View Full Version : Military Flight Simulators (Full Size Kit !) : Early Analog Scenery

31st Oct 2012, 19:40
Hi all ...

Before the use of digital computer generated virtual scenery became the norm to augment both military and civilian training, I seem to recall the use of large area mini-scale landscape models and a camera to generate a moving scenery image. I vaguely remember seeing in the early 80's an arrangement the RAF had which consisted of a vertically mounted model landscape (trees, house railways etc.) with a primitive video camera that could track across the model in the X, Y and Z axes. The resultant moving image was then projected on to a screen in front of the pilot undergoing sim training ... clearly there was some electronic jiggery-pokery between the camera and the simulator hardware to give the illusion of flight !

I'm not that certain of which aircraft sims were hooked up to this arrangement ... but think the good old Phantom was a probable candidate. That said, I don't remember seeing this scenery capability hooked up to the Wattisham Phantom sim when I had the opportunity to visit the Sim Wing in Sep 1980.

Maybe a bit of an anorak thread ... but I'd be very interested to hear a bit more of the history around the technology and how useful it really was as a training aid ... as I would have thought it would have only been of use for Low Level " through the trees" stuff !

If anyone has some pics to share ... that would be great :ok:

Best ...


31st Oct 2012, 19:50
The Nimrod Dynamic Simulators (Flight deck simulator) at St. Mawgan and ISK were models until the early 90s.

Oh the fun of putting spiders and other such things on the runway!!

31st Oct 2012, 19:52
The Jaguar flight sim at Lossiemouth certainly had a huge scale model that it used.

It wasn't unusual to come rattling round a bend in a valley only to come face to face with a very large dinosaur!

How true it is I have no idea, but the rumour mill stated that the combined bill for electric lighting and cooling systems in the sim buildings was bigger than that for the whole of the rest of the station.

31st Oct 2012, 19:53
The early Jag sim did it this way too.

Had a look on youtube and there's a video of it there, only snag is the commentary is in Hungarian :(

Jaguar simulator electromechanical - YouTube

31st Oct 2012, 19:54
The Bucc sim at Honington had such a setup. You could actually do approaches to a carrier parked on the oggin. Favourite trick was for the sim staff to put a spider in front of the camera lense - one hell of a mid-air!

31st Oct 2012, 19:54
I remember back in the late 70's at Wilders that we TWA types used to congregate in the corner of the bar at the Mally with the techs from the harrier and jag sims. Both of those were old fashioned fly around the model simulators. I believe that there were actually two separate scenery rooms, a small scale scene which seemed to be most of W Germany for high level work and a larger scale scene (of the 1 Br Corps area IIRC), for low level flying. After a session in the Mally we would occasionally manage to persuade the guys to escort us to the Sim for a quick mission to go and bomb Detmold!!:O

31st Oct 2012, 20:03

I'm not that certain of which aircraft sims were hooked up to this arrangement ... but think the good old Phantom was a probable candidate. That said, I don't remember seeing this scenery capability hooked up to the Wattisham Phantom sim when I had the opportunity to visit the Sim Wing in Sep 1980.

I seem to recall that when I visited Coningsby as a university cadet in late '74 that there was a visual model. However by the time I first flew the beast in 1980, on the OCU at Coningsby and then later in the year at Wattisham (I joined 23 at much the same time as your visit) the visual model had gone.

I suspect there was no real justification for it once the aircraft went full time into the AD role.

31st Oct 2012, 20:12
The Argosy simultor at Benson had this system. I seem to remember having a midair collision with a christmas cracker elephant on a piece of wire.

31st Oct 2012, 20:29
I definitely remember visiting the sim at Coningsby as a kid in the early seventies. Snoopy & Red Baron were the cockpits and the landscape was the model of the area around Coningsby, with the camera above it.

I didn't really register what it was until I clocked Tattershall Castle, the big church in the middle of the village and the gravel pits in Tattershall where the station PTIs taught us canoeing during the school hols.

I guess it was state of the art technology then (the landscape model, not the canoeing), but now all seems rather quaint.

