The Spitfire, designed by Reginald Mitchell in response to an Air Ministry requirement for a monoplane fighter, developed the prototype which first flew in 1936 as a Rolls Royce engine powered aircraft with a two bladed wooden propeller. Through various versions (Mk's) that improved the performance and firepower to the point where even the engine was changed to the Rolls Royce Griffon, complete with a five bladed propeller, and resulted in the Mk.22 version.
I have thrilled to the sounds of Rolls Royce Merlin engines for fifty years, and have had the pleasure of walk-arounds and inspections on more than one Spitfire variant in my career in aviation, as well as studying the instrument layout from the cockpit. It is with pleasure that I present the Just Flight Spitfire.
Installation and Documentation
With this particular package suited not only for the FS2002 flyer, but designed for the FS2004/FSX/CFS2 and CFS3 flyers too, it is readily downloadable from the Just Flight web site. The only thing to note is that if you have the Acceleration pack installed, then unfortunately this add-on will not run. It is fine in FSX with Service pack 1 (SP1).
The instructions are very clear, and once the payment is made, an e-mail will follow with the codes required, and installation can begin. It needs a whopping 654 MB to load, but once installed, the size of the download is reflected in the quality and content. During the download, a selection decision is required as to “Speak-O-vision”, and whether you want to download it or not. Please say yes, as the results are beneficial, in the form of a displayed set of playing cards which, when clicked on, will open a short film that will take the form of a walk-around, the startup procedure, the interior controls and much more that you can explore for yourselves, depending on which card you click on.
There is also a full document in PDF format which provides all the information on the different variants of the Spitfire, start procedures, instrument information and a very cleverly included Air Ministry Publication (re-print) of the Pilot handbook for the Mk1a and Mk1b Spitfire.
Reading all the paperwork and watching the movies will take time before you fly, but is invaluable in enabling you to get the best when flying the aircraft.
Scenery wise, there is even an additional Airfield, RAF Duxford, as it appeared in WW2, but sadly this is not compatible with FSX at this time.
The Spitfire Variants
This package includes 39 (Thirty Nine) Aircraft, covering 14 Marks of the machine. With all the usual details that are displayed, bearing in mind that this is a Just Flight product, you will not be disappointed with the contents. There is a Spitfire variant for every occasion, including a Spitfire floatplane, and the variety is therefore endless, and covers every theatre of operation.
The Prototype Spitfire is K5054, with a two bladed wooden propeller and differential braking is required to control this aircraft on the grass as the tailskid has no wheel. On other models, the tail wheel is steerable but remember to lock it when ready for take-off or the results will be very entertaining, if not dangerous.
There is also available the Mk1,
In 2D display mode, or in the increasingly popular VC mode, the instrument layout is clear and concise, differing with the various models and looking very good in either mode. Instrument readings are easily readable, switches are moveable and do what they are supposed to do, and looking around the “office” in VC mode reveals a wealth of detail all around the central seat.
I mentioned earlier the need to use the Tail wheel lock lever to lock the wheel in the neutral or central position before take-off, and above you can see it marked on the left side of the cockpit just behind the maps case. Pulling it back will lock the wheel, and a smooth take-off will be easier.
The Instruments are very detailed and all move in the correct sense. The fuel gauge or gauges, depending on the model, being well positioned and are worth glancing at occasionally before flight and during flight too. Items such as the emergency gas bottle for gear lowering are included correctly, and the gun sight is also featured on some of the models. Throttle and mixture controls work as advertised, as do the engine start switches together with the magnetos. The canopy slides back smoothly and adds to the cockpit display very nicely.
Night Flying is made much better with the subtle instrument lighting giving a very comforting red glow, not bright but enough to see by just as you would expect, never interfering with night vision at all.
There is no aircraft engine that can ever beat the Rolls Royce Merlin for sound, and this package expertly records that event in all phases of flight from start-up and beyond. I am not convinced that the Griffon sounds are that much different in this package, but as far as I am concerned, it does not detract from the overall effect. For anyone who has ever heard the sound of a Merlin or Merlins at full chat, thundering over an airfield at low level, the only thing betteris actually being in the cockpit and controlling such an event.
