Spitfire Takeoff Problems

some aircraft are not for the casuals, persevere and it will work tho.
always funny to see pilot errors called program bugs.


Thanks for this excellent post and links. Appreciated. Anyone struggling should read this as it’s spot on. It’s taken me about 12 hours of trial and error to finally get consistent, smooth take-offs. Could have saved myself much grief (but missed the fun!). Couldn’t help thinking that the real thing would be a darned sight easier…

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In the real thing, you’d be getting real-time feedback through your hands from the stick forces, the feel of the throttle, and most importantly, your guts and inner ear registering all the movements of the plane. In the sim we have to go with just the positions of your hands on the stick and watching the screen … The real thing probably is easier for pilots who have already gotten several dozen or hundred hours in tail-dragger trainers before transition to a fighter. :slight_smile:

I’m training too.
It’s very difficult to take off without completely wobbling.
But I like the Spitfire very much.


That’s not wobbling - it’s straight down the middle :muscle:t2::ok_hand:t2:
I’ve done worse for sure!

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True that, but interestingly, in the MK Is, trainees could learn only by familiarising themselves with the controls and then taking the plane up for a solo flight.

"We flew Spitfires from biplanes. None of us had ever flown monoplanes before and suddenly we were faced with these fearsome aeroplanes called Spitfires. And this bloke said to me, ‘This is a Spitfire; get in and fly it’. All the training you had was to sit in the hangar with a blindfold round your eyes and the Spitfire on trestles, and you felt round the cockpit trying to identify all the bits, pulling the wheels up and you put the flaps down etc. Half a day. Then you were introduced to your plane and told to get on with it, and that was that. "

  • Tom Neil of 249 Squadron (quoted in ‘Spitfire: Portrait Of A Legend’ by Leo McKinstry)

Glad the notes helped. Really just passing along “the knowledge” I’ve gotten from others over the years, can’t claim any real expertise.

12 hours sounds about right. And I agree with @LameLefty - the real things would be easier (not easy, but easier), since you’ve got all those physical cues. Even so, there are plenty of stories about new Mustang pilots opening the throttle and finding themselves immediately bouncing along off to the left. These are all really hard airplanes to master. And there are days when I’m not up for it - I’ve been putting time in recently on the P-38 just to get away from the torque for a while.

But the Spitfire keeps pulling me back in…

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Geoffrey Wellum tells a similar story in First Light. He might have gotten time in the Spitifre on trestles but he doesn’t talk about that - just about being put in the airplane and told to go fly it, which he did. He did have some time in Harvards, so that might have helped (his squadron commander, Roger Bushell, asked in the interivew, “So at least you’ve flown something that folds up, undercarriage, flaps and that sort of thing?”) Scary but makes sense under the circumstances. It was the day before the first action over Dunkirk, the operational training units were just being stood up, and 92 Squadron had just been activated. So, yes, go fly a Spitfire and see how you do. The day after he was posted, the squadron flew its first mission and immediately lost four pilots, including Bushell. Training was a luxury.

The one thing in their favor was that the Mk I wasn’t a torque monster the way the Mk IX is. It had about half the horsepower. I’ve read that the IX was the mark the pilots liked best, but there’s also a school of thought that the Mk I was the best balanced - closest to Mitchell’s original design. I love the A2A version of it. But the Flying Iron is so good that I’m willing to wrestle with it. And it’s great once it’s in the air. Getting there is, well, a process…


The Mk IX is so much fun to fly :slight_smile:
If only I had the time to fly more Warbirds!


What’s nice is that what you learn on the Spit Mk IX is transferable to lots of others, like the P-51 and the Corsair. Settings will be different but the same basic handling principles apply.

Others are easier, like the P-38 (love contra-rotating props) and the P-47, which was big and heavy and stable, and handled more like a jet on takeoff and landing. (Side note- really hoping Flying Iron does their P-47 for MSFS).

The other great thing about warbirds is that you can get them up in the air quickly (in some cases, like the Spitfire Mk I, you have to, before they overheat) and if you just hack around in them for 15 minutes or so, that’s a really satisfying flight.

Periodically I get seduced by airliners and have a bout with them and then realize I don’t have three- or four-hour blocks to deal with them. But I do have lots of 15-minute blocks and warbirds fit really nicely there.

The Spit Mk IX feels like a homecoming.


Excellent! But next time you have a chance, try the elevator trim at +1 instead of -1. I just ran a bunch of tests to try some different variations, and trim at +1 really handles a lot better. Flies off by itself with the stick at neutral or even just a little aft - very little control input needed. It’s the book value for the Mk. IX in the pilot’s operating handbook (though not in the Flying Iron documentation), but I wanted to go back and try out the FI recommendation just to be sure. I’m sticking with the original advice. Hope FI will think about updating the manual someday.


This. 100% this. I probably could do a 3-4 hour flight after work in a tubeliner, but I’d get bored out of my mind if I did it often. But a 10 - 20 minute jaunt around Hawaii, New York City, Hong Kong, London, or a Caribbean island paradise is wonderful stress relief. And after that’s done, I can teleport elsewhere in the world and do it again. The Spit, the P-38L, the Corsair or whatever are perfect for this kind of thing. Visceral, “seat of the pants” and just plain (plane) fun. :slight_smile:


Apart from the time required, I finally realized that the other thing that gets in the way of my enjoying airliners is that you’re basically simulating having a corporate job. Between the planning and the startup routine and then the time at altitude watching the automation do its thing… basically I can get that kind of thing during my workday.