Unusual Attitude
31st Oct 2012, 20:29
I remember being a space cadet attending summer camp at Lossie in the 80s and seeing a cunningly placed giant Honey Monster surprise some poor chap during a low level sim session....

Blanket Stacker
31st Oct 2012, 20:51
There were three C-130K flight sims at Lyneham in the late 60s with horizontal models - they took up quite an area each. As far as I can remember, one was a UK scene including the local Lyneham area, one a desert landscape and, possibly, a Far East scene - not completely sure about the last. I also remember a change of light bulb to 'cold' lighting.

31st Oct 2012, 21:09
I remember the one at Honington - the model was very primitive and it was like looking over a rolling cylinder rather than a distant horizon. Electicity pylons looked like the Eiffel Tower and the cables were like railway lines.

Spiders were amusing, but a giant wasp certainly wasn't....:eek:

Early digital images for the VC10 simulators were less fun - the mafia staff car at Palermo was rather amusing, but there was a picture mismatch at Manchesterrr which often resulted in people taxying through the duty free shop!

31st Oct 2012, 21:29
Thanks guys ... keep it coming if you can ... anyone got a clue as to what sort of primitive computing was used to do the magic back then ?

So it looks like this type of kit went back to the late 60's with Blanket Stacker's post ... Wow !

Hi Wiggy ... what a coincidence ... the OC of the Wattisham Sim Wing at the time was my ex Chipmunk QFI and good friend S/L John Shelton (sadly no longer with us) ... during his final tour before retirement. It always amused me that he ended up a Phantom Sim Boss having never flown the F4 !

31st Oct 2012, 21:54
It's well over 40 years, and I wsn't on the sim section, but I recall the Lightning F3 sim at Coltishall being a vertical roller blind setup for one axis, with the camera moving across and 'up and down' (actually away from/towards) the landscape. The computery was valve analogue stuf, and was often out of action to the frustration of the conversion pilots.

I had the odd ride during maintenance and it wasn't terribly realistic.

31st Oct 2012, 22:12
the OC of the Wattisham Sim Wing at the time was my ex Chipmunk QFI and good friend S/L John Shelton (sadly no longer with us)

Ah yes, remember him well for all the right reasons so very sorry to hear he's no longer with us.

31st Oct 2012, 22:27
First F4 flight in Jan 69, but didn't fly the F4 sim till Aug 71. So F4 sim not around at the start, but not sure when it arrived as I was in RAFG when it di. As I remember, there was a general flying area in which we could low fly and a more accuate area around Coningsby for approaches. I don't seem to have logged any official low level nav sorties (only emerg and PIs), but can remember rushing around the model. It was possible to crash the camera into the model which made one unpopular! The model consisted of 2 large (estimate 10' * 30') - anyone have a more accurate size? As stated the modelling was impressive, and on the Coningsby model ground features were recogniseable. The other model was more generic

31st Oct 2012, 22:32
At Bomber Command Bombing School, Lindholme c.1955 we had two H2S, Mk4a that is, not the Mk9 NBS trainers, that had glass plates about 4 ft square with mythical model terrain built onto the glass plate. The plate was put in a tank of water, and a crystal transmitter/receiver mounted on a 'crab' that was moved by X and Y coordinates, sent sound waves through the water. This was then fed into the normal H2S receiver and displayed on the fishpond indicator.

Above the 'crab' that carried the crystal Tx/Rx there another glass sheet, with a map of the model terrain below. A felt tip pen that left the track on the lower side of this glass, the pen retracted at the time of bomb release and rose with a clunk to mark the point of impact.

While I was working on this kit, I assisted the guys from EMI to install the 1st H2S Mk9/NBS trainer. This used a large, about 3 ft square, sheet of film and a photo electric system to achieve the same sort of simulation. The device held two such sheets of film vertically and was promptly nicknamed the 'Fish Fryer'.

We also had two Gee-H trainers that had 'bog roll' displays the same as a seismograph. The paper roll unwound at a rate proportional to the a/c speed and the trainer gave a kick to one side for when the bomb should have landed and a kick the other way when it did land. Errors were calculated in time for under/over shoot and in yards left or right.

This is as I remember it, but after 57 years, my memory is somewhat subject to errors. :suspect:

31st Oct 2012, 22:37
It always amused me that he ended up a Phantom Sim Boss having never flown the F4 !

