Flying the Flight Design CTLS


Two-place airplanes are often used as trainer aircraft because they are less expensive to rent than four-place designs. Yet once that private pilot ticket is in your hand, you may look for a larger airplane for cross-country flights because a two-place is just too cramped to be comfortable over long distances. But that won’t be a problem should you opt to fly the Flight Design CTLS.

Flight Design is the most successful of the LSAs, capturing 17.5% of the market with 295 flying in the U.S. as of last August, according to figures compiled by LSA guru Dan Johnson.

I had a chance to fly the CTLS at last year’s U.S. Sport Aviation Expo in Sebring, Fla., known as the nation’s premiere LSA event.

The lineage between the LS and its predecessors is visible but, like any “next generation” airplane, there are refinements.

FD2One of the first things that caught my eye was the exterior access to the baggage compartment. I’m used to seeing these on larger Cessna and Piper aircraft, but this was a first on an LSA. Stringers keep the door inline so you don’t have to fight to close it. The cargo door opens to the space behind the seats, which allows the pilot to access the area in flight. There is cargo netting installed to keep things in their place.

Entry is by a gull-wing door, which has a gas strut to make it easier to open and close. A lever latches the door.

The cockpit measures 49 inches wide, which makes it one of the larger LSAs on the market. The two-way adjustable seats make it easy for pilots of all sizes to get the proper position in the airplane. Despite my small stature I did not feel the need to put a cushion under or behind me to have full deflection of the controls.

The design of the seats reminded me of a sports car — functional, yet comfortable. This was an improvement over some seats that tend to turn into a block of cement after about an hour in the air. A four-point harness secures you in the seat. The belts are retractable, so it is unlikely that you will slam a belt in a door.

FD1The throttle is a lever between the seats. The brakes are also lever-activated — and that the lever is also between the seats — but the handle is a different color than the throttle. If the bulk of your experience is in aircraft with toe brakes, you’ll probably want to send some time taxiing around to get used to the concept of reaching for the brakes with your hand.

The cockpit layout is designed for ergonomics on long flights. The panel sort of wraps around you. The necessary switches are set on a panel between the seats so there is no awkward reach across your passenger.

FD3The CTLS comes standard with Dynon glass panel instruments, including a Garmin 696. A BRS parachute system is also standard equipment. The latter can be important when you’re trying to persuade your spouse to join you on a flight.

The CTLS, which is 90% carbon fiber, is powered by a Rotax 912S. It provided plenty of power to get us airborne. Demo pilot Ken Godin (who has since left the company) demonstrated a short field takeoff that was indeed short, explaining that the high-lift slotted flaps give the CTLS an advantage on short fields.

I was surprised at how quiet the cabin was, even at full power.

It took a few minutes to get the perspective of level flight from the cockpit. Because of the curve of the panel you may think you are climbing or descending when you are not.

The CTLS has large windows and a turtledeck and no strut to obstruct your view. I liked this, especially since lots of pilots were going in and out of Sebring and several manufacturers were doing demonstration flights, making it necessary to be extra vigilant.

The CT is controlled with a stick. I tried dutch rolls first to check out the play between the rudders and ailerons. The CTLS is light and responsive, but even if the pilot gets sloppy it doesn’t bite.

Steep turns were next. Adverse yaw was at a minimum, and those wide windows and turtledeck made it possible to see everything, even at 45° of bank.

Slow flight was next. Even at a minimal power setting the CTLS was fully controllable. We progressed into stalls next. No surprises there.

We used the GPS to keep tabs on our position. Like any other GPS, the pilot should learn to use it on the ground, but other than that it was helpful during the flight. The XM weather will be of particular use to pilots — but it should not be used to penetrate storms but rather avoid them. The screen of the unit is angled in slightly so that sun glare is at a minimum.

The CTLS has a cruise speed of 115 knots at 75% power. Useful load is approximately 550 lbs. Even with full fuel, that should give the pilot a respectable range for cross country flights.

“I need to land before the airplane does,” Godin told me.

For more information:


  • Wing Span: 28 feet, 2 inches
  • Length: 21 feet, 8 inches
  • Height: 7 feet, 8 inches
  • Empty Weight: 770 lbs.
  • Gross Weight: 1,320 lbs.
  • Fuel Capacity: 34 gallons
  • Fuel Economy: 4.5 gallons/hour
  • Powerplant: Rotax 912S (100HP)
  • Propellers: Ground Adjustable Composite
  • Cruise Speed@75% power:115 kts
  • Stall Speed: 39 kts
  • VNE: 145 kts
  • Climb Rate: 805 fpm
  • Max. Range: 830 miles


  1. randy walker says

    I am buying a CTLSi, currently awaiting delivery in August or September and would be interested in any positive or negative responses from owners.

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