But the crackling roar of pure unleashed power that causes the chest to vibrate and the skin to goose bump on the arms and neck as the graceful lines of a Spitfire pass over or by at breakneck speed can never be forgotten, only ever surpassed by the thunder of four Merlins in formation on an Avro Lancaster, but that’s another story.
The gear whines realistically on retraction, and the flaps hiss as the pneumatic system works to lower or raise them, even the canopy slides with a satisfying clunk. The engine speed increases with an accompanying roar, and in flight it is muted slightly in the cockpit but is certainly in front of you, pulling horses by the thousands in an effort to propel you along and perform Spitfire manoeuvres effortlessly.
And so finally to the flying aspect of the Spitfire. The prototype is probably the slowest in performance with a two blade wooden prop, but it isn’t slouching either. Progressing through the Mks of Spitfire will provide some pleasing differences; the clipped wing models rolling quicker, the float plane is sluggish and awkward, but providing different skills to master, and increasing the pleasure obtained from such a varying package.
The Trainer version gives a different view from the normal cockpit, but again adding to the variety in a very different way as you can fly from the pupil or instructor cockpit. Whichever Spitfire you opt for, the test flight is always exciting.
Remember to lock the tail wheel before taking off, and also add some rudder effect to counter the torque produced by the beautiful Rolls Royce Merlin, or a different variant. Pulling back gently at rotate speed will give a satisfying break from ground effect and climbing out will be quite effective, raising the gear after being sure you are in a positive climb. Settling into the cruise gives you the chance to check around the “office” and a quick glance at oil pressure, boost pressure, fuel situation, gear lock and the airspeed plus altitude and attitude. Not necessarily in that order, but it will give you some idea of the efficiency of your aircraft. Looking out of the front and sides, up and back to the front again will satisfy your view all around, and what a view it can be.
Maneuvers are effortless, spinning is not recommended in real practice but you know you will want to try it. Stalling is also not a good idea but it is nice to know that from a safe altitude, it can be practiced with a satisfying wing drop first, plus some buffeting, and recovery is fairly normally achieved.
Approach and landing are somewhat blocked by that huge engine and cowling at the sharp end, but a curved approach is a lot of fun, and very satisfying when done properly. With the flaps down on final, gear extended of course, as it's not nice to hear the sound of metal on tarmac in addition to flying pieces of propeller blade when nice squealing tire sounds are expected, and in addition the amount of paperwork to be filled out if you land without the gear extended is horrendous, so use the power available and a very satisfying three point landing can be achieved with practice.
Landing on the mains first is an achievement, but tread very carefully on the brakes in any event. It isn’t clever to land successfully, tip the aircraft onto its nose in the roll-out, or even onto its back and then break your neck falling out trying to escape from the debris. It will make the eyes water at the very least!!
Summary / Closing Remarks
At the price for obtaining this package, with the huge variety of Spitfire Marks available, anyone still interested in this ageing beauty will happily pay up. I know I would. The pleasure, flying time, experimentation, visits to other airfields, and practicing flying displays will make this package one of the best you ever purchase. It is possible that one or two aircraft are not quite shaped as expected, looking a little short perhaps, and stubby, but with 39 in all to choose from, how bad can that be?
The Virtual Cockpit is a joy, and the traditional 2D cockpit is very good too, add to this the variety of Squadrons and countries covered, the authentic paint schemes with wear marks and scrapes, in addition to the external detail, cannon ports, gun ports, gear legs and tail wheel detail, propeller detail too, and this is a super package, even if I do have to pay for a large hangar to store these priceless models in. Could it be any better?
Well short of actually buying or building the real thing, and remember that the original Spitfire is over 60 years old, or using so much processor power that the national grid would go down, I doubt that there is much to improve on. Some of the aircraft look old and feel old, but they fly well, or appear to, and with so many to choose from, there is an aircraft for everybody who wants to own a single engined, powerful but vintage propeller driven airplane steeped in history, and costs only £19.95 to own.
What I Like About The Spitfire
What I Don't Like About The Spitfire
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