That was quite common in the RAF. In FJs, the OiC Sim was an old guy, perhaps grounded, and the other sim instructors were often younger re-roled crew before a FJ OCU. Also ROs were used, often with no experience on the jet. Basically, sim instructor was not considered a glamorous job and there were not enough experienced FJ hands to be permanently posted into these positions.

31st Oct 2012, 22:57
I seem to remember that the Bucc Sim at Laarbruch had a massive model landscape laid flat. The camera set up had a wire protruding from the lens connected to a microswitch that switched the motors off preventing damage to the lens and landscape in event of a crash. I also remember there was a J/T working in the sim in the late 70s that could 'fly' the sim better than most aircrew. That generation of sim ran 24/7 if my memory serves me right so there was plenty of opprtunity to 'play' on it if you worked there.

31st Oct 2012, 22:59
I was a member of the first eng team that set up and ran the F4m Sim at Bruggen and then on to the f4k at Leuchars. The visual models were of two types. The large area model was mounted vertically and the camera unit was mounted on a gantry that ran on rails which allowed it to roam over the model. The model was illuminated by 50 1kw halogen lamps,[it got warm in there]. In another room was a triangular A frame with another two models attached, one of these models was of the airfield and local area, the other of a target area which was an expanded area of the large area model. The high intensity lighting was needed because of the poor light transmision properties of the tiny prism [the pitch prism] which nodded up and down to simulate the aircraft pitching.
On the f4k sim one of the secondary models was ogin with a model of Ark Royal in the middle.
Each sim was controlled by two Honeywell computers running DAP2 a language similar to Fortran. The memory was ferrite bead core 32k on one m/c and 24k on the other,[yes k].Each Bite was 24 bits. Programming was punched tape or C60 cassette.

Easy Street
31st Oct 2012, 23:16
Non-type experienced, serving sim instructors have had a bit of a renaissance recently; there has been a well-trodden path via the Typhoon sim console for guys (and gals) crossing over to the Typhoon from other FJ fleets.

31st Oct 2012, 23:46
The "first generation" of Herc sims at Lyneham each had a "model room" which was unusual - at the time - as they were bigger than most and horizontal not vertical, Gan , Masirah (?) and Hong Kong if memory serves.

Each lit by gi-huge banks of halogen floodlights, augmented by equally gi-huge banks of fans down the sides to cool the models down and stop them - literally - melting !!!

In the Guard Room, and controlled/monitored by the Ord Sgt, was an electrical "load meter" for the entire station usage, if it reached a certain pre-set figure then an alarm went off and said OS had to phone the sims and order them to turn off the Visuals !!! It was NOT, as rumour said, down to cost of electricity .. it was due to the fact that the wiring would not handle that load for any length of time !!!

Xmas visits by local school kids were always popular .. as the tiny model of santa + sleigh was placed on the threshold to force an "unexpected" overshoot .... :)

Far more fun were the visits by the wives clubs ... when a dead spider placed in a similar position would have a somewhat startling effect .. probably as said spider now appeared to be larger than the runway !!!!

1st Nov 2012, 00:09
The Argosy Sim at Thorney Island in 1966 had a vertical model IIRC.


1st Nov 2012, 00:25
They've got a bit of one (a section of physical scenery) at Old Warden IIRC...

1st Nov 2012, 00:32
I think the Buccaneer model was shipped to Lossie as I remeber seeing it when my dad was CFI on 237 and we had a sim tour, would have been about 86 I reckon.

Pretty sure it wasn't when we were at Laarbruch as I was only 5 when we were out there in the early 80's!!

1st Nov 2012, 03:08
I think this is what oldsimman refers to


1st Nov 2012, 04:43
I think the Buccaneer model was shipped to Lossie as I remeber [sic] seeing it when my dad was CFI on 237 and we had a sim tour, would have been about 86 I reckon.

BSC, if I recall.

1st Nov 2012, 05:28
I was a Lightning Sim Tech at Binbrook 73 to 77. I remember working on the visual system for about a year before it was mothballed. This was at the time the UK was having the power strikes. Facts about power consumption is correct.

