Aero 2015 is open! The halls are full of shiny airplanes displayed with the usual European sense of style and panache. Visitors are backed up at the entry gates awaiting the official opening time. (We sneaky media journalists are allowed in earlier to get photos and begin interviews with vendors.) It is a great event, for Europe and for aviation. I already have some airplanes in mind for reporting, both brand-new designs and the sort you never see in the USA. I will aim to prepare coverage of some of them and report as soon as time permits. Yet first, I want to talk about a project that is equally exciting. I refer to the Flight Design project aimed at the general aviation world, that is, of airplanes with more seats than allowed in the LSA space … in addition to more speed, more weight, and other capabilities.
Airtime Aviation, Inc. (Fly CT)
Phone: 918-625-5442Tulsa, OK 74132 - USA
For more than 100 years, cars have had accidents and if they were severe enough, the results were poor (photo). This was long before seat belts, airbags, breakaway steering columns, padded dashboards, and many other features we take for granted today. It was also before the concept of crumple zones. Typically, crumple zones are located in the front part of the vehicle to absorb the impact of a head-on collision because 65% of crashes are frontal impacts, according to a British study. Crumple zones accomplish two safety goals: They reduce the initial force of the crash; and they redistribute the force before it reaches the vehicle’s occupants.This idea has been around more than 60 years and has become standard in the modern era of passenger car design. One of the first examples of crumple zone research is coming from Mercedes-Benz in the mid-1950s, so perhaps it is fitting that some of the first crumple zone technology to be applied to light aircraft has the sponsorship of the German government along with German industry players.
Something of a stealth invasion is beginning. I refer to an emerging flock of four seat Light-Sport Aircraft. Of course, most readers are aware that no such birds exist as LSA (in the FAA’s code, anyway). By U.S. regulation Light-Sport are two seat aircraft. Other nations have some different ideas. For now, suffice it to say the “LSA 4s” — as I choose to call them for this article — are on final. In the past I’ve written about Evektor’s Cobra, one of the first in this group, arriving so early that you probably would not call it a “LSA-like” airplane. The southern Czech company enjoyed success with their SportStar and Harmony, smaller siblings to a four seater they flew several years ago. After Evektor (coincidentally also the very first LSA to be approved), we began to hear about Flight Design’s C4 modeled on their LSA market-leading CT series.
Since the beginning of Light-Sport Aircraft almost ten years ago — this summer at EAA AirVenture, the SP/LSA sector will celebrate its tenth anniversary with special functions — Flight Design has continuously led the fleet size statistics as seen in our market share charts. In recent years, along with most other LSA manufacturers, a tough global economy slowed the enterprise. However, as 2013 began to show renewed sales activity and with positive forecasts for 2014 and 2015, Flight Design and many other of the LSA “majors” have been again growing their staff, inventory, and physical facilities. Recently the German company sent photos of its new quarters in Kamenz (pronounced like “commons”) in eastern Germany almost directly north of Prague in the Czech Republic. Most senior staff moved from the company’s Stuttgart, Germany base to the new facility and the Light-Sport models including the CT series and more are now housed in a spacious hangar on an airport.
After flying more than 350 different aircraft models, I became rather adept at what some pilots call “stick wiggling.” The reference is for all the actions you take to physically fly the plane. Heck, it’s about all you do on very basically-equipped ultralight aircraft that I still love to fly. Modern LSA, however, typically offer loaded instrument panels and while I check out stalls, flight qualities and landings of a Light-Sport Aircraft, I rarely get any time to play with the panel goodies. Fortunately, a recent experience in a brand-new Flight Design CTLSi provided a three-hour window to wiggle the stick plus a whole lot more. Like a majority of late-model LSA, this aircraft was equipped with a full glass panel, comprised of dual 10-inch Dynon Sky View screens on either side of a Garmin aera 796. Checking me out was Brian Boucher, an airline pilot who operates Florida Light-Sport Aircraft from my home airport at Spruce Creek.
