• Just Flight Spitfire

    Just Flight Spitfire

    By Nigel Martin (29 July 2005)

    Every time I have seen the majestic iconic Spitfire slicing through the skies at air shows, on television or on films, a thought springs to my mind, ‘’ I wonder what it was like to fly a Spit ?’’ Well now you can lower yourself into the ‘office’ of the Spitfire when you take advantage of one of the latest offerings form Just Flight.

    I am aware of several freeware examples, some very good, but one look at the packaging points to the quality of the product within. The screen shots are awesome, great things to come…. We will see.

    There has never really been an aircraft that has captured the imagination as the Spitfire, the appreciation of its beauty the sound of its engines, lead us to think of the heady and dangerous days of 1940 above the skies of southern England when the Spitfire and Hurricane fought a valiant fight for the liberty and freedom of the English and her allies. A little sentimental, no, I have many discussions with a gentle and unassuming man who has told me of those days where the life expectancy for the brave young pilots was hours rather than days. He should know as he was one of them!

    I showed him the package or rather the screen shots on the rear of the package and witnessed a wry smile of admiration and remembering the crazy days of the Battle of Britain and indeed the entire Second Wold War.

    He could not believe the pictures were from a computer program! With the wonderful memories and experiences he relayed still vivid and fresh in mind, I really wanted to get to grips with the Spit within the flight simulator.

    The range of models featured within the program begins appropriately with the prototype K5054 and reaches its zenith at the Griffon-engined Mk 22. Inclusion of some of the best loved aircraft in the world are modelled, including the RAF’s Battle of Britain Memorial Flight Spitfires – seen most recently in the D-Day celebrations, memorial fly-pasts over Buckingham Palace and of course the airshow circuit attended by 100,000s.

    The official tie-in with the Royal Air Force has not only helped provide access to the BBMF Spitfires at RAF Conningsby, but allowed Just Flight to include extracts and reproductions from actual WWII-era pilot’s notes as originally issued, in a substantial printed manual that will accompany the product. This is complimented by Aeroplane Heaven’s own fabulous 1940s-style interactive flying guide to the aircraft!

    Aeroplane Heaven have had unique access to detailed telemetric data based on real aircraft through their work developing a high-end Spitfire simulation for Historic Flying Limited based at Duxford, the world’s leading restorers of Spitfires to flying condition.

    Spitfire is rounded off with period scenery of RAF Duxford that includes the airfield, village and immediate surroundings, which you must be sure to start your Spitfire flying career from.

    Each of the variants offered have been thoroughly researched for authenticity and accuracy. Subtle differences between the different marks are modelled, including four different styles of:

    • Throttle quadrant, landing gear controls and other equipment. No two models are the same – just like the real aircraft.
    • Flight models, liveries, 2D cockpits, virtual cockpits, panels, sounds and instruments are reproduced to a phenomenal level of accuracy and authenticity.
    • Working flight controls include trim tabs on elevators and rudder, operated from the correct controls in the cockpits, as well as flap and gear indicators, control rods and horns for the rudders. All hatches and minor inspection doors are animated with textured interiors.
    • Fully detailed undercarriages with correctly functioning suspension, brake lines and hydraulics; asymmetric gear retractions are also accurately modelled.
    • Variable pitch on propeller blades (where applicable to type) is modelled and can be changed using the pitch control in the cockpit.
    • Authentic pilot’s notes in a substantial printed manual and interactive ‘video’ flying guide to the aircraft in 1940s style interface.

    To further provide you with advice and guidance, there is a unique inclusion of a multimedia presentation that guides you through every aspect of the Spitfire. A great little feature, it worked very well, and proved to most informative.

    The above if needed, demonstrates the calibre of this offering from Just Flight.

    Does it live up to it’s expectation? We will see...

    Packaging

    We have now become accustomed at the uniform packaging of Just Flight programs, i.e., a plastic case with superb graphic detail front and back, with the customary graphic front and concise information on the reverse also showing a number of screen shots which further ‘whet ‘ the appetite.

    As you split open the cellophane wrapping and open the case you will note one CD held firmly on the right and an orange colored A5 booklet again held in position to the left. The booklet is the pilot notes. Before installation, please read the instructions, which it has to said are very well laid out and easy to disseminate. They have some lovely thumbnail pictures of the aircraft included providing a brief history and tech data. You are also given clear pictorial references to key switches and instruments which again are clear and of great use.

    From page 24 on to 59 you will be fascinated by the inclusion of real Spitfire pilots notes, including cut-away drawings and diagrams. All in all the pilots notes are well worth reading from front to back, I did.

    Installation

    Pop the CD into your CD reader and if you have auto-install it will prompt you to either watch other Just Flight offerings or install into FS2002/FS2004/CFS2/CFS3. Make your selection and let the wonders of modern technology do the rest.

