Discounting coordination qualities, steep turns, well, all turns went very well in the GT 500; it is very precise in handling. You can always point the plane where you wish.
Many pilots, especially those trained in general aviation aircraft, love the yoke. I much prefer a joystick. This is personal preference, but you can’t fault the execution of the yoke arrangement in the GT 500. Like all components, it’s very well done.
Since I’d just flown the Flight Design CT before the
GT 500, comparisons were easy. Handling in the composite CT aircraft was much more fluid (though that may not suit everyone). The CT could also fly nearly as slowly over the fields as the GT 500, showing the possibilities in new aircraft designs.
The GT 500 behaved very properly at speed. Cruising at 90 mph indicated, the design felt very solid and gave every assurance. However, at 4,200 rpm and 50 to 55 mph, I experienced almost a continuous shudder that seemed to come from the tail. It wasn’t disturbing but if you were trying to shoot photos from the plane, that speed setting would likely confound your efforts.
My in-flight recorded notes show that 4,400 rpm produced 60 mph at level cruise, which turned out to be a very pleasant flying speed. Noise and vibration were low, plus fuel consumption must have been very miserly.
At 55 mph and 4,300 rpm, deploying 10° flaps changed nothing. However, with 20° of deployment, I could see a drop of about 5 miles an hour. At full flaps or 30°, speed in the GT 500 dropped to 45 mph.
Accelerated stalls were quite faint, noticeable only by a burbling when the air separates the wing.
However, this observation shows the fine overall quality to handling such that I could discern air separation after flying an aircraft for 45 minutes.
Power-off stalls and power-on stalls always broke forward in every trial. The break was obvious but all were very gentle. Lower the nose slightly and you recover; no thrills ride here.
Ellefson equipped his GT 500 demo airplane with a BRS parachute and I’m always pleased to have this safety gear along for a flight. For the GT 500, Quicksilver has worked closely with parachute producer BRS to assure a clean and functional installation.
One of the questions people may ask is, “How will American Light-Sport Aircraft compare to the entries from Europe?” Indeed, flying the German CT right before the Yankee GT 500 provided me with a fascinating comparison. The two could hardly be more different yet they’re after the same prize – your dollars.
The side-by-side CT is much faster and handles more briskly. In fairness, these two designs don’t compare well, as they follow very different construction techniques. Quicksilver’s aluminum tube and Dacron approach has years of experience and demonstrated low maintenance requirements. The CT is more curvaceous but some pilots express concerns about composite construction.
The CT cruises 40 mph faster than the GT 500 but for an ultralight quality of flight, the GT 500 delivers. To get somewhere fast, the CT wins hands down, but the joy of flight is just as much the journey as reaching the destination quickly. By example, the GT 500’s zip-off doors seem clunky compared to the CT’s shapely fiberglass ones. But you can open those on the GT 500 while flying and enjoy the smell of the countryside. You can’t do so in the CT.
You’ll spend some money to acquire the GT 500 as flown. Equipped as tested, this plane would retail for more than $36,000. The complete kit is $33,995 for the 912-powered model, but you should keep in mind that the GT 500 is very well equipped for that price. Comparable aircraft from other American suppliers may look lower at first but you must compare them with the same equipment.
If that seems too steep for your budget, you can drop the price by $7,000, to $26,995 by going with the 65-hp Rotax 582, which has proven itself for years on this design. Since the 582 GT 500 weighs 63 pounds less empty, it can climb at the same speed even with 16 less hp. Gross weight is lowered to 1,000 pounds with the 65-hp Rotax 582 but payload remains within 37 pounds of the more powerful model.
A 65-hp Rotax 582-powered GT 500 can be purchased factory-built for $32,995. For a price on the Rotax 912 version, Quicksilver says to contact one of their many dealers. Of course, before comparing purchase prices you should check with a local dealer as Rotax engine prices alone can affect the final price significantly. With the euro’s sharp 25% rise against the dollar in the last 18 months, the Austrian company has been forced to raise prices. Naturally, this is true for any airframe brand using imported engines.