Its design was a vertical rolling map - map speed was related to sim speed. Camera mounted at the bottom looking up the map. Map was solely for take off, approach and landing.
The picture from the camera was routed through to 3 projectors (Red, Green and Blue) fixed to the back of cockpit. The projectors ran at 50Kv. We had to use big earthing sticks before working on their set up..
The visual system was maintenance /set up intensive, to achieve 2/3 sorties before it needed recalibrating.
All in all, given its design and technology age (analogue computing using valve Operational Amplifers and servoes), it was a reasonable system
We did manage to simulate a bird strike using a pea shooter and a chicken from a childerns farm set - although its wing span came out at 45ft :)

Got my memory cells running now, gee it was nearly 40yrs ago - anybody on the forum who used the Binbrook box whilst I was there ?

1st Nov 2012, 07:45
If it helps, the 'leap' to CGI wasn't great. The Lynx sim at Detmold was truely awful - night only, glass-spikes aplenty, and vomit-inducing lag between contol input, sim movement, then the display would lurch around.

ISTR seeing the entire set-up on ebay not long ago. I wonder if it ever reached its reserve...

1st Nov 2012, 09:16
Thanks oldsimman ...

two Honeywell computers running DAP2 a language similar to Fortran. The memory was ferrite bead core 32k on one m/c and 24k on the other,[yes k].Each Bite was 24 bits. Programming was punched tape or C60 cassette

32/24k ... :eek: Mrs C's washing machine has more computing power (yes I know a sexist comment !)

ZFT ...

Great pic ... thanks for sharing ... size was clearly important in those days !

The ingenuity shown since the 60's in providing cockpit visual systems is simply outstanding ... just shows you how far we have come !


1st Nov 2012, 09:25
So we've seen the use of this approach to scenery generation for a variety of fixed wing aircraft ... was it used for helicopter training ?

1st Nov 2012, 11:51
I certainly remember going to St Mawgan as an ATC Cadet on camp (probably mid 80's), it was definatley a huge vertical model model with a camera.
IIRC the cockpit was motion fitted with a static rear crew area.

I never got a look inside as there was a 'mission' on and they didn't want to disturb the crews by opening a door at xx000 feet and have a load of Cadets walking in!

I also seem to remember a large 'cotton wool' area for above cloud flying...or did I imagine that? :uhoh:

1st Nov 2012, 12:03
(I was involved with sims procurement, 1966-70. This is from memory).

3 firms shared the workload arising from Healey's Defence recast:
- at Aylesbury, GPS (1967: Redifon Air Trainers Ltd). They had Bucc S.2(RN), which was the first UK digital/motion/visual. A US GPS mainframe.
- at Crawley, Redifon. They had F-4K/M, with Honeywell, and another (forget) with Redifon 2000 mainframe.
- at Lancing (Churchill Industrial Estate), Miles (yes, the same F.G.; soon Link-MIles, soon Singer-Link). They had F-111K, but chopped, which I think was to have been the first with 6-axis motion + colour visual.

The work of art in this generation was not the model - always done by dextrous females. It was the computer room, a work of exquisite civil engineering. The Bucc's at LM was sited at a distance from the runway that had been assessed as far enough to reduce vibration to match the floor's dampening (springing), but early sim useage was affected during runway activity. The room was clean - as in gyro manufacture - noddy suits, and very hot. For 30k.

Wedgwood-Benn at this time was Minister of Technology, responsible for the nascent UK computer industry. This raft of sim business caused him to obtain Cabinet Approval that all UK public procurement of mainframes should carry a Buy British weighting of 25%: so a Honeywell bid of £100 would lose to a Redifon £125. We only had ICL and they soon became Fujitsu.

1st Nov 2012, 13:28
BSC, if I recall.

Yep indeed. CFI 85-88 then OC 89-91. He was with us yesterday and telling me about his recent visit to Bruntingthorpe for a wonder around the Bucanneers there, he has flown 3 of the 4 they have. Also had a good chat about the low level F-18 video posted some months back.

