Rick Piper's DeHavilland Chipmunk
By Nigel C. Martin (30 October 2004)
Oh yes, I must also mention the superb Hawker Hunter recently on general release... also freeware, more about that later.
I am sure by the time my diatribe hits the streets you probably already have the offerings on the computer and achieved many hours flying, well if not here goes...
A name already synonymous with staggering quality is Rick Piper, and his team (panel by Dave Booker, Savenio Maurri and David Maltby; Gypsy Major engine sounds by Mike Hambly and of course textures by Rick Piper).
In the 1940's, 50's and 60's, you would have seen vast arrays of beautiful and majestic aircraft. Shapes changing, as well as power plants, I guess this was because technology was advancing at a tremendous rate and there was a hunger for machines that would achieve greater speed and endurance. The introduction of the jet engine heralded this leap.
HISTORYA little splattering of history, The De Havilland Canada Chipmunk is a fully aerobatic two seat training aircraft, and was the standard, post-war primary trainer for the RAF, Army and Navy.
The de Havilland Canada DHC-1 Chipmunk was designed to succeed De Havilland's classic Tiger Moth biplane trainer. Flying for the first time at Downsview, Toronto on 22 May 1946, the tandem-seat stressed-skin monoplane was the first indigenous design of de Havilland Aircraft of Canada Ltd. The prototype, put through its paces by Pat Fillingham from the parent company at Hatfield, was powered by a 108 kw (145 hp) de Havilland Gipsy Major 1C. Chipmunks built to the prototype's specification were designated DHC-1B-1, while those with a Gipsy Major 10-3 were designated DHC-1B-2. Most Canadian-built Chipmunks had a bubble canopy.
Downsview built 218 Chipmunks, the last in 1951. The Aeroplane and Armament Experimental Establishment at Boscombe Down evaluated two aircraft. As a result, the fully aerobatic Chipmunk was ordered from Hatfield and Chester to Specification 8/48 as a trainer for the RAF.
The RAF received 735 Chipmunks manufactured in the UK. The first to wear RAF roundels were flown by the Oxford University Air Squadron from February 1950; thereafter, the type replaced the Tiger Moth with all 17 university air squadrons, as well as equipping many RAF Volunteer Reserve flying schools in the early 1950s. National service pilots underwent their initial training on the Chip, which served intermittently at the RAF College, Cranwell.
A few Chipmunks of No. 114 Squadron were pressed into service in Cyprus on internal security flights during the troubles of 1958.
Under an agreement concluded between de Havilland and the General Aeronautical Material Workshops (OGMA) of Portugal 60 Chipmunks were licence-manufactured from 1955 for the Portuguese air force, and the type was still being operated by this service until replaced in 1989. Other users included Burma, Ceylon, Chile, Colombia, Denmark, Egypt, Eire, Iraq, Jordan, Lebanon, Malaya, Saudi Arabia, Syria, Thailand and Uruguay.
Civilianised versions of RAF aircraft became available in large numbers from the late 1950s. Farm Aviation Services in the UK heavily modified Chipmunks with a hopper tank in place of the forward cockpit for spraying duties. These aircraft were designated Mk.23s. Sasin/Aerostructures performed a small number of similar conversions in Australia.
Today the Chipmunk remains a very popular sport and private aircraft, while a small number are still used for pilot training and tailwheel endorsements. Some have also been extensively modified with the installation of Lycoming or Continental engines.
PRODUCTION1283 Chipmunks were built, including 217 in Canada, 66 under license in Portugal and 1000 in Britain. Most of these were built originally for military customers. The first UK civil ex-RAF Chipmunk became available in 1956 and many now fly with private operators. (Many thanks for the history from the superb site http://www.deltaaviation.co.uk/).
Any aspiring pilot who was in the Air Training Corp or CCF in the UK (or any other country for that matter) would I am sure have had a few hours in the workhorse of a trainer...the Chipmunk.
