View Full Version : Spitfire style control column vs straight column

11th Jan 2010, 18:52
I've searched the archives to no avail so if this question is a duplicate, sorry.

Here goes:

Can anyone give me valid reasons, be they ergonomic or otherwise, why British WW2 era fighters used a control column with a ring at the top as opposed to the straightforward style used elsewhere. I am an engineer, not a pilot so be gentle :)

Knowing that necessity is the mother etc, I have to believe it was not just down to "this is what we had before, therfore this is what you get..."

Thanks in advance

11th Jan 2010, 20:04
They didn't know how to build a nice roomy cockpit like the Yanks
Think stick throw.

11th Jan 2010, 20:49
In the days of manual controls a pilot could use both hands on a spade grip as opposed to a straight stick and therefore get more aileron quicker and therefore a faster rate of roll. There was nothing delicate about dog-fighting, it was throttles to the wall and violent manhandling of all the controls. Some pilots were so ham-fisted that they spun out of trouble. Other spun into it.

12th Jan 2010, 17:06
I read somewhere that it was designed to eliminate the amount of lateral movement necessary with a conventional stick to obtain full aileron deflection.
(Like tinpis sez.)

12th Jan 2010, 19:19
FWIW the Percival Prentice had a similar stick top IIRC. Make of it what you may, but dog-fighting was probably not top of the designer's priorities. Futile attempts at spin recovery, maybe. Heaving the damn thing off the ground, maybe.

12th Jan 2010, 20:21
You could hang onto that style of stick during negative G.

henry crun
12th Jan 2010, 20:43
You **@#!**#@ Capot:

It has taken me years to erase the memory of that apology for a flying machine, and now you had to name the bloody thing and bring the nightmare back to life again, thanks a bunch !

12th Jan 2010, 20:45
These are all very sensible reasons for having a spade grip in a fighter. So answer me this, why did the Hotspur glider have one?

13th Jan 2010, 00:39
No room unless you were Douglas Bader

BBC - WW2 People's War - WAR EXPERIENCES OF A GLIDER PILOT Part 1 (http://www.bbc.co.uk/ww2peopleswar/stories/14/a6833414.shtml)



My name is Ron Willcox and I am now 83 years old.
I was a glider pilot during the war. The training glider was called a Hotspur.
There wasn’t a lot of room to sit and if you were a big man it was quite difficult to get in, and you would have to sit with your knees bent all the time. It’s rather like a ‘go kart’. We had a speed indicator which was the main instrument that you needed, and we also had an altimeter.

13th Jan 2010, 07:39
This chap is building a replica Sopwith Snipe,

Sopwith Snipe Project (http://www.theaerodrome.com/forum/replica-aircraft/36007-sopwith-snipe-project.html)

His control grip is shown on page 20. Guess what shape it is...


Human Factor
13th Jan 2010, 08:56
These are all very sensible reasons for having a spade grip in a fighter. So answer me this, why did the Hotspur glider have one?

A bunch of spare Spitfire grips?

13th Jan 2010, 09:03
Henry Crun

Here's some aversion therapy;


Now back to the thread....................................

13th Jan 2010, 10:56
The RCAF Harvards (1953) had a spade in the front cockpit and a stick in the rear cockpit. You can't be fairer than that.

John Farley
13th Jan 2010, 18:54
I am not sure why some posters have expressed the view that the spade top in a small cockpit gave better lateral stick throws without hitting ones thighs.

I think they may have been confusing the Spitfire's cranked stick which certainly is easier to keep away from your thighs than a straight stick.


13th Jan 2010, 22:47
These are all very sensible reasons for having a spade grip in a fighter. So answer me this, why did the Hotspur glider have one? Ergonomics amongst other things. Early MkI/II's had a straight vertical stick and rudder bars fitted and had no adjustment spare a somewhat moveable seat back. However on more than one occasion the seat back collapsed during approach causing some hairy and sometimes fatal landings. Modifications added rudder pedals on slides which could be adjusted for leg length and the vertical stick was replaced with a curved model with the spade grip on the end which curved back toward the pilot. This reduced the need to hold your arm out so straight to fly which relieved some strain on long cross-country flights. The result of the stick being nearer the pilot necessitated the spade grip so that it could be held at a more relaxed angle and not require you to bend the wrist the wrist so much. A side effect of the curved spade grip stick mod was that it solved problems with the straight stick getting jammed. When performing a "sporty" dive approach pushing the stick all the way forward pushed it behind the edge of the instrument panel. If it was moved to the side at all the top of the stick would get stuck behind the panel and you couldn't pull it back. Negative "G" plus a somewhat panicked pilot let to a few accidents. With the curved stick having the top further back it never reached the panel when pushed fully forward.

14th Jan 2010, 08:07
Thanks for that High Tow, it certainly fits in with the information I have and it confirms that the one drawing I have shows the correct control layout for the Mk 1, indeed the penciled aditions might even be the first sketch of the cranked Spade grip.