, you can stop the electrical pump or stop moving the wobble lever knob. This can take up to 10 seconds before the light extinguishes.

Step 10:
Prime fuel before starting the engine.

See for prime switch function and operation step 5. Personally, I would suggest to this after step 13, so just before you start the engine. I felt that this gives a more easier engine pick-up.

Step 11:
Starter Coil/Booster Coil Safety Covers – OPEN

Just move the safety covers down by clicking on them.

Step 12:
Set the FUEL MIXTURE lever to AUTO (FULL FWD position).
Just click the lever and it will move to the full forward position. That said, the lever has only two positions; IDLE/CUT OFF or FULL FORWARD. There are no intermediate positions possible.

Step 13:
Set both ENGINE MAGNETO switches to – BOTH ON

When you know where to find them, then it’s easy else they are a bit hidden behind the engine throttle levers. Hopefully the screenshot helps you.

Step 14:
Press Starter and Booster Coil – ENGAGE SIMULTANEOUSLY

My experience is that the Merlin 66 or 70 engine whichever you’ve selected on the VR box panel, won’t pick up in one or two full turns, but this also depends on the amount of fuel prime you’ve given. When you prime not enough, it can happen that the Merlin won’t pick up at all. When you prime the right amount, let’s say you push-pull 3 to 4 times before you hit the starter and booster coil switches, it can pick already after one to two turns.

I’m always looking to perfection and that’s also with the engine start sound. Although I worked many years ago on a Merlin engine, I’ve never heard it running. Remember, it’s a 12 cylinder inline engine and it has an unique and specific kind of sound. Anyway, I found a beautiful YouTube movie of a Merlin engine start that didn’t run in 17 years. Take your time and please don’t close the movie too fast since it takes up a lot of patience to get this Merlin up and running.

Probably you’ve been busy in the cockpit following the above steps to reach a succesful engine start, but what you should do is have a look outside and check the engine exhausts. The same as you saw in the YouTube movie, it’s very normal to have visible exhaust gases out of the pipes and it’s even possible to see some fire. Nice to compare that YouTube movie with the modeled Spitfire!

Sound

As would be expected, and probably, given the aircraft, hoped for, the overriding sound for the model is that Merlin Engine. Whether heard from inside or outside the aircraft it is a very good representation of the “sigh of a Merlin”. The engine note changes with throttle movements and the engine sounds smooth and powerful. The various control surfaces have their own sounds, as do the undercarriage and brakes when operated.

When carrying out maneuvers that strain the aircraft the airframe can be heard objecting. Switches and controls have their own distinctive sounds, confirming actions have been taken and adding to the realism. Turning metal knobs and levers creates a convincing metallic sound and even a squeak! Surprisingly I could not hear any sound associated with the firing of the guns. This apart the sounds add realism to the model experience and are in keeping with the age of the aircraft.

Systems

The model is equipped with numerous systems designed to be as realistic as possible. The developers have also found ways of integrating more modern systems used in X-Plane to assist the user but have done it in a way that does not detract from the realism of the cockpit. The modelled systems are explained in the user manual.

Considering the notes about systems on the store page the first is the fuel system. The aircraft can carry an external tank but, true to life, this limits the maneuverability of the Spitfire. The manual explains the tank and when to access the fuel in it. The aircraft is equipped with operating pumps to maintain fuel pressure and a warning light when pressure has dropped too low. There is also an operating fuel pressure cock which is used to pressurised the tanks to stop vaporisation at altitude. This is all clearly explained in the manual. The model is also equipped with a supercharger.

The aircraft is equipped with realistic compasses for navigation, both a primary compass and the magnetic compass. There is a technique for using and aligning the primary compass and again this is explained in the manual. The model can also use the X-Plane GPS system.

Clearly these did not exist at the time the Spitfire flew but it is a welcome addition to the aircraft and as the route can be displayed it makes a good substitute for navigational charts when wanting to fly a specific journey. The GPS appears in the footwell when toggled via the VR panel but can also be popped out to a larger version. Emergency systems supplied include those for the undercarriage and fuel tank jettison.

