Once upon a time in the then-new world of Light-Sport Aircraft, Flight Design led the pack for airplanes delivered and registered. The German company held that #1 ranking for a decade.
Then came a pause in the juggernaut that is Flight Design. The company’s expenses outran its revenues and a major restructuring was forced upon it by the German legal system. This was 2015, but at Aero Friedrichshafen 2019, the company was again looking strong. Its prominent space in Aero’s gymnasium-sized exhibit halls was filled with interesting machines, including the distinctive Horten flying wing that debuted at the event.
Horten, the company’s several fixed wing designs, and the Rotorvox deluxe gyroplane all now operate under the parent name, Lift.
Attracting the most attention from tens of thousands of attendees to Aero Friedrichshafen was F-series, especially F2 that looked closed to what Flight Design has produced for more than 15 years.
Prominently displayed as the first aircraft visitors saw, F2 is an evolved version of the company’s successful CT-series, which remains in active manufacturing.
F2 was also shown with electric power. This was called F2e, or as the company’s staff abbreviated it, “F-twee” (proving German engineers do indeed possess a sense of humor).
The F-series will also include a new F4 four-seat version, an evolution from the CT-series’ C4 four seater unveiled in 2015.
What’s New? Everything!
Although F2 bears more than a minor resemblance to CTLS, the lines are different. F2 looks more mature, more conventional. CTLS’s profile had an egg-shaped appearance that engineers will tell you is one of the most efficient fuselages in aviation. Famed aerospace designer Jim Griswold’s Questair Venture may be the most faithful invocation of the shape, but what pleases air molecules may be slightly different than what pleases the pilot’s eye.
F2 appears to be a pilot pleaser thanks to a somewhat more conventional look, but the revised shape also delivers creature comforts and practicality. F2’s twin doors are higher, lower, and longer (front to rear) than CTLS, making the already easy-to-enter earlier model even easier. Pilots who have lost some flexibility will love the ease of getting into and out of the F2.
The cabin is also wider than CTLS’s large cabin. The older one was 49.5″ wide — a full 10″ wider than a Cessna 172 Skyhawk — but F2 is even bigger at 52″ wide. Go ahead, enjoy those airport pancake breakfasts — you’ll still fit inside F2.
Yet it may be the baggage area aft of the two seats that really proves F2 is not an upgraded CTLS but a clean-sheet design. To my eyes, this voluminous aft compartment suggested a natural progression to the four seater F4 that will follow.
For those ready with a tape measure, F2’s cabin comes in 3.1″ wider and 2″ taller than the CT series’ cabins. The entry door’s lower edge is set 2.3″ below those on the CT series and I imagine nearly every pilot will appreciate these changes.
Four cabin windows and a sunroof in the rear give the cockpit an open feeling and improve overall visibility, boast Flight Design officials.
F2 is available with either a 100-horsepower Rotax 912 iS engine or, for the European market, a 141-hp turbocharged Rotax 915 iS engine that will also be used on the coming F4. Rotax’s 915 iS requires an in-flight adjustable prop not allowed under current U.S. regulations for LSA. Coming changes in the FAA’s LSA rule may permit something called Single Lever Control and Rotax has been working out details for an SLC system.
A Rotax 912 iS engine delivers wonderful fuel economy, resulting in a maximum range of about 750 nautical miles for F2 from 34 gallons of fuel onboard.
Deliveries of the new model are expected to begin in August 2019.
While they will not be bargain-priced, F2 models come well equipped. Standard features include AmSafe panel-mounted airbags, three-point inertia-reel harnesses, a ballistic parachute recovery system, and Garmin’s G3X Touch flight display.
“Sculpted winglets reduce induced drag, improve climb and cruising range,” noted Flight Design officials. “The smooth cantilever strutless wing also reduces drag and allows maximum visibility from the cockpit. The highly optimized airfoil of the F2 allows generous internal volume for the fuel tanks and is also structurally efficient. Aerodynamic features have significantly improved the F2′s stability, control, and its overall ease of flying.”
Pilots used to a full avionics suite should be pleased with the Garmin G3X panel, including PFD, EMS and Map functions and a battery backup. With a Garmin GTX 345 transponder, F2 is compliant with ADS-B Out required by 2020.
See the entire equipment list and pricing on the company’s dedicated F2 page.
Charged Up for Flight
Showing its former ways of rapid and comprehensive development, Flight Design also unveiled the electric-powered version of F2 at Aero Friedrichshafen. Using the same airframe as the gasoline-powered model, F2e uses an electric motor from Germany’s Siemens company, specifically its eAircraft division.
On June 5, 2019, the first public flight of the Flight Design F2e took place at the Strausberg, Germany, airfield using the innovative electric propulsion system.
“Energy consumption for takeoff and cruise was within the expected range, and the temperatures in the system were more positive than expected,” company officials reported.
Flight Design created F2e with partners Siemens eAircraft, the manufacturer and developer of the propulsion technology, and APUS, a Strausberg-based company specializing in the development and integration of aviation propulsion systems. F2e is based on standard components that are used in the Rotax 912 iS-powered version of F2.
The propulsion system employs a 55 kW (approximately 75 horsepower) electric direct-drive motor, inverter, and electronic control systems. This propulsion system has already been extensively tested in laboratory and ground tests, as well as flight tested for hundreds of flight hours under the supervision of Siemens eAircraft, reported Flight Design.
At this time, development of the electric propulsion continues while regulatory bodies around the world decide how they will handle approval of e-powered aircraft.
Finally, we come to the largest member of the F-series, F4, the four seat entry…but that’s a story for a future edition of General Aviation News.
The aircraft is nice EXCEPT for how the mains attach to the fuselage (on the side with a couple of bolts ready to crack the side). Rumor has it the F4 is a redesign but the mains are still attached in basically the same way, just a bigger plane.
And gotta watch the build quality. When they were built in the Ukraine they often came out with scrambled wiring behind the avionics (that led to melting). Other than that these planes are fantastic (but not robust enough for flight schools).
These and other composite aircraft are being used as trainers all over the United States. What evidence do you have that they are not robust enough for flight schools?
Tim Busch says
Very nice. Looks like Flight Design is back in a big way.