Dick Poole reports
    When Coronavirus lockdown eased a little, I was able to enjoy a Spitfire simulator flight at the Boultbee Flight Academy at Goodwood. It is used for training pilots to fly the Boultbee Spitfires together with (very wealthy !) Spitfire owners.

The simulator is unique in that the cockpit area is the fuselage of a real Spitfire Mk IX (MK392) from the firewall to aft of the full cockpit glazing. The cockpit is furnished with Spitfire components with all gauges being back driven. The computer-generated outside world is displayed on a hemispherical screen with a 220 degree field of view. When the hood is closed it definitely feels like being in a real aircraft.
    The exercise started with a cockpit briefing including the handling of the engine and procedures for retracting the undercarriage and deploying the flaps. The instructors (qualified Spitfire pilots) have a standard flight profile for demonstration trips but after quizzing me about my flying experience gave me the opportunity to say what I would like to do. I replied that I was keen to try a landing so we agreed the following: commence flying at 240 mph at 2,500 feet and carry out general handling, speed reductions down to approach speeds, moderately steep turns, undercarriage and flap trim changes on deployment and retraction, and stall approaches; the sortie to end in a circuit, approach and landing.

Flying A Spitfire Simulator

Toptop toptop

Boultbee preparations for the fight include a very good briefing pack to enable the punter to recognise the relevant cockpit gauges and controls, the aerodrome circuit patterns and engine limitations. The engine controls were unfamiliar to me since the procedure for increasing engine power was to open the throttle to a predetermined supercharger boost shown on a boost gauge. (e.g. +6 for take-off) and then to use the propeller control lever to coarsen the pitch slightly if necessary to reduce the rpm to the allowable maximum. In the climb the throttle would be retarded to +4 boost and the propeller rpm reduced accordingly. The engine does have an automatic control system to limit the allowable boost available with altitude for most of the flight envelope.
    The flight controls were light and well harmonised but I was surprised how restricted the view over the long nose was at cruise speeds ,say 250 mph. Approaching the stall the nose seemed quite high relative to the horizon before buffet was felt. I was left with the impression that a good lookout for the enemy would not leave much concentration available for activity within the cockpit.
    After the planned general handling was completed in the Chichester area the instructors decided that I was as ready as I ever would be to attempt to fly the circuit and land. It should be noted that Goodwood is an all-grass aerodrome, its three runways being identified by white edge markers. I approached the upwind area of the downwind leg to Runway 32 at 240 mph and then descended to the circuit height of 1,200 ft and reduced speed to below 150 mph (-4 boost) to deploy the undercarriage and then to below 140 mph to lower the flaps fully. There is no intermediate setting
    I was now approaching the end of the downwind leg about two miles beyond the intended touchdown point and turned on to a base leg angled at about 45 degrees to the runway heading. When wings were level, power was backed off and speed was reduced to about 100 mph in the descent. The propeller lever was then set to fully fine pitch, speed reduced to 90 mph and a curved approach to the runway heading was commenced. Speed was further reduced aiming to cross the fence at 85 mph and this is where it all went wrong for me.

I was nervous about the airspeed bleeding off and needed to look inside. When I looked back the runway was truly obscured by the nose and a heavy landing off the runway ensued. I was mortified by this especially as I knew that a curved approach was required. I really momentarily felt that I was in an actual aircraft.
    I’m determined to save up for another go to see if I can do better. It was a really good day and well worth the 200. A couple of years ago I flew in the rear cockpit of the Boultbee TMk 9 SM250 which was also a great experience, but I think I learned more about Spitfire flying on this simulator sortie.