1st Nov 2012, 15:52
The C-130 sims at Lyneham and Thorney Island were certainly in use up to 1975. The power drain was huge, and a bank of finned radiators were outside to cool everything down, although I think a lot of the power was drawn by the computers and tape drives. I believe that the lighting system was controlled such that only the section of scenery being overflown was lit; again to keep power usage to the minimum.

1st Nov 2012, 16:24
The original Harrier sim at Wittering comprised 3 horizontal scenes with a 3 axis cockpit in a separate room. The particular board in use was lit with hundreds of flourescent tubes to give the right sort of lighting for the moveable cameras. The resultant heat required a rather large air conditioning room which, of course, was also needed for cooling the room (a large room) which contained all the reel-to-reel computer cabinets.

The result of all this was quite a large building.

In my war role my senior flt sgt was also the i/c flt sim in his day job. One Christmas I managed to win an Atari 64K computer thingy in the Christmas draw. The flt sgt told me that the computing power in that thing outstripped the computer power in his entire flt sim!

1st Nov 2012, 16:42
Indeed we had the MCT with limited motion (Full crew training system with a synthetic input of flight deck data from a small cabin on the front), and the Dynamic sim which was a full motion sim with visuals. The huge vertical models were (i) the local area like Kinloss or St Mawgan (ii) Cloud scape which was a large bowl wih blue surround and cotton wool for clouds below and (iii) the sea scape with a couple of model warships
and maybe a periscope or two
Each model could be orientated in any direction so the runway or the direction of the ships really became a generic for anywhere.
Under the MCT at Kinloss were large cupboards - a place people used to brew wine etc.
The Dynamic sim could be connected to the MCT but very seldon was. Typical MCT 'Trips' were about 6 hours including briefing 9and rations!)where as Dynamic was about 3 hours. The mirror on the camera for the Dynamic always caused excitement -paticularly when the ROD was high and the trip switch didn't quite operate as it was supposed to. The mirror would end up on the floor amongst the train track system and sometimes got crunched. I believe a new mirror system might have been in the order of several hundred pounds so they were often glued back together until Thursday morning when the Staish (if he was a pilot) had his session (usually before morning prayers). High crosswinds and low vis were usually the order of the day and often he crunched it in breaking the already glued back on mirror. :D
Oh dear, never mind. Take up the hold or go for a coffee while it gets sorted.
Quite a nice rest tour really.

1st Nov 2012, 16:55
I remember visiting the Bucc simulator at Laarbruch. What sticks in my mind was that parts would occasionally detach themselves from the model and fall onto the floor. The poor pilot, however, saw this as a building hurling past from L-R or R-L !!! Quite a distraction.

I worked on the Tornado GR1 flight simulator and, as it was conceived to be an “all weather aircraft” it had no visual system at all – just a hood over the canopy filled with fluorescent tubes whose brightness could be changed to simulate various types of weather.

Later I worked on the Nimrod simulator (back end) and regularly visited Kinloss and St Morgan to see the “front end”. I can’t remember what was used for a visual system for low level but “in the cruise” the cameras switched to show, essentially, a rotating plate with “cotton wool” stuck to it to represent clouds. All very amateurish but it seemed to work.

In the early days of connecting the Nimrod back end to the front end, we didn’t get the clock synchronisation quite right and after a short simulated flight the TACNAV and RADAR reported a new target straight ahead, same level and moving slowly away from us. Turned out to be the front end which was flying slightly faster than the back end was :O

1st Nov 2012, 19:42
The F4 sim at Coningsby had the flat earth model when I first went through. It had been set up for the GA days and was largely redundant for the medium level AD stuff we did in the early days.

I remember it was set up with a model of a Hastings on a pole so we could run VIDs against the model. No idea how they worked the overtake problem! One wag tied a fly to the Hastings and asked a crew to close for a VID. Carnage in the cockpit apparently!