I’m being a little unfair, of course. Airliners were my first love in aviation and I still pay a lot of attention to them. But I’m sorry to say that simulating them just isn’t a fit.

My warbird flights these days are mostly simulated photo recon - get to altitude (usually low altitude), overfly a couple of places, back to base. And plausible missions to fly alone. If you know the area (I often fly my local area), you don’t even need a map. No planning, just out and back. I fly the photo recon Spit paints (I’m often the guy in the pink Spitfire - and I love the simplicity of the Spit’s systems). For variety, I’ll do the occasional outing as my avatar in a Group II/33 P-38/F-5.

Just got back a short while go with my latest photos of KDCA… :sunglasses:


I’d suggest trying the DCS spit one day if you want to feel accomplished in the MSFS one… p-factor is crazily strong & the tail is as twitchy as it could be. Basically learned to throttle up very gradually & almost fly it off 3-pointed ( not quite, but sort of ), changing the prop’s AOA on takeoff a bit suddenly will throw you all over the place. Mind you just getting that thing to the runway is a trial :slight_smile:

Do like the feel of the IX, one of the better feeling MSFS aircraft.

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Glad this thread is still going. Wanted to come back to it to amend something I’d posted repeatedly above about takeoff trim - Flying Iron is actually correct, according to the Pilot’s Notes for the Mk IX, recommended takeoff trim is in fact -1, that is, one notch nose down. It’s not universal - the setting depends on loadout, and if you’re carrying full ammunition and a drop tank, the recommendation is for neutral elevator trim. But there’s no recommendation on the books for +1.

I’m going to have to check with John Terrell and see where he got the +1 recommendation. His research is always excellent, and it’s possible he’s got a different contemporary source. But I’m wondering if it might be a modern airshow setting that would work best with limited fuel.

I ran a few more tests and was finally able to get a good, smooth takeoff at -1. The trick is to hold the stick a bit aft of neutral - farther aft than you would at the +1 setting. The difference in stick position makes it almost a wash - neutral stick/nose up vs. aft stick/nose down. But there’s an advantage to nose-down trim - when you get airborne, you’re a bit faster and therefore a bit more stable. With nose up, if you’re not careful, you can lift off prematurely, very close to or even below stall speed.

I haven’t flown DCS but it looks like at least one of @VanDisaster 's recommendations does carry over to MSFS - it’s best to lift off in a three-point or at least tail-low attitude. If you bring the nose level, the gyroscopic precession will bite you in MSFS, too.

As always, hope this helps.


Interesting post, Alan. As you say, I reckon -1 T/O elevator trim would be for fully fuelled and armed, though you’d expect the nose and wing loading to be heavier anyway with full tanks and ammo. Hmm.

I still find +1 works like a charm providing you don’t lift the tail too soon and let the speed build. In level flight I find elevator trim to be around +1.5-ish. With nose down trim you’d be fighting to get the plane trimmed level once airborne.

I tried +1 while I usually use -1. It didn’t make much difference to me, takes off cleanly either way, and need to add heaps of positive trim to get level flight after takeoff either way.

I always take off from 2 wheels which is realistic. The important part is back stick pressure to hold the tail down (I’m at 4 boost for this) until about 60mph then neutral to let the tail lift. If you do this it’s entirely controllable but if the tail lifts too early then it’ll be uncontrollable.

Once the tail is flying then I smoothly power up to 6-8 boost and then rotate around 100mph for a clean takeoff.

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Yes, don’t actually three-point takeoff, but keeping the tail low ( and AoA change down ) does help for something this light & powerful. The problem with trying to be realistic with… well any taildragger I guess, but especially something as light, powerful & sensitive as an earlier Spit, is the complete lack of feel we have.

On some a/c of the era holding the stick back witl lock the tailwheel - shouldn’t do that on a Spit iirc but that helps a lot if it’s fitted.

Today, I installed the Ver. 1.1.0 update.
After that, the engine power seems to have decreased.
With the Ver 1.1.0 update, I lost both climb rate and flight speed.

However, I am glad that the strong nose down when flaps are down is gone.

How did you guys feel about it?

I haven’t noticed a change in climb rate or speed but in fairness it’s a long while since I updated - and I didn’t fly the original version much because I found the takeoff behavior way too unruly. It’s possible that engine power in flight was tamed a bit as a result of toning down the takeoff torque - not sure. If so, I’m OK with the tradeoff since the update made the Spit flyable for me, and it’s still plenty lively once in the air.

Catching up with @BarryHoll and @RagingWombat839 about takeoff trim - I agree it’s a pretty fine distinction between -1 and +1 since at the end of the day, all you’re really doing is adjusting your required stick input a bit. I suspect the reason I like +1 is that you can hold the stick a bit closer to neutral, which is easier with a sensitive short-throw controller (I use a Virpil WarBRD). At -1 I need more stick input and that can lead to overcontrol and a bit of teetering.

Not sure about bringing the aircraft fully level on the takeoff roll - got to worry about prop clearance, of which there isn’t much. Most of the film and modern airshow video I’ve seen shows tail-low takeoffs - though not exclusively. Probably something else that comes down to preference and style.

As to the trim with different loadouts - on the real aircraft it seems to have been a delicate dance with the CoG. The book calls for -1 with full fuel, neutral with a drop tank and a full loadout of .50 cal ammo, and back to -1 with full ammo and a slipper tank. Still thinking +1 might be an airshow trim with light fuel.

Fun exploration - am grateful to FI for making it possible.