Flight Design has just achieved EASA type certification for its all-new two-seat aircraft, the F2, complete with a host of safety features…
Words & Photography Jean Marie Urlacher
15 February 2022
There’s a new CS-23 certified aircraft in the sky! Flight Design is continuing its comeback with the first born of a new range of aircraft: the F2. It’s totally different from the existing, and very popular, microlight and Light Sport Aircraft CT types in both piloting and design, and should be of interest to flying schools and clubs.
We flew the new F2 from Muret Airfield (LFBR), near Toulouse in the south-west of France where the French Flight Design agent, Christophe Briand, is based. The F2 was only in France for a few days, as part of a pan-Europe tour having received EASA CS-23 type certification on 8 December 2021. Ernst Steger, the factory pilot, had just flown it from Innsbruck, Austria, non-stop, in 5hr 37min flight time, with an average fuel consumption of 13.5 litres per hour and an average speed of 110kt.
“We still had 55 litres left in the tanks when we landed, enough to last another four hours in the air,” said Ernst.
Flight Design has retained the high-wing and large door allowing easy access to the cockpit, as on the CTLS, the current version of the CT. The unshrouded wing and the seat at buttock level make manoeuvring in and out much easier and only requires you to lift your leg to pass the control stick. However, the similarities end there. The seat is much straighter than on the CT. The seat is adjustable in height and inclination. The rudder pedals are fixed.
The wing is one-piece with two different profiles. The last third of the wing has a forward leading edge and a smaller incidence, two fin ribs and vortex generators to stream air over the ailerons, an aerodynamic design which, as we shall see in flight, to protect the aircraft from any asymmetric stall.
Each wing, finished with a graceful winglet, houses a tank that brings the total fuel capacity to 135 litres. These two tanks drain into a small 5 litre header tank located behind the baggage compartment bulkhead. The small tank prevents the engine from stalling when turning with little fuel in the wings. An electric pump delivers the fuel to the engine. Three alternators, two batteries and two pumps provide the necessary redundancy for this electrically dependent engine.
The nose of the aircraft, more tapered than the CT, houses a 100hp Rotax 912iS. At the other end of the aircraft, the two-part elevator is interspersed with a ‘beaver tail’, whose aerodynamic effect is to provide more longitudinal stability. The tailplane fin is rather small, but ‘sufficiently effective in crosswinds’, according to Ernst Steger, who regularly flies in difficult wind conditions at Innsbruck. The fixed tricycle gear consists of a composite single blade for the main gear and a polymer shock absorber for the nose gear. The nosewheel is castered, and gives precise and direct taxying. The F2 is equipped with an airframe parachute as standard.
Once on board, three elements will surprise you. First, the generous shoulder room (1.29m) – you feel as if you are sitting in a car, which is a feature that flight instructors will appreciate. Second, the spacious cabin volume (800 litres / 40kg) allows you to carry things such as foldable bikes – and plenty of luggage.
Finally, the standard equipment of the instrument panel is well arranged and complete: two Garmin G3X touch, a spare Garmin G5, radio GTR 225 A, transponder Garmin GTX 335 (mode S/ADSB-Out), intercom GMA 245 Bluetooth, and autopilot GMC 507 (ESP-X + Level system). And although that’s plenty to have when going on a trip, it’s a pity there is no space for an iPad mini. The pitot is heated and also acts as an AOA (Angle of Attack).
The fuel management system is called a ‘No touch fuel system’, meaning it switches the fuel selector automatically every five minutes, pumping alternately in the left and right wings to avoid any imbalance. However, the pilot can also select the right or left tank manually. The centre console contains the emergency parachute handle, the throttle and the parking brake. A special feature is the standard Matco brake system, coupled to the throttle. When the throttle is moved back past the idle position, the brake system engages symmetrically on the main gear. This takes some getting used to. The flaps (three notches) and trim (on the stick) are electric.
Starting is simple and the annunciators for the two batteries and alternators light up in order. The bumpy grass taxiway of Muret is a good test of the suspension of the F2. The ride is precise and the visibility to the front is good, although you need to get used to maintaining the middle of the line, because the tall panel induces a natural tendency to drive on the left.
Flap 1 take-off, rotation 55kt, climb to Vx 60kt or 70kt for Vy, easy to remember values.
The F2’s flight manual says a take-off distance of 354 metres to clear 50ft, which is good for many strips. The three-blade Flash 3 Duc propeller pulls hard and at Vx we have a good 1,000ft/min climb rate, although that does limit the forward visibility, again because of the tall panel.
The first sensation when handling the controls is one of feeling immediately at home, in the sense that everything falls to hand – just like a Cessna, from 152 to 206, no surprises. That’s a compliment, by the way!
There is good forward visibility once level, and the side and rear visibility are exceptional, thanks to the large side door and the rear window, allowing you to keep the runway in sight at the end of the downwind leg. As with all high-wing aircraft, visibility is zero in turns, but on the F2 the windscreen rises slightly above the pilot’s head to minimise the blind spot.
As with a Cessna, the controls are consistent in all three axes. The F2 is manoeuvrable enough not to be called placid. Let’s just say that the roll, yaw and pitch rates are comparable to the Cessna. To help the aircraft enter a turn, a light touch on the turn side foot before the stick helps it enter the curve.
Stall tests can be a matter of debate. In all three flap configurations (stall at 40kt / 48kt / 53kt smooth), pulling the stick back to your belly, the aircraft does not stall at all. Instead, it parachutes around 550ft/min.