The original preset radio system can be set via the VR panel and then operated by the presets buttons on the radio panel above the throttle in the cockpit. There is also a button in the VR panel that allows the use of a modern tunable radio with a digital display. When toggled to on this appears below the trim wheels in the left arm rest of the seat.

The model is provided with an oxygen system which has to be operated by the pilot for high level flight and is controlled by a valve on the right-hand cockpit wall and a regulator, which looks like a clockwork key, positioned near to the oxygen instruments to the left of the instrument panel. The VR panel also allows external fuel tanks to be toggled off and on.

The aforementioned VR/GUI box can be initiated by clicking on the right cockpit wall and hidden again by the use of a hide button on the box itself. This allows quick access to many extra features whilst not spoiling the realism of the cockpit, although the box is modelled in the same style as the cockpit interior so is in keeping and does not spoil the appearance.

The box allows radio presets to be set and toggles, chocks, tie down, GPU, radio, GPS and gunsight on and off. The box also loads and unloads the external tanks, engages the autopilot and switches the battery on as the original aircraft did not have electronic controls in the cockpit. The box also gives the user the option of a landing light and also allows for changing the engine type from Merlin 66 to Merlin 70 or vice versa.

The model is equipped with a large number of options and working systems. These have been cleverly integrated into the aircraft so as not to compromise the genuine appearance whilst giving the pilot as many extras as possible. Some of the instrumentation and controls are not as standard, again to assist the user and these differences are explained in the manual.

Flight Experience

The flight manual provides some recommended settings and bindings for the keyboard and joystick commands and before any attempt at flight I ensured I had sorted those out and created a bespoke profile for the Spitfire in X-Plane settings. I did have an initial problem in that having bound the wheel brakes to a key the aircraft still would not move even on high revs and indeed tipped forward and ended up on its nose.

I tried toggling the wheel brakes several times to no avail and then realised that I had to release the parking brake too before the aircraft would move. I would not be much use in a scramble! I thought a grass strip would be appropriate and tried to simply take off and fly but found the engine cut out or caught fire. I was testing how straight forward the model is to fly without reference to check lists and the manual but eventually looked up the quick start check list to see what I was doing wrong.

Sure enough it clearly stated that when taking off from surfaces other than hardened runways the air filter had to be set or the engine would ingest foreign objects and possibly seize. I changed my location to a hardened runway and prepared for take off. Sitting on the runway I could see nothing but the engine cover and the propeller, as with most tail draggers, and had to keep straight by checking the sides of the run way. Take off was smooth and I had to keep using rudder adjustments to offset the engine torque.

Once in the air the Spitfire became a different beast and was smooth and responsive and great to fly. The model looks very good in flight and really does project the iconic aircraft well, the cockpit is clear and all dials and instruments are clearly legible. Having flown for a while I lined up with the runway and made an approach. I ended up too high and had to go-around again.

The second approach was better and I made a successful landing with the aircraft reverting back to being awkward once on the ground. A great model to jump in and fly and a great experience to be in such an aircraft.

I then started a more complete flight by following the checklist procedure for engine start contained in the manual. My initial attempts failed to start the engine but with a bit of persistence I completed the task and once I had done it once I seemed to be successful every time.

The checklist requires the use of the prop control lever and this was not easy to establish as it was not listed in the cockpit guide. It actually sits on the inside of the throttle lever and when viewed from the side it has airscrew control printed on it. The other control required which is not shown in the cockpit guide is the primer and this is a knob found below the oil pressure gauge to the right of the instrument panel.

This has to be unlocked by rotating it anti-clockwise and then pumped the requisite number of times prior to engine start. The number of pumps of the primer required is outlined in a table in the manual. The checklist uses the GPU for start up and this can be toggled through the VR box.