1st Nov 2012, 19:55
When I was a young sim mech, at Coltishall, we used approx 10 % of the station power. If there was an "exercise minimise" going on, we would get a phone call from the guard room telling us to turn of the simulator. :ok: Which usually meant an early stack! On the airfield and weapon models alone, there where something like 250 400w lamps, so it was quite expensive to run! The models themselves where nearly 60ft long by 30 wide. Even today the sims I work on account for 8% of station power, mainly because of the motion pumps!:eek:

uffington sb
1st Nov 2012, 20:06
I seem to recall the VC-10 sim at BZZ had a huge model vertical on the inside of a hangar door.
Perhaps Beags can confirm this.

big v
1st Nov 2012, 20:14
Wiggy waggle

I seem to recall that when I visited Coningsby as a university cadet in late
'74 that there was a visual model. However by the time I first flew the beast in
1980, on the OCU at Coningsby and then later in the year at Wattisham (I joined
23 at much the same time as your visit) the visual model had gone.

suspect there was no real justification for it once the aircraft went full time
into the AD role.

I seem to remember that the visual model was in a dedicated room adjacent to the simulator. The model stood on end and there were a variety of extras such as a tyranosaurus in the Avon gorge etc.

It didn't work in 1979/80 but I'm sure it was still there.



Cornish Jack
1st Nov 2012, 20:15
The VC10 Sim at BZN was originally a 'model' type and, as has been pointed out, the lighting heat output was prodigious!! Quite useful at Brize as the sim building had a leaky roof and the carpets were dried out by the floodlights! The model was horizontally mounted on 4' x 2' welded aluminium angle 'tables (lots of them) When the system was binned, the tables were surplus to requirements and one has ever since been the base for a very substantial workbench in my various sheds. The introduction of the original digital visual system (before the full 'wrap-around' setup) released a huge amount of building space.
The introduction of the full air-to-air visual produced a few modelling anomalies initially. If the receiver started to overtake the tanker, the probe would appear in the windscreen visual!:eek:

1st Nov 2012, 21:41
Before the C-130 sims were delivered, we studes at 242 OCU, RAF Thorney Island, were driven along the coast to the Link Miles factory at Lancing for training on one there. The site was originally the Carriage & Wagon Works of the London, Brighton and South Coast Railway, and the sim was in one of their original brick buildings, with the visual model situated in the attic of the pitched roof.
The limitations of this arrangement became clear when the simulated emergency climaxed in incredibly realistic flames erupting on the windscreen visual monitors. It transpired that the realism was caused by real flames as the intense heat from the lighting required had caused the model to catch fire. The session finished with a real evacuation from the sim and then from the building, followed by a real appearance of the emergency services.
Who says that sims then weren't realistic?

2nd Nov 2012, 00:48
I can remember seeing an external shot of the simulator camera tracking over the model landscape being featured in an RAF recruitment/PR advert which aired on ITV (presumably) during the 1970s/80s.

Harrier was the featured type as I recall.

2nd Nov 2012, 11:58
I was the installation engineer on the current VC10K Mk3 (My first job on joining Rediffusion Simulation). The original VC10 C Mk1 had a vertically mounted solid model. As I recall there was a small model of the chequer board at Kai Tak which had to be attached to the main model when required. When it was not in use it sat in a display cabinet in the simulator entrance lobby
At one stage the control signals to, and the Video outputs from the visual system could be coupled to either the VC10 or the Belfast simulator.

2nd Nov 2012, 21:25
From 1969 to 1976 I was a Computer Tech on the Harrier Simulator at RAF Wittering.
The system was designed and built by Link Miles later to become Singer Link i think.

The Sim had 3 models as described previously, horizontal mounted on the floor.
The large scale model filled a large part of one model room covered about 200 by 200 miles of Poland centred around the River Vistula. It was indirectly lighted with a light box system mounted on the camera gantry and was used for high-level work.

The second model contained 2 models a tactical low flying model and the airfield model, it was light by 400 x 1000watt ceiling mounted lamps. The camera gantry had a scale speed limited to about 320knts but we as systems techs could override that.

The cockpit system was mounted on a 4 axis motion system, pitch, heave roll, and sway. The whole thing weighed about 10 tons and could move up to 24 inches a second in sway. I once tested all axes from 1/64 cycles a second up to 5 cycles a second to measure the lag between the Visual / Motion and Flight systems for the IAM, as there was a lag between the 3 systems. The system was driven by a pair of massive hydraulic pumps operating at 400psi????