Yes, as the pics show, I did indeed take advantage of a rare, calm, beautiful, warm (for winter) day in New England to drive over to Tom Peghiny‘s Flight Design USA and take my first hop in a fuel-injected Rotax-powered LSA: the new CTLSi. Company Chief Pilot Jonathan Carter did me the honors as we went for a spin the last hour of the clear-sky, gorgeous day: no bumps, no ATC to deal with, just that good smooth, strong CT climb up and away from the company’s little paved strip in Woodstock, Connecticut. CTLSi, latest version of the industry-leading CT line (the company’s been at the front of the pack for 7 years), is noteworthy primarily for its new powerplant, which dramatically improves fuel economy, starts easier, and runs smoother. I’ll have a full flight report on the airplane in the spring issue of the magazine. But I don’t want to wait to say that for me, this is a wonderfully refined airplane and a real step forward from the version I flew four years ago when I got my Sport Pilot rating with instructor rock ‘n rollin’ CFI John Lampson (he moonlights with a popular rock band, Stealing Jupiter, in the Northeast).
The first iLSA are flying in the USA. Springboarding from Apple’s famous iDevices, why not iLSA? This stands for “i” Light-Sport Aircraft, meaning they’re fuel injected, which today suggests Rotax’s new 912 iS engine. Tecnam has announced P2008s with the new powerplant. Pipistrel has iS models, too. Others will follow, although Remos indicated they are taking a wait-and-see approach to the new powerplant. All models remain available with the carbureted version of the 912s in 80 or 100 horsepower. (See this earlier article about the newest Rotax and this one with a video.) Market leader Flight Design has iLSA arriving in all corners of the country under the slightly changed name of CTLSi. Flight Design USA president Tom Peghiny recently assembled a couple of these airplanes and logged several flights on them. He offered a series of comments on how his newest LSA is an improvement in last year’s model.
Anyone who has tried to borrow money in the last five years knows how tough it has become. Banks supported by government guarantees practically gave money away before the subprime meltdown but are now being much more careful. That’s a good thing but it means even some credit-worthy customers can’t get the loan they need. Commonly rejected are flight schools. Flight training enterprises across the nation are struggling to obtain financing to buy new aircraft to replace aging fleets of trainers. *** Despite the challenges, one LSA outfit has found at least a partial answer. Thanks to a solid customer (and onetime dealer), Flight Design USA has been able to offer a limited number of schools a method called leaseback. Training students today are three leased back CTLS Light-Sport Aircraft but this business success is only one part of a genuine human interest story. *** “We are pleased to announce the third CTLS leased to a flight school was used by Iraq war veteran Adam Kisielewski, an Able Flight scholarship recipient who recently earned his Sport Pilot certificate,” said Tom Peghiny of Flight Design USA.
Flight Design of Germany — in cooperation with U.S importer Flight Design USA — just signed an agreement with emergency parachute maker, BRS, to provide the 1350 LSA ballistic system on all CT aircraft sold in the USA. The importer, a related business of Flightstar Sportplanes, has long been a supporter of such safety ‘chutes and will now offer the BRS system as standard equipment. The parachute company likens the move by Flight Design as similar to Cirrus Design, which produces the best selling SR-22 GA airplane…that also comes standard with an airframe parachute. Use of the systems has resulted in the saving of 181 lives to date, BRS says. Only one other LSA company currently encourages parachutes with each airplane sale: the StingSport available from SportairUSA. The Arkansas-based company is the U.S. dealer for Galaxy parachute systems.
The LSA movement may have struggled along with the rest of civilian aviation over the last three years. *** Still, there’s no stopping folks who see how useful Light-Sport Aircraft can be for work at a lower cost than traditional aircraft. *** Overall U.S. LSA sales leader Flight Design (1,500 now flying worldwide) just told us about a fire fighting department (situated at 8,300 feet MSL) in the Andes mountains of Ecuador that is using a CTLS as an aerial support unit. *** John Hurst and Jeremy Endsley of Sebring Aviation went to the South American country to assist the Basin Fire Department at Mariscal La Mar Airport. *** Hurst and Endsley trained fire department employees in the assembly, maintenance, and flight training of the CTLS. *** The group operating the LSA is called the Air Volunteer Fire Department of Basin.
