How would you like to help a popular Light-Sport Aircraft manufacturer design its first four-place aircraft? If the answer is yes, Flight Design wants to hear from you.
During Aero Friedrichshafen in April, Flight Design unveiled plans to build its first four-place airplane. By July at AirVenture the company had a mock-up of the new design, known as the C4, on display.
“It is a carbon fiber, cantilevered, high performance, modern airplane,” said Tom Peghiny, president of Flight Design USA, adding that the company has created an online survey help determine the options and performance of the airplane.
According to John Doman, director of business development global sales and marketing, in many cases Flight Design’s plans exceed the public’s desires.
For starters, 75% of the respondents expressed a desire to see the price of the aircraft in the price range of $280,000. Flight Design plans to introduce the C4 for $250,000.
“Some 70% of the respondents asked for a cruise speed of at least 145 knots and a useful load of 1,000 pounds,” he continued. “Flight Design’s projected cruise speed of the C4 is 155 to 160 knots and a useful load of 1,320 pounds,” he said.
During AOPA Aviation Summit in September, Flight Design revealed it would use the Continental IO-360-AF engine to power the new machine. This was good news for the people who requested a fuel burn of approximately 7 gallons per hour. The Continental engine is slated to burn 7 to 10 gph, which will give the new airplane the ability to cruise at 160 knots.
“The Continental has the ability to provide the C4’s ideal power of 180 hp at a low 2,550 rpm,” said Doman. “A lower RPM results in a lower over flight noise footprint and a quieter, more comfortable cabin environment. And because other variants of the venerable IO-360 series develop up to 210 hp, the IO-360-AF in the C4 will be de-rated and enjoying an easy life at 180 hp. This promises longer engine life, a high probability of reaching the 2,000 hour TBO, and more reliable, trouble-free operation throughout. The IO-360-AF is specially engineered with a low 7.8:1 compression ratio and other alterations to its fuel system and other internal components to enable to operate on alternative fuels,” he said.
He added the company also plans to offer a diesel engine, which can operate on Jet-A “with even lower fuel consumption.” Fuel capacity will be 70 gallons held in wing tanks.
The decision to put a BRS whole airplane parachute in the C4 was an easy one, since it is part of the standard equipment on the Flight Design LSAs. However, the deployment mechanism will be slightly different.
“The BRS system in the C4 will feature a new, more sure-fire electronic ignition for the propellant rather than the current mechanical ignition,” Doman said. “The C4 will be the launch product for this new BRS system.”
Many of the survey respondents also asked for an autopilot option.
But there were also some requests that were a little beyond what the company intended. “You will always have people who ask for the moon,” said Doman. “We’ve had some questions such as will the C4 will be pressurized? Will it be offered with a turboprop engine? Will it have retractable gear? Will it be able to be equipped with floats for water operations? Will it go 200 knots? The reply to those sorts of questions is ‘no’ — at least not at this time.”
He noted the company is “doing everything possible to bring a truly modern, extremely capable, large-enough-for-four-full-sized adults, new four-place aircraft to the market at a price that represents ‘game changing’ value. Once we have accomplished this successfully, we will look at future products.”
Meeting the $250,000 price is key, stressed Peghiny. “That’s the first performance point. The airplane doesn’t get to do anything else if it doesn’t get sold and our market survey showed that people want an airplane for $250,000. You can hit that price point if you run a lean company and that is something that Flight Design excels at. We have a very efficient cost structure and efficient engineering structure of our company and we are sure we will hit that target price.”
It helps that the company has decades of experience in LSA development, Peghiny said, noting that lessons learned from decades of building LSAs are being applied to the C4 design and construction.
“The fuselage is an all-new design, while the wing is based on the CT LSA with a slightly lengthened wing. Aerodynamically it is also derived from the CT, so we have some very good numbers on that. The fuel tanks in the four-place are the same as those in the CT.”
Peghiny proudly notes the C4 is roomier than the Cessna 182. “The width of the cabin in the front seats measures 53 inches, the width of the rear cabin is of 47 inches.” The Cessna 182 is around 42 to 44 inches across.
As this issue was going to press, the avionics suite had not been selected yet.
“Our specification states that the avionics will be glass displays for the PFD and MFD, along with the wonderful array of technical goodies we now almost take for granted in today’s modern aircraft,” said Doman. “Once we select our avionics partner, we will be able to provide more detailed information on the avionics for the C4.”
There’s no necessity to get more funding to produce the airplane, noted Matthias Betsch, Flight Design’s president and CEO.
“We have always existed because we sell airplanes,” he said. “We have never had to seek funding. We must run a lean production, so we move step by step. Since we have been through the certification process with other aircraft, we know the ropes.”
Like Peghiny, Betsch describes the airplane as a contender as a replacement for the Cessna 182.
“Two guys like me who want to fly and take some fuel and not have to refuel every time they land and actually take some luggage can do it in this airplane!” said Betsch, who stands over 6 feet tall. “They couldn’t do that with the 182.”
The C4 prototype is expected to be at AirVenture 2012. Peghiny was quick to stress that the introduction of the C4 doesn’t mean Flight Design is getting out of the LSA business.
“Flight Design has been in the business some 20 years,” he said. “We have some 1,700 airplanes out there, about 350 of those are in the USA. So far we’ve delivered more than any other LSA manufacturer.”
WANT TO WEIGH IN?
You can access the questionnaire on the homepage of Flight Design’s website, FlightDesign.com. All who fill out the questionnaire are entered into a drawing for a Garmin aera.