There are two reasons: the ESP-X system of the Garmin autopilot, which measures angle of attack, speed and altitude in relation to the terrain, acts as a ‘stick pusher’ and pushes the stick forward so that the aircraft regains speed by giving it a command to dive. In this case, the autopilot engages and a press on the red button of the AP disconnects it. The same applies to roll. This system does not work, of course, close to the ground, thanks to Garmin’s GPS altitude function.
This device has the advantage of protecting the pilot from any stall, but also has two disadvantages. A flight school instructor would not be able to demonstrate a stall, and there’s a risk the pilot doesn’t recognise the rapid rate of descent – however, the stall alarm will be going off. In the event of an off-field landing, it is recommended that the ESP-X breaker be disconnected to maintain full control authority. Progress and the modern tendency to over-protect the pilot in the name of safety (as in cars) has its advantages and disadvantages, something airline pilots know all about.
The cruise at 5,000rpm (75% power) gives a True Air Speed (TAS) of 108kt at 7,500ft for 15 litres per hour and 115kt at 2,500rpm. The F2 does not shine for its top speed, but compensates with its endurance of nearly nine hours at a 65% power setting. This is suitable for a flight school because the aircraft can operate for a day of instruction without necessarily refuelling. With an empty weight of 414kg and a maximum weight of 650kg, the F2 offers a load of 138kg when fully fuelled. Of course, you can always trade less fuel for a heavier crew.
The F2 really does behave like an aeroplane and not like a microlight, and is a big change from the CT.
Looking back at Flight Design’s recent history, in 2016 was put into ‘safeguard’ with a pile of debt, and the company has since been bought by a holding company LiftAir, owned by a German businessman, Sven Lindig, based in Eisenach, Germany. Flight Design’s finances are healthy today and the factory has been producing 60 machines a year since 2017.
More than 2,000 CTs are flying worldwide and it’s a well-liked aircraft in both microlight and Light Sport Aircraft configurations. In the UK, Gary Master’s company, Airmasters, has taken over from Oliver Achurch as the UK agent, and is based at Airfield Farm, Sulby, Northants (see sidebar).
Flight Design’s goal is to develop a new range of aircraft: F2, F4, F6, i.e. two-, four- and six-seaters. The F4 (four-seater) currently under development, will be powered by the soon-to-be rolled out 160hp Rotax 916 with a cruise speed of 150kt.
The factory is still in Kershon, Ukraine, and the delivery centre for certified aircraft is in Sumperk, Czech Republic.
Flight Design says the F2 is ideally suited for use in flying clubs for school, and leisure travel. Two versions will be offered, VFR and IFR. The IFR version, yet to be certified, will be a little heavier. Flight Design is also talking about an F2 fitted with the more powerful Rotax 915iS engine, which would improve performance further at the expense of fuel burn – and cost. The 915iS is not an inexpensive engine. Whether flight schools and individuals would see the benefit of a two-seater with that extra power is debatable, and the heavier engine would eat into the payload.
The obvious advantages of the F2 are its long range, its large cabin volume, its airframe that is 50% stronger than the CTLS in case of a crash, its standard airbags, its modern and complete avionics (autopilot included in the standard versions) and it’s easy handling.
However, price-wise, at €238,880, the F2 is at the high-end of the two-seater market and it’s pretty competitive market these days. It’s up against a host of rivals including the all-metal Sonaca 200, new carbon fibre French Elixir, a choice of two Tecnams, the PS-28 Cruiser, Pipistrel SW121 Virus, Bristell B23, the long running Diamond DA20 and even the three-seat Piper Pilot 100 based on the even longer running Cherokee… let alone competition from more expensive but more flexible four-seaters. Pilots and flight schools alike have never had it so good.
The UK agent for Flight Design is Airmasters based at Sulby, Northants. The company was started by Gary Masters in 2007 after working with nearby Flylight Airsports on the introduction of the then new Skyranger.
In addition to working with Flight Design, with many of the CT range passing through the workshops, Airmasters is also an Official Rotax Support Centre. Gary is also a Senior BMAA Inspector, LAA Inspector and holds a CAA A3-7 Authorisation for many CAA permit Aircraft types.
So he is well qualified to look after the introduction of the F2 to the UK and Airmasters has already taken the first order – not, as expected, from a flying school but a private individual.
Gary says that Airmasters will be bringing in the CS-23 certified version at first, while waiting for the CAA to complete its review of the new Section S airworthiness requirements to see whether the F2 could also be sold as a 600kg microlight.
He expects the first UK F2 to arrive in the third quarter of 2022 but, seeing as the aircraft is made in Ukraine, that does depend on the situation there.
In the meantime, Airmasters waiting for approval from the CAA for the CTLS as a 600kg microlight. It’s already approved as an LSA but the CAA has to OK the first one in the new microlight category.
“Once that’s complete, it’ll be handed over to the BMAA,” said Gary.
|Stall speed (with flap)||48kt|
|Stall speed (clean)||53kt|
|Rate of climb||840ft/min|
|Fuel capacity||130 litres|
|Propeller||Duc Flash 3, three-blade fixed pitch|
|Avionics||Garmin G3X Touch x 2, Garmin GTR225 radio, Garmin GTX 335 transponder|
|Flight Design GmbH Am Flugplatz 3 99820 Hoerselberg-Hainich, Germany W: flightdesign.com|
|Airmasters Airfield Farm, Sulby NN6 6EZ W:www.airmasters.co.uk|
|From €198,650 ex-factory + taxes|