Flight Design, which manufactures the best-selling Light Sport Aircraft in the U.S., is not sitting on its laurels.
The German company, which already offers several models, including the CTLS (pictured), the MC and the CTLS Lite, is debuting another model, the CTLS-HL (for High Lift) Turbocharged model. It’s also busy on a joint venture with Clamar Floats to develop floats for the company’s LSAs.
The floats — and all the company’s models — are on display at this week’s Sun ‘n Fun, where Flight Design is offering a show special for those who buy a plane this week: A free upgrade that includes a 406ELT, a Garmin 696 and leather seats.
The CTLS-HL, which sports a 12% longer wing and stabilizer, was originally developed for glider towing, according to Tom Peghiny, president of FlightDesignUSA. Powered by a turbocharged Rotax 914, it also features — like all Flight Design airplanes — a BRS airframe parachute.
The CTLS remains the company’s flagship model, targeted at both individuals and flight schools. Often it is the first glass cockpit, first LSA and first composite airplane people fly, he said, adding, “It’s also very popular for rentals.”
The production version of the MC, the company’s metal LSA, is on display at the show this week. Designed specifically for flying clubs and training, the plane is made mostly of aluminum with a steel cage. While it has lower acquisition and operating costs, “it looks like a GA plane and it feels like a GA plane,” Peghiny said.
Making its U.S. debut this week is the CTLS Lite, which features a lowered price and a higher useful load than the CTLS. The company was able to lower the price by making many of the items that are standard on the CTLS options on the Lite model. It also uses more American-made parts, especially avionics, while weighing 50 lbs. less than the CTLS. It sells for $119,980, about $20,000 less than the CTLS.
Flight Design officials spent the last year looking for just the right floats for its LSAs. “We don’t have so much water in Germany,” joked Matthias Betsch, CEO of Flight Design, on opening day of Sun ‘n Fun, “so it is hard to develop expertise in floats.”
The Clamar floats match the “structure and the feel” of the Flight Design planes, said Peghiny.
Meanwhile the company continues development of its hybrid powerplant, introduced last year, which combines a certified engine with an electric motor that is used only for takeoff and climb. Target price is $34,000 for the engine, which is expected to fly this year.
Also in the works for Flight Design’s LSAs are hand controls, as well as a cargo pod, which can hold a wheelchair.
With about 300 CTs flying in the U.S., the company has spent a lot of time developing a support network, which includes seven distributors and 12 dealers. It’s also building up its Flight Design Pilot Centers and has developed a transition syllabus, which is useful not only for CT pilots, but for all pilots transitioning from GA planes to LSAs, said John Gilmore, FlightDesign USA’s national sales manager, who noted the syllabus is available on the company’s website, FlightDesignUSA.com.
In the midst of all this activity, Flight Design officials, who spent last week at AERO Friedrichshafen, the big GA airshow in Germany, are hopeful that the worst of the economic woes are over.
“The market is starting to come back — it’s not jumping, but it’s starting,” said Betsch.