Oh boy, do I remember being strapped into my parachute tightly...oh yes to the extent of possible gangrene, and being informed the Chipmunk 200 yards away was my steed and off I go waddling like a pregnant duck, being the point of ridicule of all my fellow cadets. Oh sweet revenge, I became a Cadet Warrant Officer, and when it my turn to oversee the parachute fitting, well you guess the rest! Only to those I identified as the plotters at my previous fitting sessions of course!
I digress...The Chipmunk; this is available for download from the FlightSim.Com file library; see the links at the end of the article.
Downloading is a breeze, but it is a whopping 17.4 megs--a great reason to upgrade to broadband. If not, make a cup of coffee or cut the lawn, what ever, but the wait is truly worth it.
INSTALLATIONOnce on your machine in a temporary file, all you do is to unzip the file into the FS2004 root directory. That's it, it is now installed. I do wish all free ware programs could be installed this way, simply, and not move files from pillar to post. Should not grumble I guess as they are free after all.
Get FS2004 up and ready go to aircraft menu and select De Havilland and there they are, all six options to choose from. Most color ways are from the 'traditional' range, but for you Canadian aviators the bubble variant much used in the RCCAF is included. The Mk 10, MK 20 and MK 30 are represented.
EXTERIOR DETAILOnce selected, take time to look around the aircraft closely. You will not be disappointed as the attention to detail is superb. I guess let's start form the exterior.
At every point the detail is correct: paint, metal, prop, day-glow effects, dynamic shine reflections all in place. Have a 'tour' around and you will appreciate my enthusiasm. One of the real wow factors for me was the pilots and sound, which often spoil the superb aircraft detail, and these do not!
The pilot's heads 'look around' (up and down) in a random fashion, far closer to reality. The face detail stands up to the closest scrutiny, and 'bone dome' selection is also accurate for the aircraft type selected.
And when selected the canopy draws back and forth at an accurate speed.
The sound, oh yes the sound, this is a true facsimile of the real thing. If you engage the sequence, well it just sounds right. There are some very subtle prop visual effects...lovely. You may say," hang on, the Chipmunk had cartridge start?" This is correct on some of the early versions; most in service were converted to electric start, it is this type that are represented in the download.
The fuel gauges...well these can be found port and starboard at the wing roots, and they are superb. You can 'zoom' in and the detail just gets better...great in VC mode.
I was flying a privately owned Chipmunk only a few weeks ago! And that sound when the volume on speakers was turned up took me back. Because of the inverted engine you get a puff of smoke on start-up, and guess what, yup there it was there. Not too over done. The stopping sequence is again accurate within the limitations of FS 2004 (i.e. prop flicker' on engine stop missing).
I really liked the nav light detail. There were real bulbs on view, which provided an authentic glow. Let's not forget the tail white light also on show.
I have no doubt, looking at the various options available, you will like me choose a favorite color-way, but I can guarantee you will be popping back into that options tag and choosing another beauty to 'fly', time and time again.
On the detail presented, all six options, I can honestly conclude this section by saying faultless, superb.
INTERIOR DETAILOne look at the 2D cockpit, you will appreciate the 'lived in' look so typical of the period. This is, as far as I am concerned authentic.
The instruments are very easy to disseminate with the usual ATC, GPS, etc. fast access buttons in easy view lower left of panel. Two magneto switches are located left of the ATC cluster. You also have a fuel gauge button you can select from the interior, showing both tank capacities, as well as the throttle/mixture quadrant and stunning compass. If you draw the mouse around the cockpit a description of the instrument will appear, assisting identification.
If taxiing is a problem, you will be prompted to select an option which will allow an easier vantage point. No, don't bother taxiing like the real guys did it, use that rudder. Or why not just 'hop' outside the aircraft when taxiing?
OK, this is where the fun kicks in: hit that 'hat' key which will put you in VC mode, (virtual cockpit). Oh yes, nice very nice. Look around, attention to the 'bit's and pieces' are self evident.
On some offerings once this option is selected some of detail is hard to make out or massive distortion, not so here. The stick and rudder movement is free and fluid, all instruments are easy to read and use.
