Now you can fly a Spitfire without the fear of imminent death

New simulator uses an array of Optoma projectors and a real Spitfire fuselage to recreate the thrill of flying whilst being shot at by Nazis

Have you ever wanted to fly a Spitfire, but been put off by the fairly high chance of a nasty accident? Boultbee Flight Academy at Goodwood Aerodrome in Chichester has the answer, in the shape of the most true-to-life Spitfire flight simulator ever. It's not powered by the RAF and Blitz spirit so much as by a powerful PC and Optoma, who provide the visuals via an array of projectors.

Using a real Spitfire Mk IX fuselage with authentic gauges, controls and instruments, the computer-generated sim visuals appear on a 6.4m-wide spherical dome screen that fills the pilot’s field of vision, and seven Optoma W505 projectors with short throw 0.8:1 lenses, "positioned and oriented so the images cover the spherical screen completely and, also very importantly, such that the Spitfire Mk IX fuselage, with its canopy closed, does not created any shadows on the screen." 

The result is "a horizontal field of view of 225° and a vertical field of view from -55° and to 110° (20° beyond north)'. The pilot thus has '100% coverage of the areas visible from his eye-point with the cockpit closed." It's totally immersive, in other words. 

Building the ultimate Spitfire simulator

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Building the ultimate Spitfire simulator

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The sim will be used for training pilots but you, the public, can also get a taste. Interestingly, the W505 is not even that expensive a projector (about £300-£400), so if you simply buy seven of them, you could recreate this at home.

All you need to add is a 3.4 x 4 x 2.9m room – ie: a shed – and a 3.2 m radius spherical dome screen – although this 'needed to be manufactured in bespoke segments' in order to cram it into the space, so it might be a bit pricey. Oh, and a Spitfire carcass.

Matt Jones, MD & Chief Pilot at Boultbee Flight Academy, said: “It has been our plan for a long time to commission a training simulator for our Spitfire war birds here at Goodwood Aerodrome… The performance of the simulator is even better than we expected and we are confident that it will be an invaluable tool during the training of future Spitfire pilots. It is also our intention to offer simulators flights to the public and to everybody that has an interest in preserving the finest British fighter plane every built."

Oh yeah, Boultbee does also have real Spitfires you can learn to fly in.

Wax your moustache, kiss your loved ones goodbye and head to Boultbee Flight Academy. No details on pricing as yet.

Duncan has been writing about tech for almost 15 years and fitness ever since he became middle aged and realised he could no longer rely solely on his boyish good looks. He used to be on telly loads, but an unfortunate incident put a stop to that, so he now largely contents himself with telling people, "I used to be on the TV, you know."
Pre-lockdown Duncan was widely regarded as the best-dressed man ever to work for T3 – admittedly not saying much. Post-lockdown he is looking forward to wearing clothes other than shorts and hoodies again very soon, assuming he can still fit into them. He currently writes about cycling, fitness tech that isn’t too heavy, and all things kitchen and home related.