    Within just a few minutes the process is complete. Open the Aircraft option, scroll down to find Supermarine Spitfire Heaven, click on this option which opens an entire ‘hangar’ of Spitfires to chose from.

    Exterior

    This is where the superlatives come into play, choose whichever steed you wish but I selected the K5054 prototype, this option is presented in a light blue (PRU Blue I believe) which looks fabulous. Using the hat key , or ‘S’ key on your keyboard, a virtual tour around the aircraft will show you some wonderful subtle dynamic shine effects.

    When you look closer you appreciate the detail and the panel lines. The painted roundels and recognition lettering is staggeringly accurate. Staining is represented on operational aircraft, from cordite from the machine guns/cannons (lovely graphic effect of the cannons firing, when you press the ‘I’ key, great sound as well. All right the cannon shells look a little too big, but the effect works. (Not all models work in Combat Flight Simulator).

    Back to the K5054, starting from the ‘sharp’ end the propeller detail is again superb, the manifolds are accurate. On this model staining is not evident but on the operational models there are some great effects of the high octane fuel (I assume lead content) leaving a light grey stain along the fuselage in an arch from the manifold towards the rear wing root, caused by the slip stream. Also due to the use on the operational aircraft you will notice scuff marks or paint chipping off the wings. These effects are subtle and look convincing.

    The undercarriage looks great with hydraulic pipes on show, and the attention to detail is self evident. I must say the wheels look, well realistic, the tires they have an accurate weighted look, a color that works very well also.

    Staying with the undercarriage, on this variant you will notice the ‘pants’ yes that is pants, these are small flaps that are positioned at 90 degrees to the bottom of the undercarriage door affixed to the olio leg. Interesting to note this feature did not appear until the MK 22, much later on in the Spitfire’s evolution.

    As you move back, the canopy area looks typically great. You can open the canopy hatch and lower some inspection hatches and of course the cockpit ‘door’ which all are fully detailed inside and out.

    You will also notice a pilot figure in situ. Your eyes are not playing tricks, he is scanning the area with head movements both vertical and horizontal. I did feel the movement lacked a little realism, maybe if the sequence was more random. Each aircraft type you will notice subtle differences. On the later models you will see a pilot sporting a ‘bone-dome’ in white. I felt this lacked detail, surrounded by excellence inside and out this could have been better. The uniforms of each pilot are very highly detailed even down to the pilots wings!

    Be it leather helmet or ‘Bone-Dome’ an oxygen mask is seen hanging, but this is not attached at any time. I attained 20,000 feet yet the mask was still hanging. A shame. With Just Flight's Tornado the mask is taken off and put back on when the canopy is raised or lowered, why not do the same with the Spit?

    The flap detail is to the same exemplary standard, some lovely detail. Dependant upon the type chosen you will note some ordnance hanging from the fuselage and wings. The detail looks very authentic.

    During dusk or night light conditions, there are some great landing lights that are lowered when the undercarriage is ‘down’ and retracts when the gear is up. Staying with the lights, port starboard and white rearward lights are evident. I felt the green and blue wing tip lights were a little ‘ball’ like in effect. The cockpit interior lighting in dark conditions were very effective.

    Panel lines camouflage staining and some paint ‘chipping’ is present and subtle resulting in an accurate overall feel.

    Interior

    This is often an area that lets the entire package down, but to put it simply--this does not happen with this program. Indeed whichever type/option you select, the quality attention to detail remains constant, in the 2D and virtual cockpit options. Look out for the subtle differences on the various marks, you will find them; such is the attention to detail.

    It is difficult to highlight any one area of excellence, but I was very impressed by the reflections seen in the Plexiglas (adjustable) while in VC mode and the same effects upon the instruments. But the pinnacle of effect has to be the VC cockpit. The detail is just fantastic. A real must is a long ‘tour’ of the cockpit, as this will further enforces the overall feeling superb detail. The same level of detail can be seen in the 2D mode.

    Using the rudder bar and control stick results in fluid movements from within the cockpit. No hesitation just fluid movements.

    The instruments are a delight, clear concise and accurate. As far as I am concerned if you can fly and land an aircraft in VC mode it works, well it works!

    Flying

    Well at last, select the Spit of your choice, and position yourself at RAF Duxford which as mentioned is included. There you are, engine running, a quick scan around, get clearance form ATC. And now, to make your way to the active. Nudge the throttle gently, move forward, kicking the rudder bar left and right to get a view forward due to massive nose pointing upwards in front obscuring the forward view. (Or you can hit the ‘S’ or hat button to navigate yourself.) Turn onto the active, gently in increments push the throttle forward; right rudder to counter the massive torque generated by the Merlin or Griffon engine is a must.

