Although a mirror reflection of the greater global economy, many pilots are stunned that airshow after airshow has fallen to the virus. It seems like two or three years ago when, back in February 2020, Videoman Dave and I covered the Copperstate/Buckeye show west of Phoenix.
Here’s another sure sign of virus-induced time distortion. This year, 2020, was the first year that the Sebring U.S. Sport Aviation did not happen after a good run of 15 years. Yes, only seven months ago, many of us would’ve been heading to Sebring, Florida.
Little did we know in those carefree times what cataclysm was to follow starting in March 2020.
When cut off from usual routines, what does an inventive entrepreneur do?
Take to the Air!
Tom Peghiny, the veteran importer of the most successful LSA brand in America, has a new nose-to-tail, winglet-to-winglet Light-Sport Aircraft to show airshow attendees …except he can’t.
Tom has run Flight Design USA since before the category was implemented by FAA back in 2004. He was an early leader in the ASTM process — through its first three (contentious) years, he chaired the all-important Design & Performance Subcommittee that created the biggest chunk of the standards used by airplane producers today.
After selling more than 300 CT-series aircraft to Americans, Tom is keen to promote his brand new model. What he lacks is a show to take it to, so what to do?
After media reported a flare-up of the virus in places Tom expected to visit, he had to cut back earlier tour plans. Instead, he chose to take the airplane to some key writers, let them fly F2, and they could tell their readership. It’s not as good as face-to-face conversations at airshows, but it’s an excellent way to communicate with the pilot community.
Soon, he’ll welcome a writer for AVweb and he will fly F2 down to AOPA’s home in Frederick, Maryland to let one of their senior writers have a crack at the new model.
How will they like it? I asked what aspects of F2 he planned to show off to these journalists.
“Feels Bigger; Flies Great”
Flying F2 since it arrived in the USA — the model was announced at Aero 2019; video below — Tom has been getting more deeply familiar with the new model.
“I’m very impressed with F2. It feels like a bigger airplane, very solid in the air. More stable than I expected. Very easy to land.” He’s comparing to the CTLS that so many other pilots know.
“F2 feels more stable in the air compared to our CTLS, which offers a sportier feel.” Pressing him for details, Tom recounted the following story from a recent flight. It involved F2’s autopilot.
“As you know, with the Garmin (or any) autopilot, you have a few stages to get it set up. When you’re ready you engage it with an ‘AP’ button.” After several minutes of flying almost hands-off straight and level, Tom realized he’d never engaged the autopilot. “F2 behaves so steadily, that even though I had it ready, I hadn’t turned it on yet,” Tom said. “It’s that stable.”
“One of the reasons stability is so important is that we are in the process of certifying F2 to Europe’s CS-23 version of FAA’s Part 23 and also plan to certify it for IFR flight in IMC, making it a logical choice as a training aircraft,” observed Tom.
That all sounds great, but how to account for such a stride forward?
At least three attributes appear to deliver the improvements:
- F2 has a longer fuselage, about a foot longer than CTLS (22.5 feet on F2 vs. 21.6 on CTLS).
- F2 has a very wide stabilizer, substantially larger than CTLS (10.3 feet vs. 7.8 for CTLS). Additionally, the newer model now uses a fixed stabilizer with discreet elevator where CTLS employs a stabilator.
- Finally, vertical height of the tailplane is impressive. F2’s tall tail is approximately 6.2 feet vs. 4.6 feet for CTLS.
In one of the nearby photos taken from the nose of F2, the vertical surface of the tailplane appears enormous, one to rival the very tall tail on an AirCam. However, that’s a bit of visual deception. The vertical stabilizer and rudder are relatively high aspect ratio, that is, long and slim. “F2’s tall, thin vertical may be a little rudder limited for slips, but you can still do them,” Tom confirmed.
The market leading Rotax 912iS is the only engine for the LSA version of F2 (a CS-23 version is also awaiting approval by European authorities). “At present Flight Design is not planning a 915iS for F2-LSA,” Tom noted, adding that he thought it would be challenging to keep within the current LSA speed limit using the more potent 141 horsepower engine.
More power appears unneeded. Tom reported 118 IAS at 2,500 feet. At 8,500, F2 will zip right past 120 knots measured in TAS (as is allowed). This is especially true, Tom said, because “the iS series of injected engines does better at altitudes than the carbureted models.”
When the flight is over, F2 is reportedly easier to land. I asked how?
“A longer wheelbase reduces porpoising and a single beam landing gear absorbs rebound tendency. “We also think that beam gear will end up being more rugged.”
Another helpful feature is the single throttle and brake lever (image below): forward is go; back is stop. Simple. Other designs have used this technique, good because the pilot’s hand never needs to move during the critical touchdown and rollout phase of flight.
When the fuselage stretched, it not only got longer and leaner looking but it got wider and taller, too. This increased cabin volume. F2 is two inches wider (50.5 inches) and has a much larger aft cabin than CTLS (which has a hat rack on each side; handy, but much smaller). F2’s cabin is higher, better for tall pilots and larger doors allow easier entry.
That big cabin is designed to protect its occupants, a long-term effort by Flight Design. “F2 has an extremely rigid cabin; at least two times more than the CT-series.” Like CTLS, F2’s cabin is built around a center tunnel or beam “that is very stout,” Tom added.
F2 is also more deluxe. It has an automobile feel to it, Tom thought. Indeed, with AmSafe air bags (interior photo; see black vertical bars), auto style inertia reel harnesses, and gas-piston-adjustable seats that adjust electrically for height adjustment, F2 is clearly a luxury model.
Size doesn’t come free, of course. The extra interior room, longer span, wider tail, and stretched fuselage add 107 pounds to F2 compared with CTLS, using basic empty weight facts from company brochures (717 pounds vs. 824 on F2).
No doubt F2’s four foot longer span wing (32.4 feet on F2 vs. 28.2 feet on CTLS) carries weight better and may be another reason, along with the new winglets, accounting for the good handling report.
“F2 is very efficient,” Tom said. The wing design is higher aspect, using the same chord as CTLS but a longer span. “The higher you go, the better the wing flies. It will be very good for longer cruising flights, above 8,000 feet, for example.”
If you look carefully (it’s subtle from most angles), F2’s wing uses cuffs as does the Icon Aircraft A5. I flew that LSA seaplane to find very well behaved manners almost no matter what you did with the controls and airspeed management. That safety attribute earned Icon extra gross weight; FAA granted such because those cuffs provide greatly enhanced slow speed stability. As the linked article above indicates, FAA told LAMA’s board of directors that any design that could prove a “stall resistant airframe” to FAA’s satisfaction could petition for a higher gross weight so it is entirely possible F2 could also request more pounds.
As we discussed the two planes, Tom said he thought I could do the same maneuvers with F2 that I’d done with the Icon A5 and I’d get a similar sensation.
“Departure stalls simply don’t,” Tom described. “With full flaps, it will ‘nod’ a bit, a kind of pre-stall but with neutral flaps the stick remains effective at all times.”
Tom worked closely with Flight Design during development of F2, playing key roles. He closed saying, “I knew we could achieve those characteristics but I didn’t know how well it would fly.”
I could almost see his smile over the phone.