Flight Design did not become the best-selling light sport aircraft in the country by being the best looking kid on the block. In fact, the FD is more like that nerdy guy in high school who got straight As and was still the most popular kid at the parties. In other words, looks are deceiving. It is more than just a solid performing aircraft. Despite its funny looking design it has won this low-wing guy over.
Over the summer, I got to demo fly the new CTLS model this weekend in at Simsbury Airport (4B9) in Simsbury, Ct. I'm just a regular pilot who took the plane for a spin around the proverbial pattern. So here are my basic thoughts:
The CTLS is considered a step up over the earlier CTSW because it has a longer tail (making it look less like an egg with wings) and more standard features like leather seats, two-axis autopilot, a glass cockpit, and nav lights. All the CT models come with a ballistic recovery system. According to LSA guru Dan Johnson, Flight Design leads all LSA sales with 259, almost 20% of the market.
We can see why. The basic overview is this: The FD performs well, has great visibility, and is backed by a solid (by LSA standards) company in Germany. What more can you want from a light sport? It is certified by the Light Aircraft Manufacturers Association. (Remember, LSAs are self-certified, not FAA-certified.) We consider having the LAMA endorsement an important provision.
After the preflight, all flights start by getting into the aircraft. FD’s large gulf wing doors make this easy. Since there is no wing spar to step on, pilot and passenger get in by plopping their butt on the seat and swinging their legs over the control stick. Like all aircrafts, it takes about two tries to nail the entry. Another nice feature is that the seat is adjustable both for leg room and height. No pedal adjusters or seat cushions. Some LSAs require only one person get in at a time for risk of flipping the plane onto the wing because it’s so light. That’s not an issue with FD.
Inside, the cockpit (there’s only a cockpit– it’s a two seater!) is roomy. With two people it does not feel crowded at all. Behind the seats, there’s a small space for bags. Like most LSAs, the FD is powered by a Rotax engine. I’m not an engine guy, so this seems fine to me. They all sound the same (I know I’ll get email disputing that). Rotax- which also powers snow mobiles- has developed into a fine engine maker and more and more A&P mechanics are learning how to maintain them.
The first difference you’ll notice with the FD is in taxing. There are no toe brakes. Braking is done with a hand brake, next to the throttle. This is more standard in Europe so it takes some getting used to. It also requires remembering where the brake is when you land.
On take off, the FD leaped into the air and climbed out at better than 1,000 feet per minute, which is more than it’s advertised at, with two people on board. That’s impressive. You definitely feel the light chop on climb-out, but it wasn’t bad at all.
Once at cruise altitude, you’ll quickly discover what sets this plane apart. With negative flaps (this was new to me as well), the FD had little trouble giving us the max 120kt indicated speed. (LSAs must not fly faster than 120 indicated). Negative flaps are set at -6 degrees.
Next, it’s the visibility. The large windows, the sky-light above, the high wings, and the lack of a wing spar makes the views entirely uninhibited. The pictures we have don’t do it justice. And the new CTLS comes with an optional photo-window that slides out for unblocked photography.
Some things that can be worked on. The control stick is very stiff on the roll. Our understanding is that the new models have fixed this. The Garmin 496- a super piece of equipment- is incredibly difficult to read in the bright light. The screen may be able to be adjusted, but during my flight it was challenging to read. And without a workable GPS, as we know, we’ll never find our way to our destination. Heck, I need it for touch and goes in the traffic pattern. With that said, the 496 is quite capable.
As with any light aircraft, a modest chop in the air will knock you around a bit. This takes getting used to and may be disconcerting for some passengers. But we had a solid wind this weekend and at no time did I feel a flight would be uncomfortable.
Finally, the FD is designed to go places. At a burn rate of under 5 gallons an hour and with 34 gallons of fuel on board, you can fly for more than six hours. It’s a solid cross country machine that has been known to fly from one coast to the other.
Here’s a list of Flight Design dealers.