    I had the engine running, but if you wish you can go through the entire engine start up sequence, the pilots notes will guide you through this process.

    If you ‘welly’ the throttle you will turn off the runway at 90 degrees in a hurry! Not recommended. Slight forward input of the stick, tail wheel off, off at 75/80 knots, speed build up very quickly, if trimmed correctly she wants to climb, up she goes.

    Retract undercarriage (a must see from the exterior, beautiful phased retraction of the undercarriage).

    After trimming the aircraft, and attained level flight, I noticed some unsteadiness which needed attention, looking for a fault. I then realised that I was experienced turbulence, which needed constant attention as it would be in reality.

    Keeping my first flight to a minimum, turned onto the downwind leg, reducing speed easier said than done, the Spit is so aerodynamic you will have to keep an eye on your speed. In VC mode a quick look to my right, past the threshold, a gentle turn onto the base leg, turn onto final, gear selected, I experienced a pitching down which needed immediate attention, selected flaps, again pitch up which also required immediate input. I have tried this manoeuvre several times and this effect was constant, and at different speeds, could this be ‘glitch’ in the program or am I not doing something? Only time will tell. Either way this effect is not enough to be annoying.

    Once sorted and settled, throttle back keeping an eye on the airspeed, use the throttle to adjust the descent, lined up over the threshold at 83 knots (95 mph), throttle back, nose up slightly to flare (wanting the perfect three pointer) ooops the famous Spitfire bounce. Well, we are down, using the rudder to keep on the line, gentle dabs on the brake, canopy back (Caps & E), flaps up, taxi back to dispersal and a reunion with my trusty Labrador ‘Jet’ (isn’t that what they were always called in the films?) and a well earned rest. Great.

    It has to be said, I adored watching from the exterior view my attempts at mimicking the tactical combat moves seen on so many films. I also enjoyed seeing the majestic lines of the Spitfire ‘slicing’ through the air, not to mention striving for the perfect landing.

    Have you noticed the lack of reference to the sound, why? It deserves a paragraph of accolade. Yes the sound makes this program; it is just stunning. If you choose the Merlin or the Griffon, you will be under no illusion that these are the engines powering the Spitfire. Or, if you fire the machine guns/cannon the sound is authentic.

    To do justice to this superb sound quality, turn up the sound. If you do not have a good sound card, and sound system buy one, If ever there was a reason to upgrade this is it!

    Conclusion

    Out of all the aircraft available to the ‘simming’ world I would imagine the chance of having 39 Spitfire aircraft, and 14 variants within this package will prove to be a must have. Even if your thing is to fly ’heavy metal’ a sojourn in the Spitfire will I am sure bring a smile to your face.

    I think I have used up all the superlatives within this review, I make no apologies. Why? Because this program is stunning and immensely enjoyable. It is also officially endorsed by the RAF, which goes some way in further support its pedigree and accuracy.

    A multi-media presentation is included which I found to be great value both from the recognition perspective, but from the practice hints of how to take off fly and land the Spitfire. A very nice addition that is very informative.

    You know I can conclude this section by using three words: a must have.

    At £29.99 it is not a cheap package, but is it worth it? I would say yes with out doubt.

    Moan and Groans

    Clearly very few, with the outstanding quality of the packages now entering the market, any element which is not up to par stands out. These may be however very small areas, but never the less we are demanding excellence, and rightly so.

    The pilot figure has to be mentioned, the uniform detail is excellent but the head movement I felt was a little stilted and predictable, a more random sequence would have been preferable. The oxygen mask--this is a real shame. If the pilots attached and removed this when the trigger was say the canopy closing or undercarriage closing would have made the entire visual experience. In Just Flight’s wonderful Tornado the mask was removed when the canopy was opened the reverse effect when it was lowered.

    The aerodynamic effect of the undercarriage (pitch down) and flaps (pitch up) I felt was a little extreme and required some drastic input. I have flown many aircraft (real) and not experienced such extremes.

    Just one quick point, I have a vested interest in Fleet Air Arm Aircraft….So what happened to the Seafire? That was a beautiful version of the Spitfire; its exclusion for what ever reason is a real shame.

    In conclusion, I love its iconic perfection. Enjoy!

    Nigel C Martin
    [email protected]

    Learn more here

    SYSTEM REQUIREMENTS

    Flight Simulator 2002 or 2004 and or Combat Flight Simulator 2 or 3XP/2000/ME (not guaranteed to work under Win98) – DirectX8.1 (or later)

    MINIMUM HARDWARE REQUIREMENTS

    PC with 1.4 GHz equivalent or higher processor, 512 Mb RAM. 64 Mb DirectX 8.1 compatible video card required, hard disk space 1.5 GB

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