The folks at the CT Flier Forum kick off their 4th Annual CT Fly-in this coming Oct. 14-17 and it sounds like a blast…unless the sight of the Grand Canyon, Monument Valley, Lake Powell, Bryce Canyon and Zion Canyon aren’t enough eye candy to get your mojo working. *** Rooms are available at a $49 rate and around 40 aircraft have already signed up so don’t delay, scenic flight fans. *** My understanding is any LSA is welcome, but mostly Flight Design CTLS and CTSW owners will be there since it’s a CT forum. *** There will also be ground excursions to various places like Hoover Dam and Antelope Canyon, cookouts and such: should be a lot of fun. *** If you go, bring your own tie-downs just in case, and call now to get lodging and let them know you’re coming. *** Page Airport — KPGA — is the jumping off place.
Flight Design has maintained their substantial lead in market share partly through a strategy of steady innovation. The German company and its U.S. partners regularly develop new products and introduce them with pizzazz. The company’s press conference and exhibit space at Oshkosh 2010 revealed this methodology. *** AirVenture visitors got to examine the CTLS Lite on amphibious floats. CTLS Lite — unveiled at a significantly-reduced price and dramatically-reduced empty weight — was introduced only three months earlier at Sun ‘n Fun. By Oshkosh 2010, that new model sat atop amphib floats that have already recorded a number of flights from water and land. *** The floats are from Clamar and were developed in concert with Flight Design distributor Airtime Aviation of Tulsa, Oklahoma, arguably the nation’s largest dealer of LSA. “The Clamar floats match the structure and the feel of the Flight Design planes,” said Tom Peghiny, president of importer Flight Design USA.
Here’s a hot item that should shake the dust off the notion that LSA are little toy airplanes. (Sorry, couldn’t resist.) *** With all the concern recently over ash cloud emissions from Iceland’s Eyjafajallawhatever volcano that disrupted global air transportation (and also revealed how precarious airline business models must if, as reported, they were in drastic financial jeopardy after only a few days of lost revenues), comes this fun and good news: *** A specially equipped Flight Design CT Supralite has been called into duty to measure atmospheric volcanic dust levels. *** The Supralite is a version of the European CT line that is popular here as the CTLS. *** Duesseldorf Technical University’s Department of Volcanology set up the ongoing study, including rigging the cabin with an oxygen system for higher altitude measurements. *** The program includes monitoring sulfur and particulate concentration in levels from 1,000 to 14,000 feet.
Two Swiss pilots embarked on a round-the-world flight on April 30 and 51 days later they are back home in Switzerland. Yannick Bovier, 37, and Francisco Agullo, 41, created an expedition they call “Azimut 270” to celebrate 100 years of aviation in Switzerland, a country known for its natural beauty and for being bankers to the world. *** The dynamic duo returned safely on Saturday, June 19 after crossing two oceans, confronting suspicious government officials for country overflight permission, paying high landing and permit fees, battling fatigue and loneliness, performing routine maintenance that comes with so many hours logged, plus having to watch what foods they consumed during flight legs that several times started before dawn and ended after dark. (On-board bathrooms have yet to be installed in the first Light-Sport Aircraft making such biological necessities a real challenge). *** Starting on the last day of April, the duo leaped the Atlantic to Brazil by May 8 and then crossed the Caribbean to Miami, Florida, USA by May 13.
As they connect the dots of their plan to circumnavigate the world in celebration of 100 years of aviation in Switzerland, Yannick Bovier and Francisco Agullo have now spanned one immense body of water. The pair of twin Flight Design CTLS “Ecolight” aircraft cleared a big hurdle with the jump across the Atlantic from Africa to Brazil (map photo). Bigger bodies of water await the dynamic duo, two young European airline pilots. But before setting out across the Pacific, they will cruise across the USA to receptions like that which greeted the pair in Maimi. *** Flight Design USA’s John Gilmore says, “These kind of very long distance flight show pilots that Light-Sport Aircraft like CTLS can fly long distances reliably and efficiently.” All round-the-world flights so far in LSA have used the Rotax 912; this engine recently increased its Time Between Overhaul (TBO) to 2,000 hours, a comparable value to long-proven engines like Continental and Lycoming.