As one of America’s most likely early entrants for LSA and as a model that has earned a loyal following the GT 500 deserves a close look.
1See “Pilot Report: GT 500,” May 1990 Ultralight Flying! magazine.
2As an insider on the issue at the time, I observe for you that the GT 500 went through all its FAA-pilot test-flying for certification with a BRS ballistic parachute fitted. The FAA pilots reportedly wanted it left on while they test-flew the design, yet failed to certify the parachute system in the same way it did with the 65-hp Rotax 582. When the aircraft was proudly announced as the first approval under Primary Category, the parachute had to be removed. The agency later certified several models of airplane parachutes.
|Empty weight||638 pounds|
|Gross weight||1,100 pounds 1|
|Wing area||155 square feet|
|Wing loading||7.1 pounds per square foot|
|Useful Load||462 pounds|
|Length||20 feet 6 inches|
|Payload (with full fuel)||366 pounds|
|Height||6 feet 6 inches|
|Fuel Capacity||16 gallons|
|Kit type||Fully assembled 2 or kit|
|Build time||160-190 hours|
|Notes:||1 1,000 gross weight if powered by 65-hp Rotax 582
2 Primary Aircraft model with Rotax 582. Also under proposed Light-Sport Aircraft rule.
|Standard engine||Rotax 912|
|Power loading||13.8 pounds per hp|
|Max Speed||91 mph 1|
|Cruise speed||83 mph|
|Stall Speed||42 mph|
|Never exceed speed||103 mph|
|Rate of climb at gross||650 fpm|
|Takeoff distance at gross||245 feet|
|Landing distance at gross||390 feet|
|Range (powered)||295 miles (65% power)|
|Fuel Consumption||about 4.3 gph (65% power)|
|Notes:||1 With doors installed; 88 mph with doors removed.|
|Standard Features||Rotax 912 (as tested), full dual controls, three-position flaps, steerable nosewheel, hydraulic brakes, parking brake, instruments: tachometer, temp, Hobbs, compass, altimeter, VSI, front and rear ASI, oil temp and pressure, 16-gallon fuel capacity in two tanks, 3-blade carbon fiber prop, electric starting, trim, adjustable seats, front and rear shoulder belt system.|
|Options||65-hp Rotax 582 (saves $7,000), float system, wide variety of other instruments and avionics, ballistic parachute (custom-fitted to GT 500), crop dusting system.|
|Construction||Aluminum tube and gusset airframe, fiberglass fairings, Dacron wing and tail coverings, steel components. U.S.-owned company.|
Cosmetic appearance, structural integrity, achievement of design goals, effectiveness of aerodynamics, ergonomics.
Pros – Originally 4 years in development and now 10 years after original certification, the GT 500 may be one of the first Light-Sport Aircraft (LSA) to be FAA-approved. An 81-hp Rotax 912 adds to earlier 2-stroke power; the 65-hp Rotax 582 still offered. Corporation is now very stable (after years of leadership turbulence).
Cons – The GT 500’s parts count is quite high; sophistication appears chosen over simplicity. Equipped like the test aircraft, you must either have a conventional pilot’s certificate or wait for proposed Sport Pilot ticket; either takes more than any ultralight rating. Some buyers avoid tandem configuration.
Subsystems available to pilot such as: Flaps; Fuel sources; Electric start; In-air restart; Brakes; Engine controls; Navigations; Radio; (items covered may be optional).
Pros – In a proposed LSA, you can have all the GT 500 offers: brakes, electric start, flaps, a panel full of instruments, trim, adjustable seats, ballistic parachute, 4-point seat harness and more. Over the years, Quicksilver has filled the cockpit with features appreciated by many pilots.
Cons – Control yokes are less comfortable than joysticks for long flights (and add complexity). I found the trim relatively ineffective (a rigging error?). Flap handle must be controlled during retraction or it can slap forward with some power. Fuel filled on top of wings; less accessible.
