Editor’s note: During the recent U.S. Sport Aviation Expo AOPA Pilot Senior Editor Al Marsh had the opportunity to be one of the first to fly the recently certified Flight Design floatplane.
The first Flight Design floatplane off the line made an appearance in Sebring, Fla., in January. The floatplane is a light sport aircraft based on the Flight Design CTLS Lite model.
To purchase, buyers will need to buy a CTLS Lite at a base price of $119,980 from Airtime Aviation in Tulsa, Okla., and add the $40,000 float conversion option. The conversion is done in Tulsa.
When fully fueled, the payload is only about 250 pounds, but demonstration pilot Tom Gutmann said he made five-hour legs on the way home to Tulsa from Sebring. He had 20 to 40 knot headwinds that reduced his average groundspeed to 73 knots indicated. In no wind the floatplane can fly at 100 knots groundspeed.
The floats were especially made for the CTLS by Claymar Floats in Denfield, Ontario. The company has operations in New Zealand, and specializes in floats for aircraft weighing up to 3,500 pounds. With half fuel the aircraft can easily lift two 200-pound passengers (LSAs are limited to two seats) and fly for 3.5 hours.
My flight followed a demonstration flight in the heavier Flight Design CTLS. To produce the Lite model, 50 pounds were removed from the airplane by using lighter parts and removing some of the more sophisticated avionics and systems found in the CTLS.
Gutmann flew to a lake west of Sebring. The aircraft slipped smoothly onto the surface with no directional problems after settling in the water. Gutmann used power to tractor the aircraft through the water, partly because of glassy water conditions. Using a bit of power is best for directional control, he said.
The 100-hp Rotax engine had plenty of power to lift the composite aircraft off the surface. On the way back to Sebring I took the controls of the amphibious aircraft and noticed no vibration from turbulence passing over the floats. Gutmann suggested I keep it high since it comes down quickly with the drag from the floats. Although I had never landed an amphibious aircraft before, Gutmann talked me through a touchdown that took little extra skill. Amphibious aircraft use small wheels beneath the floats for operations on land. Taxi was like that of a conventional aircraft.
Gutmann said the CTLS carries too much fuel for a floatplane—32 gallons usable. That eats into the payload (it has a useful load of 500 pounds) but is easily remedied by flying with partial fuel for most operations. Gutmann expects flight schools and individuals who like playing on the water will be among his customers.