I did find with just the GPU on the unit itself did not appear, just the power cable, but once I also toggled the chocks to be in place the GPU appeared correctly. Switches and instruments made realistic sounds. The engine sounds very good on startup and again responds well to throttle input. I set the RPM to 1500 for engine warm up.

After the engine had started, I followed the checklist and ensured the booster pump remained on, turned the fuel pressure cock to off, closed the safety covers for the starter and booster coil, set the navigation lights and aligned the primary compass. Instructions on aligning the compass are in the manual.

I also ensured oil pressure, oil temperature and radiator temperature fell within recommended parameters. I loaded a route in to Goodway and also in to the GPS in the aircraft in order to have a map and route to follow. Next was the challenge of taxiing to the runway!

I read the advice in the manual and increased revs to 1500rpm and then dropped them back, repeating the process to make progress. The manual warns that the aircraft is not easy on the ground and my previous experience after my short initial flight convinced me of that. I was very cautious in moving the aircraft and I can’t claim it was the smoothest taxi ever but I did make it to the runway and lined up for takeoff.

Again referring to the check lists I set the trim to slightly nose down and slight right rudder bias. I deployed no flaps for take-off and as I was using a metalled runway I did not use the dust filter. As with most activities on the ground the aircraft was challenging and keeping straight down the runway took some concentration.

I moved the throttle slowly and took off at just over 100MPH. Once in the air the nature of the aircraft changed and the flight became smooth and the model responded very well to all control inputs. Once at about 2000 feet I used the aircraft compasses to acquire the desired course indicated by the GPS for my planned route.

Yes, using the GPS was out of context for the age of the aircraft but I tried to use the screen of the GPS as a map rather simply relying on it completely. The model is equipped with a basic autopilot, toggled from the VR panel. Once on the desired course I initiated the autopilot and the aircraft maintained straight and level flight with realistic deviations and turbulence.

This did allow me to enjoy the view, appreciate the aircraft and acquaint myself further with the controls and cockpit. I was able to move the view out of the pilot’s seat and the aircraft looks great in flight.

The model is provided with weapons systems including a working gunsight. This can be toggled from the VR panel or switched on with a switch modelled to the left of the gunsight itself. The sight works and has to be manually set by the pilot in terms of range to the target aircraft and the wingspan of the target. Once set the target has to be aligned in the sight and once the wing tips are touching either side of the sight it is in range and the guns can be fired.

The correct binding has to be made to the users firing trigger or the system won’t work and true to the original the guns have to be armed and this is another command best bound to a convenient button or key. The guns can be seen firing from the cockpit but in my opinion the best view is external where the aircraft looks very impressive and does the original proud.

The manual also relates to the use of bombs but the bomb racks are not modelled and there is little information about how to arm the Spitfire as there are no bombs available that match the age of the aircraft. Arming the bombs is done via the same Master Arm button supplied in the configuration page under Flying Iron.

I enquired with the developers who replied with a comprehensive answer and there are no controls modelled for the use of bombs in the aircraft. The bombs are controlled by the master arm switch and another key bonding to release them. The recommended command is “Weapon Release” but I could not find it within X-Plane control settings or the extra settings supplied by Flying Iron.

The developers advice was to use the weapons customisation button under flight configuration and use the default MK82 bombs. I did this, positioning them on points 5 and 6 and they appeared on the aircraft. I tried both “Fire Selected Weapon” binding and also “Fire Air To Ground Selection.”

In both cases the bombs released one at a time but the guns also fired. I could not find a binding to prevent the guns from firing. When I pressed by “Fire Guns” command the guns fired and the bombs did not release. This area of the model brings a different and interesting dimension to flying the aircraft but perhaps needs a little more work to make it more realistic.

During the flight I used the time travel magic of X-Plane and altered the time to see the model in flight in low light. The aircraft looks good from internal and external views and the landing light, toggled from the VR panel, and navigation lights appear very authentic.