There were 2 generations of visual display system. The original system consisted of 3 high power projectors mounted on a gantry above and behind the cockpit illuminating a large screen mounted in front giving around 20/20 (???) Degs left / right and 15/15deg up down. Because of the massive load on the motion system this caused the 2-foot diameter roll bearing to fail several times. This system required a massive effort to set it up correctly and was also deadly as the projectors required around 25 Kvolts and lots of care was required to ensure they were fully discharged before servicing. One of out Techs Ian J (Put Put )
Was a past master at setting this all up, would take him all night!

The replacement system consisted of a large TV Screen (32’’ maybe) mounted above the cockpit wind shield area which shone onto a special lens mounted at 45 deg to reflect the picture with much smaller screens behind it. This system gave a much-improved field of view, but was a bit sensitive to heavy bumps from the motion system. Think this was called WAC Window (Wide Angle Collimated) Display

The cockpit system comprised of as much original equipment as possible and Link Miles had devised some special electronics to interface to the original gauges and display units such as the HUD and moving map

The original (before 1976) computers were Elliott 4130, which was 24, bit register digital computers.
The Harrier sim had 2, one with 16K of 24 bit core memory the other with 32K. The maximum memory was 64k. The system was programmed in NEAT (National Elliott Automatic Translator) and data entry was by high-speed 8 bit paper tape readers. With 2 Westrix teleprinters for human interface.
Between the computers was a device called the trainer and simulator transfer unit (TSTU) and 2 massive cabinets that converted the digital signals into analogue signal to talk to the simulator electronics.
Consisting of things like digital to analogue converters, DC analogue to Ac converters, syncro drivers and lots of other very cleaver things.

We all became expert jockeys but with the added advantage that we could do special things. E.g. we could freeze the fuel at 1 lb a side, or double the thrust of the Pegasus 101/3.

We were very much involved in system programming doing command mods for things like IFF, Dive brake functions and other things. We also assisted in a programming exercise with RR and LM for the 103-engine development.

For its day it was a chunk of very cleaver engineering by Link Miles and much enjoyed by the Instructors and Engineers.


2nd Nov 2012, 21:55
I just wanted to thank everyone who has contributed to this thread so far ... it's been great to have some of the original Technicians and Aircrew users share their experiences and knowledge during the development of these various systems. It just shows how far we have come in such a relatively short space of time.

Best ...


Dan Gerous
2nd Nov 2012, 22:54
When I was posted to Lossie in the mid 70's, part of our arrivals course included a trip to the Jag Sim. There was one of those rubber monster thingys, that you put on the end of a pencil, in the middle of the landscape model.

I had a go on the Nimrod Sim in 83ish and can remember flying at altitude above clouds. I was later shown what appeared to be a hubcap with cotton wool in it, and I had been flying in that. The other lad from my section got to beat up Luqa(?) on it.

Al R
2nd Nov 2012, 23:12
I remember Diana visiting the GR5 sim at Wittering, but what has happened to this kit; does it all end up in a skip somewhere?


2nd Nov 2012, 23:24
We didn't have a visual on the old Hunter sim; instead there was a translucent canopy to let in ambient light from outside.

One day I was doing some exercise and the fire light illuminated. So, throttle to HP OFF, LP cock closed, boost pumps OFF, press the extinguisher. After the briefed time, check for signs of fire - and I noticed a flame visible through the canopy. "Very clever", I thought - and promptly ejected. Which caused the canopy to open and the seat to move up slightly....

Whereupon I saw the console instructor halfway through lighting his pipe.....he was rather miffed that I'd jumped out as he was expecting a 1-in-1 approach!

The early Hawk sim produced so much UV light that the sim instructors developed significant sun tans even in the Valley winter!

I remember Diana visiting the GR5 sim at Wittering, but what has happened to this kit; does it all end up in a skip somewhere?

Diana's old 'kit' would no doubt command a fair price on eBay!

PTR 175
5th Nov 2012, 11:01
The GR5 simulator was designed and built by Singer Link Miles. It was designed to be movable . So that if the unit relocated the whole system could be broken down and moved. It was originally to go adjacent to the GR5 Harrier school building which, incidentally was the Harrier GR3 sim building.

