My Spirtfire Project History


Thunder Wings

In the late 1970s, "Thunder Wings" was a company that originated in Vancouver B.C. by Wolfe Nottelman, who later become a friend of mine. According to Wolfe, through his connections, he obtained a government grant of 1.5 million. He contracted a company in Scottsdale, Arizona to develop flying prototypes of the FW-190, Spitfire and P-40. They had done some work on a "secret" project of a fighter trainer with a cheap buzz-jet engine of their own design. At the time of the contract it looked like everything would be OK. It was stipulated that the money must be spent in Canada so the US company opened an office in Vancouver. After they obtained the money, they transferred all the funds to Arizona. They got the contract on their "experience". At that time they had a 3/4 replica of a FW-190 flying. It was built the classic way; tubular structure, covered with fibreglass skins, the same way they built the P-40. On the first test flight, their test pilot was killed. I still haven't succeeded in finding out why. Official version is the man who bought one of them did not take off according to procedure on the maiden flight.


On their marketing material they offered the Spitfire too. I flew to Phoenix about three times in the early 80's to visit. At that time it looked like a good, hard working company. There was an unfinished prototype of an all-composite Spitfire. When I inquired about the one on their literature, they told me it was sold to someone in England and it was flying over there. I asked for the owner but they declined to give me the info. At that time I was getting suspicious but I already paid for my kit. ( I bought the outside shell of the Spitfire, made of composite 1/4 inch foam with 2-3 layers of glass cloth over).

Misleading Statements

The story on the Spitfire in England was a big lie. Friends of mine bought this unfinished prototype (tubular structure covered with skins) from someone in the US a few years later. They changed the design from tubular to composite. They never changed their moulds so many parts did not fit. (For example, the rear wing spars were 1/2 inch higher than rib at the root). Parts were moulded poorly; the main spar had a 2 inch bend. The company never provided plans for the composite model. The plans that were provided were for the tubular structure. Even the manual was only 30% complete. They never finished the project. The company never finished their obligations to us. They were selling unproven kits and they falsely advertised the Spitfire test flights. We paid for the wing skins and spars and they were not delivered. Only thanks to my partner, a lawyer, we later managed to obtain the ownership of those moulds, which were exchanged with Wolfe for the moulded parts.


It seems to me that after the “Thunder Wings” of Phoenix got the contract from the US military for a ground decoy replica of the Phantom; they folded the Thunder Wings company and re-opened under a new name: Thundergroup, using the original Thunder Wings of Canada money. They screwed about 70 customers who bought the kit from Scottsdale. I consider them to be thieves on a grand scale. When all that happened, Wolfe immediately rented a truck from Vancouver and went to Scottsdale to salvage what was possible (including the wing mould, to which we have a legal right). For our moulds, Wolfe got us the wing kit. Anyway, that is how I got my wing skins and spars. As I previously mentioned they were very poorly made by Thunder Wings. All the moulds were in storage in Vancouver (Spit, FW-190, and P-40). I know I was there. Since my visit, Wolfe died and I have no idea what happened after that.


To finish the Spit we had to hire an aeronautical engineer familiar with composite materials. The badly designed Spit had to be re-designed and now it is becoming heavy. I have no knowledge of any Thunder Wings Spit flying, but I know that some were being built. My Spit still needs some cosmetic work on the wings and I still need to mount the engine. I can only say that my Spitfire now has nothing to do with the original Thunder Wings design except for the outer shell. In addition, the confusion and complexity of the deal led our team to crumble and I take individual ownership of the project.


If anyone wants to build a Spitfire I would recommend the design by Marcel Jurka. Jurka designed numerous successful planes, including replicas of second WW fighters. In addition to a number of 2/3 scale replicas, a full-scale Spitfire replica is flying in Europe. Some are being built in the US. A 700 HP seems like the right engine for the full scale replica if it is a tubular structure, metal skins and wooden wings. His 2/3 scale is made from wood. If I was to do everything all over again, I would probably go with Jurka's plans. Certainly, it would be a metal or wood aircraft and I would use the fibreglass for fairing, the leading edge of the wings and similar parts. Another successful Spitfire was designed and flown by the Supermarine Company in Australia and the kit has already been built and flown in Toronto. A few Spitfires are being built by their owner's design.


