Grandfather spends £30k building Spitfire simulator in his tiny garden shed
A grandfather has spent years creating a perfect replica of a Spitfire from scratch - all in his tiny garden shed. Kenneth Mockford, 59, took on the challenge during the 2020 lockdown and spent more than two years constructing the front half of the fighter aircraft. The ex-airman from the South African air force spent an estimated £30,000 buying the parts for the fuselage using blueprints, making many parts individually from scratch. He then squeezed into his 3x5m shed to construct the thing. Keith, of Burwell in Cambs, who comes from a line of RAF veterans, said: "I am a nutty engineer, basically. "I have Asperger Syndrome and I always say that it is my gift. It is my superpower. "If people with Aspergers aren't doing something they're getting up to mischief. "Because I have that, I have the skill of being able to analyse things to the nth degree and I can see things in a way that other people cannot. "You don't think about the money when it's £500 here and £1,000 there, but it adds up. "But why would I want to be rich? All I need is a roof over my head and to enjoy myself." In 2014, the dad-of-two quit his secure job as Head of Engineering at Baxter Healthcare UK and turned his shed into an air-hanger. This is only the latest project for the ex-mechanic, who has also built an entire F35 fighterjet by eye and rewired the front end of a Lynx helicopter and Boeing 737 aircraft into simulators. He uses his own hand-made laser cutter and a Computer Numerical Controller (CNC) to cut and shape all the parts of his simulators. He now runs a flight simulator business Sim2do, selling experiences in his simulators in Mildenhall, Suffolk, where people can buy a one-hour 'flight' from £60. The British Spitfire simulator is his latest project and is his only simulator which 'shoots' from the aircraft's gun, used by the Royal Air Force during World War II. The machine even vibrates when you pull the trigger and the pilot can fight up to 19 enemy aircraft during a 'flight'. No parts were available to build on for the single-seat aircraft so he made it from the blueprints up. It now accurately features all the internal instruments, throttle, landing gear and seat, adapted to be run in the simulator with three screens to give a realistic virtual experience. Though many have created Spitfires before, Kenneth said he had to see if he could make one even better. He added: "People with Autism and Aspergers often get ridiculed by the general population because they are not the same as everyone else. "But the general person looks at the world through normal eyes and we look at the world in 3D." According to him, his family initially thought he had "lost it" when he set out to make his first project, the Boeing 737 in 2012. However now they get the hype. He said: "When I completed one they were like, 'wow'. "Then I completed another and they had the same reaction. Now the whole family are pretty much behind me and supports me." After the success of the 737, in which he spent most of his time giving the people in his village "flights", he thought he'd make a business out of it. His customers are now mostly people buying "gift experiences" for their partners and grandparents, as well as trainee pilots booking up four-hour slots to practice ahead of a job interview. But for Kenneth, being plane-crazy runs in the family. His father served in the Royal Air Force in Rhodesia and later worked for an aircraft manufacturer in Africa, while his grandfather Arthur, and great-uncle Derf all served in the RAF. His great-uncle Derf (Frederick) even famously invented the internationally recognised distress call 'Mayday". Kenneth said: “My love of flying started when my dad started buying helicopter radios for the police. "When I was knee-high to a grasshopper, we would go to the airfield at weekends and I’d spend hours flying in the aircraft. "I guess you can say I was born with it my blood."