5th Nov 2012, 11:37
Apologies for poor quality


5th Nov 2012, 14:11
As OLDSIMMAN has said the F4 simulators had 2 models. A high level transit model and a 2nd model known as the 3 Facet model. This was a triangular shaped frame which was designed to carry 3 separate models . In the F4s only two facets were used one carried airfield model and the other the Ground attack model. When a model change was demanded the whole model frame was retracted away from the horizon mirrors, rotated to bring the new model into position and then raised back into the mirrors. The whole sequence took about 2 minutes during which time the picture was in simulated cloud.
The big problem was that the whole visual system was very maintenance intensive. The cameras used were standard Phillips / Pye studio cameras. The ones on the F4s were LDK33s which were designed for use as tele-cine or fixed caption work. The cameras were capable of producing superb images in a studio environment. The problem was that in the simulator the depth of field was required to be from a few inches to approx. 30 feet, consequently the lens aperture to achieve this was extremely small. This meant that the camera video gains were always up towards maximum and the tubes (plumbicons) degraded quite quickly. Similarly with the projectors, to get an adequate daylight brightness level on the screen the system was always working flat out and the tube phosphors quickly lost brightness. The picture displayed to the pilot was always good immediately following a tube/plumbicon change but a month later was normally very poor.
On the Phantom another short coming was the scene displayed on approach. At 0 degrees pitch angle the horizon was at approximately the centre of the screen (Pilots Eye height). When the aircraft was on approach the horizon moved down the screen to reflect the pitch attitude, the trouble was the runway dropped off the screen, there was of course no peripheral vision, this was a bit of a bummer if you were trying to do a visual approach . The solution was to pitch the visual scene down on the approach. The aircraft instruments continued to show the correct attitude.

5th Nov 2012, 18:48
The Bucc sim at Lossie initially had no visuals, but later had a vertically mounted model. There was, as someone has pointed out, a model carrier offshore, theoretically with working lights etc so that one could practice DLs. It never worked very well: the best thing about it was that you could come in over the round-down, crank on a handful of right bank and shout "Death to Wings!" as you knocked the island off the model. Very satisfying, I'm told.

Courtney Mil
5th Nov 2012, 18:51
Big V et al,

The scenery was indeed still there in the Coningsby Phantom sim in the early 80s. And very fine models they were too!

Al R
5th Nov 2012, 19:10
Where was this one based then?

Airfix Super Flight Deck - YouTube

25th Nov 2012, 02:17
If anyone is still following this thread-
I recall the visual model in the Coningsby F4 sim as described by others. I don't recall that we used it tho- it might have been U/S. This was mid 70's. However...

I seem to recall that one side was modelled on Coningsby and the other on an airfield in a certain Eastern European country, and that we sometimes did sim rides based on an airfield in said country. I assume it was to break the monotony. Anyone remember this, and especially why that particular airfield and location was chosen??? (yes I know there was a cold war on) :O

Kerosene Kraut
25th Nov 2012, 10:30
I had a chance to do a short guest flight myself onboard the former east german MiG-29 cockpit simulator. It was still used then by the Luftwaffe evaluation squadron at Preschen back in 1991. This used a real model and a black and white TV set for outside forward views. No motion but rudder pressure. Surprisingly "real" given the very limited infrastructure. Everything was containerized and movable by trucks. So that one might likely have ended up at Laage.

I have seen a similar sim at Finow airbase north of Berlin in the early 90s which was still russian operated back then. They had two landscape models there. One for pattern work and another "endless" belt-type one for bomb runs.

Finow's aerodrome model (upright on a sidewall):
MiG-29 flight simulator (http://www.16va.be/page_simu_mig-29.html)

P.S. Look at those turnout scratches behind the lower taxiway :)

7th Jun 2013, 23:42
One technician told me the same story about Lossiemouth with those small pop-up toys with the spring and suckers. On the final day of training the standard practice was to place one or more of those just behind a cliff edge. When the pilot flew 300 feet over the tree line and dropped down, that was the first thing he'd see. Bonus points if the toy jumped into the air at that moment. I can only imagine what one of the toys must have looked like when scaled up.