Plane & Pilot
Monday, January 1, 2007

Flight Design CT Best Of The LSAs?

Worth Every Penny

flight designLight sport aircraft come in a variety of flavors. If you’re inclined to go traditional, you can opt for the Legend Cub, an upgraded copy of the venerable J-3. At the opposite end of the LSA spectrum, many pilots are selecting the Flight Design CT.
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At first sight, the Flight Design CT looks a little unusual, something like an aerodynamic pod suspended beneath graceful wings and a waspish tail. Indeed, the CT has a short ratio of length to wingspan, about 1.37. In contrast, the old Aeronca Champ and J-3 Cub scored more like 1.6.

The Flight Design CT’s wings are a European C180 airfoil, 107 square feet in area with a 13.8% thickness, just under two degrees of dihedral and downturned tips. The airplane uses flaperons that automatically deflect down to improve lift when flaps are deflected to their full 40 degrees. Tail surfaces include a Piper-style all-flying stabilator and a conventional rudder above a small ventral fin.

The CT’s gross weight is 1,320 pounds, the legal limit for an LSA. A typical unequipped empty weight is 646 pounds, so the airplane boasts a useful load of 674 pounds. Even with a full 34 gallons of fuel aboard, the airplane still sports 470 pounds of payload. That translates to a pair of 200-pound pilots and a reasonable allowance for baggage. If passenger and fuel weight will allow, baggage capacity is 110 pounds, with dedicated doors on both sides of the aft fuselage, a nice touch.

You climb aboard the Flight Design through either of two top-hinged doors that fold up against the bottoms of the wings. Despite the LSA designation, which sometimes implies sporty and cramped, there’s nothing compact about this airplane’s cabin. The front office measures a respectable 49 inches across, making it perhaps the widest LSA available. There’s plenty of shoulder, leg and headroom for even a six-foot-tall pilot.

Flight controls and panel layout are compact but conventional. Pitch trim, choke, throttle and brake controls are mounted on the lower, center quadrant, with most other engine and system controls located higher where they’re convenient to both pilots. All electrical switches are spaced across the top of the center console.

The CT employs dual control sticks mounted directly in front of pilot and passenger plus standard rudder bars without differential brakes. A brake T-handle applies equal pressure to both wheels simultaneously.

The CT uses a Rotax 912S for motive force, but this definitely isn’t your great uncle’s Rotax. With the help of a 10.5-to-1 compression ratio, two carburetors and dual electronic ignition, the little, 1,350 cc powerplant churns out 100 hp at a brisk 5,800 rpm. A 2.43 reduction gearing drops the Rotax’s enthusiasm to 2,400 rpm, driving a three-blade, Neuform composite prop. Engine cooling is with both air and liquid, protecting the engine from even the hottest desert temperatures. TBO is 1,500 hours.

One of the nicest nonoperational features of the Rotax is that it’s an extremely lightweight mill, less than 150 pounds installed. That’s a critical quality in an airplane that grosses only 1,320 pounds.

Takeoff performance is better than you might expect, a function of an efficient wing and relatively low power loading. The CT jumps into the air in less than 300 feet and starts uphill with surprising enthusiasm. The Rotax offers 100 hp for the first five minutes, generating a low 13.2 pounds/hp. Compare that to the Cessna 152’s 15.2, a Piper Tomahawk’s 14.9 or a Beech Skipper’s 14.6. Not surprisingly, vertical speed is superior to that of the other three, specifically 960 fpm.

Labels: LSAs


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