Way back near the dawn of Light-Sport Aircraft… in 2007, two Indian military pilots flew a CT around the world to commemorate the 75th anniversary of the Indian Air Force. (CT later became one of the first LSA used in an Indian flight school.) *** On April 30th, two Swiss airline pilots took off on another round the globe flight to honor the 100th anniversary of the first flight in their country back in 1910. But this is a different effort than the 2007 Indian circumnavigation. The Swiss pilots — Yannick Bovier, 37, and Francisco Agullo, 41 — are using Flight Design’s newest model, the CTLS… and they’re using two of them! Yep, each qualified pilot will fly his own CTLS, and to keep things straight, they’ve named their aircraft Celine and Dreamcatcher. They’ll emulate South Africans Mike Blythe and James Pitman’s globe-girdling flight by going east-to-west.
I was lucky enough to get Matthias Betsch, Flight Design’s CEO, all to myself for a few minutes and here’s what he had to say: *** General update: “A hard year but better than we expected. In the last two to three months, we’ve had quite a pickup. Here in the States dealers sold their stock so they have to buy more airplanes…they have to buy more so I think that is good!” *** The year ahead: “I don’t think we’ll get back to 2007-2008 this year, but I do think it will be a 30% recovery. The rest we will do in 2011.” *** On the new Flight Design MC: “It’s a different character. The LS is more sporty, speedy, responsive. The airplane feels much heavier than it is. That’s what we wanted: an airplane for flight schools which is very forgiving, easy to land, to fly. It’s also ideal for older pilots who are used to very stable airplanes.” *** MC vs.
Much has been written about Cessna’s Skycatcher incidents, those spin investigations that caused the loss of one airplane and a parachute deployment from another. Of course, the giant producer knows well the design of light aircraft so it was only a matter of time before all problems were solved. In doing these spin tests, Cessna said they went beyond the ASTM standards, which also call for spin evaluation. (That’s fine. ASTM specifications are intended to be minimum standards; going beyond them is the decision of each company.) *** A new video from Flight Design does a professional job of showing viewers around the aircraft and its test equipment. Check out the YouTube version. Produced by Flight Design test pilot Tim-Peter Voss and his brother Ben, the videographer, we learn that the process no longer depends on a test pilot manually recording results because electronic devices measure more accurately and in real time.
If you study FAA’s registration database as I do, you’ll quickly discover that Flight Design and its various CT models have a strong presence in the USA (the world for that matter, with 1,500 flying, according to the company). Since CT was first certified in April 2005 — the second LSA to win Special LSA certification, after Evektor’s SportStar — the German brand has steadily planted CTs across America. You can see a CT at more airfields than any other brand by more than double; the next closest is the American Legend Cub. *** The accompanying graphic was created by Flight Design USA to show the locations of more than 300 CT aircraft in the United States. The distribution is surprisingly even with obvious concentrations in big aviation states such as Florida, California, and Texas/Oklahoma with another area of strength in New England, home base of the U.S.
Word of a few interesting developments arrived in my inbox, bringing with them new questions. *** Point One — EAA announced it will cease publishing Sport Pilot and Light-Sport Aircraft magazine. LSA content will be merged into their flagship Sport Aviation title, bolstered by a new eNewsletter called “Light Plane World” that will focus on LSA and ultralights. *** Point Two — An Australian company, Foxcon, alerted me about their SLSA, the Terrier 200. It’s not presently for sale in the U.S. But they say it has government approval just like the other 104 aircraft on our SLSA List. To assure our list remains up-to-date, a key feature of the SLSA List, do we add the Terrier 200? Is ByDanJohnson.com is an American product for Americans or a world citizen? *** Point Three — China is hosting an international GA conference and is featuring Cirrus, Diamond, and Cessna, and, not least, Flight Design in promoting CIGAC.