➡️ Update 11/3/20 — A new video interview with Flight Design USA importer Tom Peghiny appears at the bottom of this article. —DJ
In the beginning — as Light-Sport Aircraft entered the skies for the first time — German producer Flight Design brought the CTSW to American pilots. It was embraced enthusiastically and the U.S. importer Flight Design USA sold many units to aviators that had waited years for FAA to finalize their no-medical-required LSA segment. CTSW was something of a sports car, agile, quick, high performing but surprisingly roomy.
Then came the sophisticated CTLS, wholly redone for the American market. It enlarged the cabin and lengthened the fuselage becoming more deluxe throughout.
Now, we come to F2 in what I’m calling the third generation of the iconic shape that still leads the LSA market after almost 17 years. The one and only example presently in America is currently based at Airtime Aviation in Tulsa, Oklahoma. Find even more info in this article.
F2 Arrives in America
I got to see prototype and introductory show-model versions of F2 and F2e, the electric aircraft that somewhat ironically was the very first to fly in Flight Design’s new F-series. My early glimpses were at Aero 2019 and I wrote up what I observed; see it here.
Nearly every airshow was cancelled for 2020 amidst the global economic carnage driven by lockdowns and travel restrictions to contain Covid.
Well, every show was scrubbed except the Midwest LSA Expo in Mt. Vernon, Illinois. Because that one and only event happened — with no negatives regarding the virus, so far as I know — I got to see and fly Flight Design’s latest and greatest, the F2. Not only was the airshow a welcome change from the social barriers everyone had faced over the last few months, but Midwest 2020 provided a venue to see and fly the new model.
“CTSW was a Porsche. CTLS was a Corvette. F2 is a Cadillac,” said Tom Gutmann, Jr., the younger half of the father and son Airtime Aviation team that is the largest light aircraft dealership in the world.
Tom explained that F2 may look similar to CT but is a nose-to-tail, tip-to-tip refreshed design. It has been some time in development because as Tom noted, “Flight Design engineers had to rework the whole airplane. It is significantly larger than CTLS yet final production models should weigh no more.” That’s some accomplishment!
It is also built quite differently. All CTLS are essentially “hand made” with hand-layup molds that display the skill of factory workers yet makes each one unique. For F2, Tom said, Flight Design uses molds created on 5-axis CNC shaping tools so each one is fabricated to precise specifications. You may not be able to see the difference in construction but the new method is far better for serial production.
“F2 is manufactured to close tolerances in pre-impregnated carbon fiber for great structural strength and light weight,” said Flight Design in Germany. With prepreg carbon fiber from American company Hexcel, F2’s honeycomb-core fuselage signifies a big step forward.
Likewise, F2’s new wing is a major redesign; the outboard sections feature aerodynamic cuffs (nearby photo).
F2’s tail is all-new as well. CTLS’s full-flying stabilator is replaced with a wider stabilizer that has a discrete two-piece elevator with a center section that remains stationary forming what’s often called a duck tail. This aids in meeting the ASTM handling requirement. One result is that the airplane does not pitch up during a departure stall.
The altered horizontal tail works cooperatively with the wing cuffs to make a highly stall-resistant airframe, a feature FAA admires so much they gave Icon Aircraft additional weight for the A5 seaplane because the California developer redesigned to add the shape to their wings. Cirrus’s SR20 and SR22 also use this design, as do other flying machines …because it works.
F2’s tail looks notably different than CTLS with a high-aspect-ratio vertical tail and slimmer rudder although the volume is similar. These changes — with the wing cuffs — contribute to better slow-speed handling and genuine spin resistance while still allowing a generous slip and yielding plenty of rudder authority in crosswinds.
At 53 inches wide, F2’s cabin is spacious enough to lead the LSA category. The cockpit is wider than a Cessna 172 or 182 and even broader than a Beech Bonanza.
The seats in CTLS are very comfortable and even have dual air-bulb adjustment for maximum comfort, but you had to adjust them before you entered. With F2, you can manually slide fore and aft anytime and the seat raises and lowers electrically.
The throttle does double duty; forward for get up and go and pulled aft to apply brakes; it makes for a simplified cockpit.
The baggage space is enormous, among the biggest of all LSA.
However …whew! On a warm day at Midwest LSA Expo, I certainly wished for better ventilation. I understand that has already changed for production models; the F2 I flew is prototype #2, evidenced by “Experimental” on the side of the fuselage.
Flight Design chose to replace Dynon of the CTLS era with Garmin’s G3X Touch avionics. F2 comes with dual 10-inch touchscreens.
Flying F2 — Initial Impressions
With its Rotax 912iS 100-horsepower engine, F2 accelerated briskly to its 52-knot rotation speed breaking ground in roughly 500 feet with a bit of breeze straight down the runway. Importer Tom Peghiny who flew the demo routine with me said to use 70 knots for early climb, 60 knots for best angle, and 80 knots for enroute climb.
Cruise speed at a low altitude (approximately 3,000 feet density altitude) exceeded 115 knots while burning barely over 4 gallons an hour; Rotax’s 912iS is known for its fuel miserliness. This allows a topped-off F2 to fly close to 1,000 statute miles. You can fly cross country to a destination and return to base without buying fuel. I once enjoyed this quality while flying to the Bahamas in CTLS; I never had to buy any fuel.
Tom Gutmann compared F2 to CTLS. “We picked the fastest CTLS we have, a Jubilee model that is five or six knots faster than any other CTLS we’ve seen. F2 was four knots faster, with the same engine. Tom has been evaluating F2 vigorously, logging 25 hours in barely over a month.
A combination of wing cuffs, revised empennage with its fixed duck tail, and tip-vortices-reducing winglets make F2’s stalls and slow flight about as uneventful as I’ve experienced; much like Icon’s A5, which was equally docile at slow speeds. Even with the joystick full aft F2 did nothing exciting. It did not drop a wing and resisted any stall break.
Landings were easier than CTLS, which demands no more than 60 knots on approach unless you’re willing to float well down the runway. F2 was more user-friendly, a phrase I think many will generally use for F2.
With better ventilation and losing a few pounds once in serial production, F2 is a winner for those seeking a luxurious Light-Sport Aircraft. Contact Airtime Aviation and get a demo flight as soon as you can. Until then, here are impressions in video form.
Here is a newly-released video interview with U.S. importer, Tom Peghiny from Oshkosh 2019. It describes the aircraft and the entire F-series from Flight Design.