One of the best regarded light aircraft on the market is the GT400 from newly reorganized and revitalized Quicksilver. The longtime manufacturer of ultralights has new ownership and good things are happening. Fortunately, the Southern California leader stuck with their successful models. According to many who have flown it, the GT400 is one of the best flying single seat aircraft you can buy. To beginners, it is predictable and stable with qualities that allow a new pilot to progress with confidence. To old timers, the GT400 has such refined characteristics that it can please those with many hours logged. Using a control yoke rather than a joystick, GT400 emulates certified aircraft yet for all its sophistication, the design does not lose any of the fun side that makes ultralights so enjoyable. Handling is smooth but responsive. Performance is substantial but not scary. And its stability profile sets a standard for light aircraft.
Quicksilver Aeronautics GT 400
Phone: 985-536-3994Reserve, LA 70084 - USA
Quicksilver’s GT 400
|Empty weight||278 pounds|
|Gross weight||570 pounds|
|Wing area||146 square feet|
|Wing loading||3.65 pounds per square foot|
|Build time||100-140 hours|
|Standard engine||Rotax 447|
|Power||40 hp at 6,500 rpm|
|Power loading||14.25 pounds per horsepower|
|Cruise speed||(75% power) 60 mph|
|Never exceed speed||74 mph|
|Rate of climb at gross||1,200 fpm|
|Takeoff distance at gross||75 feet|
|Landing distance at gross||100 feet|
|Standard Features||Strut-braced wings, flaps, nosewheel steering with brake, airspeed indicator, nose fairing and windscreen, 4-point restraint systems, 5-gallon fuel tank, choice of wing colors (no painting required).|
|Options||Rotax 503, electric starting, larger fairing and larger windscreen, instruments, ballistic parachute, large wheels and tires, wheel pants.|
|Construction||Aluminum tubing, welded steel, Dacron® sailcloth.|
Cosmetic appearance, structural integrity, achievement of design goals, effectiveness of aerodynamics, ergonomics.
Pros - A well-proven design from Quicksilver - a long-time industry leader, and one with new life in it after new owners took over. GT 400 probably has as much or more design research as any ultralight flying. Fine flight characteristics combine with robust construction of many custom parts to make a dependable machine. Great transition ultralight after training in company's 2-seat GT 500.
Cons - Dating from '84, this is an older design that may not appeal to those seeking something new. Out-in-front seating may spook pilots used to being enclosed and behind the wing. Control yoke isn't widely used and some won't care for it.
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 - Unable to make Part 103 weight for now (see article), you can have many systems. GT 400 comes with flaps, a nosewheel brake, and ground-adjustable trim, but you can add features like electric starting or instruments. Easy access to engine for inspection or repairs. Easy access to fuel tank through zipper opening in pylon covering.
Cons - Limited space for instruments with standard pod and windscreen; a side pod with engine instruments was added to our test ultralight (though an ASI mounts between your legs). Pull starting is best done outside - like most ultralights - but stronger pilots can do it from the seat.
Instrumentation; Ergonomics of controls; Creature comforts; (items covered may be optional).
Pros - Special edition model comes with nose pod and short windscreen, but these suffice surprisingly well. Comfortable hard shell seat with padding and 4-point restraint system. Entry is very simple if you can swing your leg around the yoke. Seat is ground adjustable fore and aft. Baggage area could be built inside pylon. Optional fuller enclosure available.
Cons - Like many ultralights, the GT 400 sits on her tail when empty, a look some pilots don't like. These same pilots may not like your position out ahead of the wing. No factory option for baggage containment in pylon.
Taxi visibility; Steering; Turn radius; Shock absorption; Stance/Stability; Braking.
Pros - A breeze to handle on the ground with terrific visibility and very predictable steering through conventional tricycle gear. Fairly tight turn radius. Nosewheel brake is standard; helpful in some situations. Good clearance in case an off-field landing becomes necessary. Nose fairing prevents nosewheel spray from reaching the pilot.