If you have a hat key, flick round 360 degrees. The detail is a continuous feature--fire extinguisher, throttle, mixture seat, belts and other ancillary switches all represented in fine detail. A quick scan above your head reveals the canopy handles to the left, or port side of the canopy frame.
I found the VC mode extremely useful taxiing and flying especially in the circuit, base and final.
FLYINGThat's what it is all about; but I will mention the ground handling first. This is accurate as long as you do not taxi to the threshold at break neck speed and then turn full left or right. Why? Well you can imagine one dented plane!
Right, let's get this machine off terra firma and into the ether. Whether you opt to start on the threshold or at a stand, once ATC clearance is given, select full throttle. Don't forget, three easy staged movements, slight left rudder to compensate (check the trim), as with any 'tail dragger', slight nose down, tail off at approximately 35, 40 knots slight back pressure, and let the aircraft kiss goodbye to the ground, at about 65 to 70 knots, then enter the realms of positive rate of climb.
As with the real thing, slight pressure is needed, NOT hard or aggressive inputs. Have you heard of a 'right pickle'? Well guys, that is what you will be in if you do not treat this aircraft like a lady! (Remember, a good Chipmunk with decent air time on the frame will set back, about 60,000 Pounds Sterling, so treat it with respect).
Climb up to 2500 or 3000 feet and have a play--a few rolls, stall turns, barrel rolls...well, you get my point. A point worthy of mention is the rudder. It is a delight to input rudder and the aircraft has an effect commiserate with the movement of this important surface, especially noticeable on stall turns and crabbing. Well done!
As previously mentioned, the movements are fluid and believable, and proportionate, to this aircraft.
The instruments are 'clean' and very easy to read, a delight to get back these more traditional styles from the glass house set ups I guess we are more used too.
Well, after having some real fun and annoying the farmers below, oops and their cattle, head back to the airfield.
Flying VFR and dead reckoning, and with aid of a map... Or for the lazy, GPS and slew mode, call for joining instructions, fly the circuit, turn base leg onto final, down with some flap (first stage of three), bit of a nose up condition, nothing a little trim does not sort.
Because of the closing speed it allows you to line up perfectly EVERY time with the threshold (and NO excuses!). Well established on final select full flaps trim and let it settle. Use throttle movements, not elevator, to minimise sink. Over threshold at 65 to 70 knots. Throttle back, sink gently, and let those wheels just 'kiss' the ground. Nothing is more gratifying for a tail dragger (main undercarriage and a tail wheel) pilot than a '3 pointer'. If at a perfect speed and sink, all three wheels touch at the same time, without bouncing down the runway like a rubber ball!
Once settled a little and the roll is slowing, gently apply the brakes, turn off active, canopy back, and taxi back for the de-briefing.
Fantastic, well I have just been given permission to go on my first solo, so, if you would excuse me I'm off to my briefing...
CONCLUSIONI have spent tens of hours up in this beauty while in the ATC (and on my computer!). And I am privileged to have been up more than a few times in the real thing, so the memories have come flooding back. As I am sure they will for many thousands of you guys.
I briefly mentioned the Hawker Hunter at the opening, my platitudes and honest views expressed for the Chipmunk could be mirrored for the Hunter, this is to another exemplary example of stunning work which you must download. It is fantastic, and freeware. (Rick Piper was on the team for this one as well.)
Please keep producing these superb offerings, your hard work and dedication is greatly appreciated by us all.
The entire selection of the Chipmunk variants on offer in Rick's downloadable file will delight, and prove to be an aircraft that remains in the permanent hangar on your computer.
Negative observations? No not really, perhaps a few minor elements. The keen eyed of you will notice very minor 'hitches' these can be sorted by downloading the patch and pop it into the root directory...presto job done. Perfection.
You see how minor that was... Go on download, install have some real fun. Well done Rick (and team) a real winner!
PS I really want to see a Fairy Gannett Fleet Air Arm, a really good sample of the Westland Wasp helicopter Fleet Air Arm, any takers...?
Nigel. C. Martin