Have you ever wondered what it’s like to fly a Spitfire?
The Battle of Britain Memorial Flight Spitfire simulator project began in April 2022 with an empty shell of a cockpit. The vision was to create a one-to-one scale replica Spitfire cockpit that, in conjunction with a virtual reality headset, would deliver an immersive experience of flying a Spitfire MkIX. Its purpose was for use as a demonstrator at air shows, as well as having the possibility of becoming a training aide to be used by future pilots and engineers.
The challenge was taken up by Cpl Rich 'Boycey' Boyce, Cpl Dan Cunningham and Cpl Ken Dowling of the BBMF Engineering team. Initial testing used off-the-shelf flight simulator hardware but it was soon realised that a more realistic solution was required.
After conducting research into the options available, Boycey reached out to Phil Hulme of AuthentiKit, an organisation who develop replica flight simulation controls for Spitfires. A key feature of AuthentiKit controls is that they are designed to be 3D printed with consumer level 3D printing technology. Phil Hulme went above and beyond for our team during this project and donated his own set of controls to the project as well as a set of spares enabling the team to build their own.
From that moment on the team worked almost non-stop on building, designing new 3D printable parts and fault finding to make sure the cockpit really was a one-to-one match with the real aircraft. All of this work was completed with the goal of being available for public use by October 2022, ready for our very own Members’ Day. Boycey and Phil were in almost daily contact addressing matters such as material strengths and trim wheel calibrations to ensure the simulator would be fit for purpose both for the needs of pilots, as well as the general public.
Speaking of his involvement in the project, Phil Hulme – the Founder of AuthentiKit said “It’s been a fabulous experience working with Cpl Boyce and the team on this project. It has also been a genuine honour to witness this simulator taking shape alongside such national treasures as P7350, the only Spitfire that saw action in the Battle of Britain and is still flying today”.
Cpl Rich “Boycey” Boyce added that "It's been an incredible journey turning an empty cockpit into something the public can enjoy, with significant scope for improvement in the future. This would not have been possible without the expert knowledge and equipment supplied by Phil and the hard work and dedication of the engineering team."
After a great many hours of effort by both the BBMF and AuthentiKit team, the Spitfire cockpit was finally launched to the public as planned on October 1st 2022, at the Lincolnshire Lancaster Association Members Day. Visitors of all ages were quickly queuing to take part in this rare opportunity to experience a flight in a Spitfire and the feedback received on the day was universally positive.
Also present on October 1st at the invitation of the BBMF were two influential members of the flight simulation community. Mark Duff and Steve Walton have a great deal of experience in virtual reality flight simulation and both run highly successful YouTube channels guiding enthusiasts on how to navigate the world of flight simulation.
Mark and Steve’s feedback to the BBMF team was highly appreciated and you can watch their videos of the day at these links:
Moving forward, AuthentiKit and the BBMF team plan to continue their collaboration to improve the experience and to achieve the precise flying characteristics that the pilots would require to get the most benefit from the simulator as a training aide.
More about AuthentiKit
AuthentiKit is the newest Sponsor of the Battle of Britain Memorial Flight. AuthentiKit develops replica flight simulation controls for vintage aircraft which can be 3D printed at home on low-cost 3D printers. Embracing the shareware spirit of the internet, controls are designed by Phil Hulme and other members of the AuthentiKit community, and these designs are available for free download at their website. Assembly requires little more than a screwdriver and the controls can be used without any charge as long as it is for a non-commercial purpose. See authentikit.org