Cons - Nosewheel brake is not particularly strong; no differential braking. Shock absorption is limited to gear leg flex and air in the tires.
Qualities; Efficiency; Ease; Comparative values.
Pros - You practically leave the ground before the throttle is fully open; landings are equally short. Superb forward visibility in any takeoff or landing phase. Approach speeds are slow, opening very small fields to landings. Flaps help a lot. Retains energy much better than company's MX series, which means you need not dive toward your landing point.
Cons - I prefer flaps which lower instead of raise the nose, but you can't fault GT 400 flap efficiency. In fact, I found no other faults with GT 400 landings.
Quality and quantity for: Coordination; Authority; Pressures; Response; and Coupling.
Pros - If there is anything that wins new buyers, it is probably the smooth, predictable handling that is one of the true trademarks of Quicksilver's GT series. Dutch rolls went well immediately to steep angles. Coordination between controls was excellent. Roll-in and roll-out forces (called "break out") are low and cooperative. Dependable crosswind controls.
Cons - Like almost any airplane with ailerons, the GT 400 has adverse yaw. Roll rates are not particularly fast for those who want the snappiest handling. In steep turns, you can run out of back stick range with lower power settings.
Climb; Glide; Sink; Cruise/stall/max speeds; Endurance; Range; Maneuverability.
Pros - Even with the 447 engine, climb is about 1,000 fpm. With the optional (and unnecessary) 503, climb reaches nearly 1,500 fpm. With 447, factory pilots say they can run very low power settings and still maintain altitude. This ultralight shines at low-over-open-field flying. Good energy retention keeps sink rate low, in the 400 fpm range. Flies slowly with dignity, retaining handling to a very low speed.
Cons - Though it's cleaner than the company's MX series, the GT 400 is still draggy and fuel usage is commensurately higher; with only 5 gallons of fuel, you may be limited to less than 2 hours of flying. Zooming along at higher speeds isn't the GT 400's strong suit.
Stall recovery and characteristics; Dampening; Spiral stability; Adverse yaw qualities.
Pros - Very mild stalls with no evil tendencies discovered. Always broke straight ahead and recovered to normal flight almost instantly. Power-on stalls got very steep but were only identified by tail burble. Push- or pull-and-release returned to level attitude in a couple mild oscillations. Carves steep turns with ease and showed no tendency to roll steeper or roll out.
Cons - The high-mounted engine pushes the nose down on power-up, like virtually all other ultralights with similar engine mounts. Fair amount of adverse yaw present.
Addresses the questions: "Will a buyer get what he/she expects to buy, and did the designer/builder achieve the chosen goal?"
Pros - A limited edition model GT 400 is being advertised for $12,500 (which includes 40-hp Rotax 447 engine), a price which makes this an excellent value choice. With about 1,000 flying, the GT 400 qualifies as very successful among ultralights. May be one of the best mannered ultralights on the market. Factory plans to offer a slightly lightened GT 400 that can make Part 103 empty weight. One of the best assembly manuals in the business. Extremely well-engineered design; one to set the standard.
Cons - First offered 15 years ago, this is hardly a new design, if that's your desire. No folding wing option makes storage or transport more challenging.
The GT 400 isn’t the fastest handling ultralight, nor is it the speediest, cheapest, most modern, nor fastest to build. But it does everything so well it doesn’t need to be tops at any one function. In this sense, I believe the GT 400 may be the best ultralight in the world. While “best” means something different for virtually every pilot, I’ll go out on a limb and predict that any pilot who flies the GT 400 will find it a highly satisfying ultralight. Fortunately for other ultralight manufacturers, every single pilot is different, a unique individual. Still, for an estimated 1,000 current GT 400 owners – and the new buyers that will follow – the GT 400 single-seater that Quicksilver first offered in 1984 remains an excellent choice. If you accept my opinion that the 400 is a desirable ultralight, then you may be moved to action by its pricing.