Last night I battled the million little problems that always plague something that is “practically finished”. But all the frustration was worth it. By 23.30 I was ready and called my long suffering wife in. I had decided to give her first flight. It was actually more fun to watch I think. Unfortunately the video battery died but I was NOT postponing.
After a 10 minute briefing on procedures etc, she went through the startup drill (with minimal prodding) and that beautiful Merlin roared to life. Takeoff was “interesting” but basically safe. The U/C “up” was flawless, no Spitfire wobble at all….bi7ch!!!!
There followed a 32 minute flight where she chased a few AI around Biggin Hill, beat up a small field nearby (not sure which, but they will have rung the authorities by now ), tested the instruments and after an aborted first circuit made a very passable “wheeler” landing back at Biggin. The brakes unfortunately proved very effective at the end of the landing run .... but nothing a new prop won’t fix.
She is definitely a fan now and I got the nod of approval on my building. Seeing the War Office get so excited about something like that is a rare privilege indeed!
So then it was on to the advanced air test. It all felt quite natural getting her started. The temps came up fairly quickly as the engine was still hot from Tracey’s flight, so a quick taxi was in order (thankfully the ground run tests had honed my skills on the brakes). Without much pre-flight (Fuel, mixture, prop pitch, elevator trim, temps and throttle ) I let off the brakes and eased the throttle forward at about the same rate as my right leg. A bit of right aileron as well. When the tail came up though she gave a kick to the left and I needed to boot in more right rudder. (I have read where some pilots use their feet rather than setting the rudder trim, as you have to retrim immediately after takeoff in any case and the rudder forces are not huge …I tried this and think it is probably the method I will adopt permanently…you just need to watch the kick as the tail comes up..standard tailwheel flying stuff really). In what seemed like a heartbeat she was airborne and it was time for the U/C. A little bit of porpoising (and a raised eyebrow from the War Office!) and we were off. +6 Boost and 2650 and she climbs like a homesick angel. Level off at 5,000 just under 2 minutes later. Time for a HASEL check. That done, into the test.
The controls are great. Full stop. The aircraft should be and is, VERY sensitive in pitch. Very small movements fore and aft are necessary OR in fact desirable. The total travel is only about 22deg full forward to full back. In tests they found that in a steep turn, a backwards pull of only ¾ of an inch is enough to induce pre stall buffet. The A2A model is not quite that severe but almost. Tight turns are a joy though.
Next came a couple of lazy slow rolls. For me as an aerobatic pilot, flying a roll without feet on the rudder pedals is counter-intuitive. But the Spitfire does this admirably. I could almost hear the “aaahhhhh’s” from people on the ground
Then I tried some square rolls. WOW!!!!!! The first was spot on with perfect 90deg angles and a nice little “cough” while inverted. The next two I got cocky and missed the angles by 5-10 degrees….oh well. Not the aircraft’s fault.
On to the Cuban eights as a pre-requisite for a full loop. First one worked a charm and I used a normal half roll off the top of both halves. The second was also great and I threw in spirited square half rolls for good measure. The cockpit handles it all very nicely.
A loop was next and that went off without a hitch, although you need to be very careful on the pullout as the whole world gets grey pretty quickly. (note to self, rig a G Meter somewhere).
I left the Stall Turn until after all this, as they are not all that easy. I find that in the Spitfire there is a nasty surprise (the model, I wonder if the real one is the same?) The fact that the controls remain effective right down to the stall means that it hard to judge when to do the “turn” part of “stall turn”. The first one I fell into through too much rudder authority and was lucky to avoid a spin. The second I tail slid out of because I held on too long (…not a nice feeling in real life). The third was perfect.
I’ll leave the “Upward Charlies” until I get a better feel but want to get at least two in a row out of her.
Last but not least was a shallow dive at full boost reaching 390mph from 6,000ft. As fast as I wanted to go first up and ending at 1000ft. Then I dodged trees back to Biggin for a “run and break”.
The circuit was a bit wide but the speeds were spot on and she settled into a perfect three pointer at 65mph.
WHAT A BUZZ!!!!!!!!
A few shots, video asap.
From rear starboard quarter
Pipe detailing, right hand side.
Landing Lamp Unit and Compass
Helmet and Masks Thanks again philip!!