At the end of this enjoyable flight I lined up with my destination airfield. I took note of the advice given in the manual. I approached at 160MPH and slowly reduced speed and altitude. The manual states it is best to approach with some power on as the propeller wash creates extra lift and assists with landings.

The flaps deploy at 85 degrees and are described as more like “airbrakes that provide some lift” so this has to be managed. The advice is to cut power just as the wheels are about to make contact with the ground to avoid bounce. I did this but still experienced some bounce so again I followed the manual and kept a high angle of attack which reduced the speed and the aircraft settled at about the third bounce.

Once on the ground the difficult handling characteristics returned but I managed to keep the roll out straight, though not entirely central to the runway. A really enjoyable experience and a great model to fly. This was not a perfect flight and I did not use all the systems provided but it was interesting and challenging and I learned many things about the original aircraft. Room for improvement for me and a quality experience from the model.

The model can be used in the LC, full wing version, or the HC which has clipped wings. As I had used the LC throughout the review, I took a quick flight in the HC to see how it looked and flew. The liveries remain the same as those for the LC and the clipped wings look markedly different from the full ones.

The aircraft felt like it has similar flight characteristics to its partner version and was just as challenging on the ground and a pleasure in the air. I feel it looks good in the air although I always feel it is a pity to shorten that classic wing shape. Not a criticism of the model as it reflects the original clipped wing version very well. This version of the aircraft is well modelled and is a welcome variant in the aircraft package.

Summary

This will be a mixed summary from Andy and Angelique. Your personal reporter Angelique did a couple of flights- and ground tests as well as getting the right impression of the overall 3D modeling. Andy is basically responsible for system tests and flight impressions, while Angelique did a thorough external and internal inspection.

Although Angelique hopes that the “the bit oversized” rivets and screws are reduced with future updates and that a more comprehensive manual will be available, the overall impression is a worthy historical modeled Spitfire. The interior or cockpit is great. So many details are included, so many eye for details, thus overall a well-crafted and “used” cockpit.

The developers have created a very high-quality simulation of a well-known and much loved aircraft. The model maintains the characteristics of the real thing in that it is challenging to handle on the ground but is a pleasure to fly. Whilst it is possible to just jump in and fly there is an advantage to taking advice from the manual in terms of key binding and flight techniques because the model reflects the real aircraft.

The many working systems add to the realism of the experience and the developers have found ingenious ways of integrating further flight systems, some not true to the original, so that the user has many options as to how to conduct a flight.

I understand the manual is a work in progress and as more detail is added flights can be conducted in more realistic detail although the package so far presents many challenges and a very immersive experience. Extras such as working weapons add value to the model and give the pilot further things to think about and processes to complete.

With two engine types and full and clipped wing versions, along with several liveries, the model can be configured in several ways and the flight experience can be whatever the user makes of it. A high quality model that presents the aura and character of the real aircraft whilst maintaining realistic challenges for the user to overcome.

More information and buying details can be found at the dedicated X-Plane.Org web/store page.

Feel free to contact me if you’ve got additional questions related to this impression. You can reach me via email Angelique.van.Campen@gmail.com or to Angelique@X-Plained.com.

With Greetings,
Andy Clarke and Angelique van Campen

 

 

Add-on: Payware FlyingIron Spitfire
Publisher | Developer: X-Plane.Org | FlyingIron
Description: Realistic rendition of Spitfire LF/HF MKIX
Software Source / Size: Download / Approximately 1.38GB (unzipped)
Reviewed by: Andy Clarke and Angelique van Campen
Published: March 10th 2019
Hardware specifications: - iMac Intel i5 27"
- 3.5 GHz Intel Core i5
- AMD Radeon R9 M290X 2048 MB
- 16 GB 1600 MHz DDR3 RAM
- Logitech Force 3D Pro
Software specifications: - macOS Mojave 10.14.x
- X-Plane 11.30 (64 Bit) Private Use
- A variety of freeware and payware airports

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