Spitfire

 

 

BUILDERS CORNER

 

 

Builder #5: Frank Deeth - email for more information

Location: Melbourne, Australia

Start date: Officially April 2007 but unofficially about 1995.

First flight goal date: Too far away to contemplate at this stage.

The Project: Spitfire Sidebar - August 2013

 
As this build progresses I have been giving thought to "how the heck am I going to fly this thing once it gets up and running"? As with any aircraft you are planning to fly it helps to obtain as much experience on type or similar type before you fly it for the first time. I did this with the Corby Starlet by getting training and building hours on a Pitts Special and tried to fly as many different tail wheel aircraft I could get my hands on prior to it's first flight.

With the Spitfire I will follow the tried and true method proved over and over again during the war. I don't want to ding it after all this hard work, so I had better get trained on a suitable aircraft...I know, how about a real Spitfire then? Well I have now taken steps to remedy this situation by under taking the introduction course to the Spitfire at Boultbee Flight Academy based at Goodwood in southern England.

This two day course follows in the foot steps of the WWII pilots by experiencing flights in either a Chipmunk or Tigermoth, then followed by the Harvard or T-6 type aircraft and finally the MkIX Trainer Spitfire. Now I have completed the introduction course I am able to progress to flying the T-6 from the front seat (which I have started to do) and building up my experience level to something that might permit me to also undertake training in the front seat of the Spitfire.

As my training progresses, hopefully towards the Spitfire, I shall update these pages so please do check back. Enjoy! Frank August 2013

     

One of my course buddies kindly filmed me in each aircraft then blended it all together into this montage.

It's all just taxing out and taxing in from flights intermixed with some still shots. Enjoy!

If the above embedded code does not work, try this link:
You Tube Video

 

So how does she handle, what's it like etc? Well, it's hard to say. Superb is a very good description. Ground handling is definitely a weak point of the aircraft. But I think I would be more stressed about flying a Pitts regularly than flying the Spitfire as far as ground handling is concerned. Might have to ask me that again if I ever fly it from the front seat! I think with the Spitfire you could argue it has the overall package. It commands respect, it's got the history, it's got the handling (pitch is super sensitive, but that just adds to it I think?) and it's got the performance. I often think aircraft are better to watch from the ground than to be in, as the noise etc isn't the same. In the case of the Spitfire, she has two distinct halves, the ground view, which is awesome, spine tingling etc, etc. but there is also the cockpit view, which is very very different, but equally or if not better than the experience from the ground. I hope that makes sense? Yes there are aircraft that roll faster but it's not all about rate of roll, it's that infinitely unquantifiable measure of feel, the seat of the pants, kick in the bum, confidence boosting, ear drum pounding, war winning, kick arse fighter aircraft that's all wrapped up in a melancholic tale of loss, inspiration, tragedy and ultimately victory, designed by one who never saw it flourish and flown by the few who should never be forgotten....

 

October 2014: Well, the five year anniversary of starting this project is almost upon me/us. After having flown the Spitfire in the UK from the back seat last year, my first reaction after landing was, I have to get my butt back in this aircraft as soon as possible! I resolved to get myself "up to speed" in preparation for some formal front seat training in the Tr.9 Spitfire SM520 aka G-ILDA. The recognized standard preparation for someone like me (I.E plenty of tailwheel experience but no heavy tailwheel time) is to get checked out in something heavier, like a T-6 Texan or SNJ Harvard type aircraft. So in collaboration with BFA (Boultbee Flight Academy), I started a process of Harvard training and check out.

This is where I must give a whole hearted thanks to Mike Falls and his company Shortstop Jet Charter in my home town, Melbourne, Australia. I approached Mike and told him all about my Spitfire intentions. He very kindly agreed to help me get to solo standard in his aircraft and then continue on with training and experience flying the Harvard from the back seat...which is the next recognized step in the process to flying a Spitfire.

In fact, BFA require you to do a back seat check ride in the lead up to starting a formal Spitfire conversion program with them. So, I arranged some annual leave and booked myself in for some conversion training in the Spitfire this September just gone. At the point I made the booking, I didn't actually have the required Harvard experience, only a vague idea about what I had to do...nothing like a little time pressure though to focus the mind and make things happen!

Anyway, after a concentrated effort from Mike I was able to present myself to BFA with a little over 20 very handy hours in a Harvard to my name. This time was spent focusing on all types of landings, wheelers, three pointers on grass and wheelers on Tarmac from the front and back seat. Practice forced landings and aerobatics, plus a little formation also. It's a great aircraft to fly anyway so I feel really fortunate to be trusted enough to be given the keys by Mike and can continue to enjoy this great historic aircraft and develop my flying skills further.

Stepping back to September, I was fortunate enough to be allocated one Dave Mackay, all round great guy, awesome instructor and ex Royal Navy Harrier pilot with many incredible warbirds in his log book including, but not limited to Spitfire T9, Seafire 17, Seafury, Skyraider, F/A-18 etc, etc...we did about 3.5 hours in four sorties over two days. The flying included some general handling, aerobatics, a little cross country, practice forced landings and circuits on both Tarmac and grass (three pointers and wheelers). What an incredible experience is all I can say!

The first sortie was a short re-famil from the back seat and an opportunity for Dave to see me fly before letting me loose in the front cockpit. That first start was not just a little daunting, sitting there looking at that massive four blade prop through the armoured glass over that famously long nose...awesome!

My own preparation was extensive, the briefings were very thorough and it all helped to make the whole experience extremely enjoyable whilst still being plenty challenging and very, very satisfying. The Spitfire is like a drug and after the trip to the UK I experienced a definite low as I came down off the high that is operating this magnificent aircraft. It has given me renewed enthusiasm for my project and at the same time I look forward to the next time I will get to fly the Spitfire and continue this amazing journey of a life time! Enjoy the pics!

 

 
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