Fuel-injected Flight Design: Flying the CTLSi

December 13, 2012

flight design

The Flight Design CTLSi has arrived in the U.S., with one of the first aircraft seen here at Woodstock Airport in South Woodstock, Conn.

An hour in the air does not tell the whole story, though a few of the changes are obvious. The glass cockpit—built with a pair of 10-inch Dynon SkyView SV-EMS electronic flight information system (EFIS) displays (an optional upgrade from the standard 7-inch screen) and a Garmin Aera 796 GPS with integrated XM weather and traffic—commands attention and helps spell out what sets the Flight Design CTLSi apart from the CTLS introduced in 2008. Level at 3,000 feet, with the fuel-injected Rotax 912iS throttled back to cruise power, the engine is drawing just more than four gallons per hour. At that rate, this flight could stretch to about eight hours without stopping for fuel, be it automotive gas, 100 low-lead, or any mixture of the two.

flight design prop The Neuform composite three-blade propeller is standard on CTLSi models, part of a package of noise-dampening technology.

“I know this sounds like heresy, but you’re flying on auto fuel with 10 percent ethanol right now,” said Flight Design USA President Tom Peghiny, sitting in the right seat and helping a light sport aircraft and glass-panel rookie sort through the dazzling array of information and functions provided by the upgraded panel. The optional two-axis autopilot is now fully integrated with the EFIS, among the updates for the new fuel-injected model that frees up just a little more time for a pilot to admire that impressive gallons-per-hour reading.

“It is the 20 percent improvement that they said we were going to get,” Peghiny said. “We’re very impressed.”

While the glass panel invites comparisons to larger aircraft, the CTLSi remains very much an LSA, distinguished from many competitors—and some larger aircraft—by a roomy interior, 49 inches wide with plenty of room for two grown adults. On a blue-sky December day, with smooth air and barely a rustle of wind, the CTLSi was surefooted and stable in the air, demanding attention to subtlety to distinguish it from a larger aircraft.

Gentle turns at the edge of the stall regime were stable and predictable. Stalls were nearly nonevents, with a gentle buffet and a gentle break, requiring little intervention: Relax the stick pressure just a little, and the aircraft recovers without any real need for additional power. The CTLSi handled very well overall, with crisp response to pitch and roll.

rotax 912si The 100 horsepower Rotax 912iS can push the CTLSi to 115 knots burning four gallons per hour.

With a little better feel for an aircraft that can hang in the air with just more than 40 knots indicated, and the autopilot engaged to guide the CTLSi to a nearby airport for a few trips around the pattern, it soon became a little clearer that this is, in fact, a 1,320-pound (maximum gross) airplane. Compared to a four-seat Cessna or Piper, the CTLSi is very sensitive to power settings, and it doesn’t take much power to slow the sink rate. The first approach was high, at the edge of go-around range, and Peghiny said that’s a typical experience for pilots transitioning from larger aircraft. With that problem fixed, another common quirk soon revealed itself.

“Most people want to land the plane a little crooked when they first start out, so I’ll be walking you through that,” Peghiny said. Sure enough, he had to step in with a rudder assist and help overcome an urge to round out too high. There are a few reasons for that: The nose and spinner are out of sight from the cockpit, and the bulbous, wide cabin puts the pilot a little farther from the centerline than in many aircraft. It took another two tries to dial in the correct sight picture. Flight Design continues to include five hours of transition training in the purchase price, which ranges from a base of $152,500 for the CTLSi up to around $170,000 with available options.

flight design Landing the Flight Design CTLSi.

Much of the overall package is unchanged from the popular CTLS introduced in 2008, though the flap range has been reduced—maximum flap angle is now 30 degrees, with a 35-degree setting eliminated at the behest of European regulators. Driven by electric motors, the flaps can be set to negative 6 degrees for cruise flight, zero degrees, 15 degrees, and 30 degrees, at which point the airplane almost seems to want to hover. The electrical system has been improved to put out more power, allowing more flexibility when it comes to panel installations such as a Garmin GNS 670/750, options now supported without requiring an extra alternator. Redundant ADAHRS (Air data/attitude/heading reference system) computers—one in each wing—feed attitude, heading, airspeed, and angle of attack data into the panel. There are three GPS sensors on board, and synthetic vision can be displayed on all three screens.

With the introduction of the fuel-injected Rotax, Flight Design also increased fuel capacity with the addition of a 1.7-gallon header tank. As the aircraft is able to handle cross-country and even trans-oceanic flights, comfortable seats become even more important. A squeeze bulb can add air pressure for seat and lumbar support.

flight design The Flight Design CTLSi is parked in the hangar in South Woodstock, Conn., where the company’s U.S. distributor is based.

Overall, the cockpit has a solid fit and finish, refined over 25 years of engineering by the German airplane maker. The noise level inside was high enough to make it hard to hear with electronic noise canceling disabled on the headset, but the noise level outside was modest.

“The neighbors in Woodstock hardly know that we’re there,” Peghiny said. “It’s remarkably quiet on the outside.”

Improvements to the gearbox and the three-blade composite propeller help keep the decibels down, along with an improved exhaust system, Peghiny said.

New features for the CTLSi include all-LED lights, a 12-volt plug in the cockpit to power mobile devices, and a high-capacity lithium ion main battery that delivers improved performance and reduced weight.

Peghiny said flight design will continue to “push the envelope of technology,” with plans to introduce Automatic Dependent-Surveillance In (ADS-B-In) capability in the near future that will offer a subscription-free weather option.

Jim Moore

Jim Moore | Online Associate Editor, AOPA

AOPA Online Associate Editor Jim Moore joined AOPA in 2011 and is an instrument-rated private pilot who enjoys competition aerobatics.