Instrumentation; Ergonomics of controls; Creature comforts; (items covered may be optional).
Pros – Visibility from the front seat is very good; the position ahead of the wing greatly helps broaden your view. Both seats feel comfortable and offer 4-point seat harnesses. Seats can adjust to accommodate more pilot sizes. Zip-up doors work well and you can open them in flight or remove completely.
Cons – Entry to the rear will be difficult for many (hint: go headfirst). Rear seat is noisier than the front and has poorer visibility. No eye contact between occupants; an intercom will be needed to communicate. No flap actuation from the rear, an impediment to instructional use. Tail tips to the ground upon exit.
Taxi visibility; Steering; Turn radius; Shock absorption; Stance/Stability; Braking.
Pros – Excellent ground manners in all respects; precise steering and effective brakes with handles, front and rear. Adequate ground clearance for off-field landings. Prop is well protected above the tail boom. Very sturdy gear gives good stability even if off field.
Cons – Older heel-actuated nose brake gave way to hydraulic main gear brakes with greater weight, complication, and cost (though greater effectiveness). You must release your right hand from the throttle to use the brake unless you can reach across. Nondifferential brakes.
Qualities; Efficiency; Ease; Comparative values.
Pros – The GT 500’s takeoff and landing behavior is as good as any 2-place ultralight-like aircraft I’ve flown: highly predictable, short ground roll, strong climbout, terrific visibility on landing, good control authority for crosswind operations, low approach speeds, effective flaps, good slip qualities, strong gear.
Cons – From the rear seat, visibility is much impaired compared to the front; this may be a major drawback for instructional use. Control response is not particularly fast should the need arise. Energy retention is not as strong as on faster, sleeker planes.
Quality and quantity for: Coordination; Authority; Pressures; Response; and Coupling.
Pros – Docile and highly predictable handling. Controls exhibit reasonable harmony though the ailerons are slightly stronger. All controls are moderate in response, which may be ideal for novice use such as student training. Adverse yaw is moderate. Crosswind authority was moderately strong.
Cons – Not fast responding in any axis (though this is exactly what some pilots seek). Rudder pedals were rather heavy in the test GT 500. Control yokes can tire the arms in that they lack a place to rest your arms; many sport pilots prefer joysticks.
Climb; Glide; Sink; Cruise/stall/max speeds; Endurance; Range; Maneuverability.
Pros – Exceptionally well-rounded performance. With an 81-hp Rotax 912 powerplant, takeoffs and ground rolls are short and fuel consumption is better than with a 65-hp Rotax 582. Climbs 650 fpm at full gross. Wonderful low-over-field qualities; the GT 500 seems comfortable going slow or fast.
Cons – Speed range, once thought quite wide, is narrower than several other LSA candidates. Glide and sink aren’t particularly strong (though they match many other light 2-seaters). Bleeds energy in ground effect faster than composite fuselage and wings.
Stall recovery and characteristics; Dampening; Spiral stability; Adverse yaw qualities.
Pros – Extremely mellow stalls; true for power-off, power-on, and accelerated versions; all break straight ahead. Solid and predictable feel throughout steep turns maneuvers. Quicksilver has long supported ballistic parachutes; appreciated for my flight report flying. Response from yoke back or yoke forward and release were superb, returning to level in only 1.5 to 2 oscillations.
Cons – I discovered no negative attributes in the stability category, a credit to its engineering and design team, and one reason the 13-year-old GT 500 has not changed appreciably.
Addresses the questions: “Will a buyer get what he/she expects to buy, and did the designer/builder achieve the chosen goal?”
Pros – The GT 500 is a dependable and trustworthy design that has proven itself over many years of duty in a variety of roles. The company behind the design has now been very stable for many years. One of America’s most likely early entrants for LSA.
Cons – Rear position has much more restricted view and is less appealing for some instructors. The GT 500 isn’t your least expensive choice. To some, this looks like an aging design; she hasn’t changed much while other designs have emerged.