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Reason for/advantage of the ‘spade grip’ on the Spitfire and Hurricane

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Reason for/advantage of the ‘spade grip’ on the Spitfire and Hurricane

Old 8th Mar 2021, 06:08
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Reason for/advantage of the ‘spade grip’ on the Spitfire and Hurricane

Curious as to why this design was adopted, seems to have only been used by aircraft designed in the UK

What did it do that a ‘regular’ joystick didn’t ?
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Old 8th Mar 2021, 06:13
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I think (just assumption, I'd have to do a bit of research to validate this opinion.) that those grips were designed to allow 2-handed operation to overcome aerodynamic forces in the age of no hydraulics or low-pressure hydraulics during relatively high airspeed, high G dogfighting.
https://backcountrypilot.org/forum/w...l-sticks-18303

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.
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Old 8th Mar 2021, 06:40
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A control stick with a loop at the top was called a "Spade Stick". Generally only Hurricanes and Spitfires had them.

The cockpits on these aircraft were small and it was a problem for the control column to get full travel for roll control. This was solved by making the control column rotate at about mid-stick instead of from the the floor.

Other aircraft didn't use them because the cockpits were large enough to accommodate a normal stick and still provide good leverage and side to side travel.

The loop was there so a pilot could use both hands on the stick to get more lateral force since the effective length of the stick was now much less than a conventional floor mounted control stick.

Pilots found them to be much more comfortable to hold and loop style sticks did also get used some on larger aircraft with conventional floor mounted control sticks


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Old 8th Mar 2021, 09:04
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I do't know if anybody else found this but I could never fly an aeroplane accurately with a vertical control stick left handed with the throttle in the right hand.
'Loop style' control columns with two hand grips working in the same way as a steering wheel I found easy and I could fly left or right handed to the same level.
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Old 8th Mar 2021, 09:41
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A control stick with a loop at the top was called a "Spade Stick". Generally only Hurricanes and Spitfires had them.

The cockpits on these aircraft were small and it was a problem for the control column to get full travel for roll control. This was solved by making the control column rotate at about mid-stick instead of from the the floor.

Other aircraft didn't use them because the cockpits were large enough to accommodate a normal stick and still provide good leverage and side to side travel.

The loop was there so a pilot could use both hands on the stick to get more lateral force since the effective length of the stick was now much less than a conventional floor mounted control stick.

Pilots found them to be much more comfortable to hold and loop style sticks did also get used some on larger aircraft with conventional floor mounted control sticks

And then there are always exceptions to the rule. I present the GAL Hotspur Mk III glider. Triangular spade grip, full length column and no throttle to worry about. You've gotta love that flap leaver though.

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Old 8th Mar 2021, 11:00
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And let's not forget that the aerodynamic masterpiece known as the Percival Prentice had a spade-type top to the (unarticulated) control column. Not quite in the same category as a Spitfire, of course, but not to be overlooked.

While the benefit was of limited value for violent air combat manoeuvres, it provided a handy place for the brake operating lever and PTT , and was probably marginally less strain on the arm in use while trundling along at 90 Kts for hour after hour, probably because the wrist angle was more natural, as someone said earlier.

So I felt quite at home in a 2-seater Spitfire last year; just a tad faster than the Prentice along with a few other differences, I admit, but at least the grip felt familiar.

Last edited by old,not bold; 8th Mar 2021 at 11:11.
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Old 8th Mar 2021, 11:17
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Not to mention the SE5. See Aviation History and Nostalgia - What Cockpit? MkV post #2646
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Old 8th Mar 2021, 12:54
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Not just Spitfires and Hurricanes either; just about every single seat British fighter from the Hawker Fury up to the last pistons featured a spade grip.
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Old 8th Mar 2021, 13:27
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Didn't the RAF Harvards use a spade grip instead of the normal US stick grip?
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Old 8th Mar 2021, 21:21
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Sopwith Camels I've seen had a triangular spade grip. Seem to also recall Cecil Lewis mentioning a spade grip on a short control column in the Morane Parasol.
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Old 8th Mar 2021, 23:16
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I’ve flown a PZL Wilga and that had a spade grip. Last one off of the EADS production line about 15 years ago


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Old 9th Mar 2021, 09:54
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Supply contractor "The Hemorrhoids Warehouse (Warsaw Branch)" by any chance?
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Old 9th Mar 2021, 12:22
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Antipodean Spitfire

Let’s not forget the antipodean Spitfire, the mighty Victa Airtourer 100!

Located aft of the lawnmower-pull-to-start-handle and between the P1 and P2 seats, the Victa square-shaped spade grip (shovel?) allowed either the Captain or the First Officer to resume control in the event of an auto pilot malfunction.

(And it’s really quite a nice little aeroplane, on a cold day).
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Old 9th Mar 2021, 14:19
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I manufactured some rocker gun buttons a few years back and mounted to a spade grip via a burnt Russian Hurricaine air valve assy. Two points struck me...the grip is suited to right handed pilots and I wonder if the casualty figures show a bias re lefties. The second is the pneumatic gun firing and attendant thick air hoses running up the column for the gun, this must have stiffened the control feel a tad. The rocker operated two schrader type air valves and were at the precision end for machining. Considering all that thick tubing running down the column, round the cockpit, and out to the gunbays, where one nick disarms the lot, why not electrical firing?
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Old 9th Mar 2021, 14:33
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With reference to the Harvard query, both the marks that I have flown had a stick control column. Think Mustang and you'll be able to visualise exactly. Can't think of a more ergonomic and convenient conversion.......
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Old 9th Mar 2021, 21:37
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Trigger or button to fire guns.

Older aircraft generally had higher stick forces, thus to fire the guns with a trigger it would be necessary to remove a finger from a stick. Three out of four fingers remaining could increase the relative control force, and decrease the accuracy of gunsight tracking. No electric trim.
Wheel hand-grip and gun firing button maximised available control force, two hands, fidelity / harmonisation of pitch / roll control.

Later aircraft had lower stick forces, servo/power controls, and elect trim; these aircraft favour a trigger on a hand grip, less control force required, and also enables additional switch functions - thumb trim switch, simultaneous camera finger button.
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Old 9th Mar 2021, 22:24
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Originally Posted by pithblot View Post
Let’s not forget the antipodean Spitfire, the mighty Victa Airtourer 100!

Located aft of the lawnmower-pull-to-start-handle and between the P1 and P2 seats, the Victa square-shaped spade grip (shovel?) allowed either the Captain or the First Officer to resume control in the event of an auto pilot malfunction.

(And it’s really quite a nice little aeroplane, on a cold day).



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Old 10th Mar 2021, 07:02
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Originally Posted by triskele View Post
...Considering all that thick tubing running down the column...why not electrical firing?
I don’t know about that. Have you ever experienced period Lucas electrics? If there was a rain cloud over the horizon, they’d find a way not to work.
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Old 10th Mar 2021, 09:32
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Originally Posted by JustinHeywood View Post
I don’t know about that. Have you ever experienced period Lucas electrics? If there was a rain cloud over the horizon, they’d find a way not to work.
I take exception to the inclusion of the word "period" in the above post! It implies that there are Lucas electrics which work when it rains.....
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Old 10th Mar 2021, 14:28
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Ah, Lucas...poor Beatrice Shilling hard at work and all the time it was the
l Lucas mag.
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