My Spitfire is presently being built in a barn close to Midland, Ontario. The structure of the aircraft is finished. I'm currently working on the engine mount, according to Art Hendricks drawings for his Astec Engine, which is being prepared by him in Bloomington, Minnesota. His engine will have an output of 400 HP from an overhauled V-12 Jaguar automotive engine. Art is an experienced aircraft engine engineer who fully understands this particular engine conversion. He started his work with a Jag engine, but by the end, only the original block was left. It is truly his baby. He achieved his goal to redesign the engine for aircraft use by incorporating aerospace grade components and assembly techniques. It provides this ¾ Spitfire with sufficient power similar to the Rolls Royce Merlin engine of WWII. Propeller reduction is by planetary wheels so that it can take the compressor. Beside the engine mounting and the cowlings after the engine is on, there is not much left to be finished on my Spitfire. There are some cosmetics left to do on the wing and painting of the plane when it is finished.


The undercarriage and flaps' hydraulics are driven with the emergency hand pump for the manual extension in case of the main hydraulic pump failure or loss of hydraulic fluid. The locking mechanism is similar to the original Spitfire, enhanced by locking hydraulic actuators in the lock-up position. Flaps, which on original Spitfire were only closed or fully open (almost 90°), will be able to be opened to any degree desired. Fuel is stored in the wet wing, leading edges, each with the 6 baffled compartments intended for long range flying. From there the fuel will be transported to the header tank feeding the engine. Each tank will hold about 100 litres of the total of 300 litres (about 80 gallons). Cockpit instruments are full IFR with King Silver Crown avionics, radios, ADF, C mode Transponder, and VOR will be most likely replaced with the GPS. Controls are rudder and ailerons cables, with elevator push-pull rods. Since my flying on jet fighters was done by regular stick, I used it on my Spit as well. (The original Spitfires were moving only for and aft with the top, swivelling to left and right for the ailerons control). I did not try to replicate the cockpit of the original Spitfire, but I tried for the outside to have an original look. With the original narrow undercarriage it was difficult to taxi and land and this behaviour multiplies with the smaller replica. Therefore I spaced the undercarriage wider. It still closes outward as on the original. Since the wing is narrower over the wheel wells, it necessitated blisters on the top of the wing, approximately, where the canon blisters were located on the original.


Being that my Spitfire is all composite and after some testing, the plastic weakens with the temperature, then a camouflage paint job is not the best choice. (That is why you can see composite planes in white or very light colours). I chose for my Spitfire the paint scheme of the one Spitfire flown by Czech Lieutenant Posta shortly after the war on the Air Show military display. It was in the bare metal (I will use silver or white paint) with the red spinner and red flash on the side of the fuselage and Czechoslovakian Air Force insignia.


I do not keep my project secret, so anybody who is interested to see it and is in that part of Ontario can come and see me. And of course I'll take any help anyone has to offer.

So as we say after 20 years of dedication to this project, 90% is finished, with 90% to go. Keep smiling.

Technical Specs

Measured on Spitfire:

wing span 26.3' (8.03 m)

chord 6.25' (1.9 m)

length 22' (6.70 m)

tail chord 27.95'' (71 cm)

area 124 sq.f ( 11.5 sq.m)

Theoretical calculations:

Max. Speed 311 mph ( 500 km/h)

Cruise 264 " ( 425 " )

Stall 59 " ( 95 " )

Max Rate of Climb 3332 fpm (17 m/s)

Range no reserve 327 m ( 526 km)

V-12 Astec 416 c.inch, 6.8 l


So even with the 20% error in calculations, we are still talking about a high performance aircraft!