Updated: Nov 2, 2020
The Flight Design CT is a wonderful aircraft which has proven itself as the best seller in the LSA market for many years. I love it for the fast cruise and comfortable cockpit. The high cruise speed makes strong headwinds more bearable and the 130 litre fuel capacity gives a range of up to 1070nm ensuring that I can always get where I am going and back without having to refuel. In the UK the CT2k and CTSW are categorised as microlights whereas the CTLS is considered a general aviation or "group A" aircraft. This airplane is priced at the top of the microlight market and this is reflected in the high-end standard specification such as:
112kts+ cruise speed
49.5" cockpit (widest in class)
Ballistic Recovery System
Here are my tips for flying and operating the Flight Design CT.
1. Plan your descent and leave plenty of time to decelerate.
The unusually high cruising speed of the Flight Design, coupled with the relatively slow rate of deceleration can put pilots in a situation where they are hot and high joining the circuit. It can be difficult to slow down from 112kts+ to a reasonable circuit speed whilst also descending to circuit height. If you are used to a "draggy" aircraft which decelerates easily you will need to get used to preparing for the circuit much sooner. It is best to begin your descent sooner than you would in other aircraft and decelerate to around 75kts before joining the downwind leg. It is helpful to deploy Flaps 0 as soon as you decelerate below 100kts. Doing so will aid deceleration and improve your view ahead.
2. Fly the correct approach speed.
The Pilot's Operating Handbook recommends that final approach is flown at 50kts in the Flight Design CT2K and 54kts in the CTSW (the UK manuals recommend 50kts for both). The relatively high lift to drag ratio creates a shallow glide approach. For this reason, it is easy to end up too high on final approach and there's the temptation to push the stick forwards. This will only convert the height into speed which will have to be lost before landing. If the excess speed is carried all the way down to the flare, it will result in a prolonged float. This is where the CT can become impolite. If you try to put the aircraft on the ground before it has dissipated speed, it is likely to take-off again and enter a pilot induced oscillation. If this happens, you should not let the aircraft touch down again. Apply full power and go-around. If you do not put the aircraft on the ground, the float will be prolonged and you could run out of runway. If the final approach is flown at too high speed, your best option is to abort the landing and go-around for another try.
3. Land with the stick fully back.
The stick must be fully back when landing, especially on grass. This helps to ensure that the aircraft lands in a nose-high attitude and has lost all of the speed before touch down. The aircraft should land because it cannot fly anymore, not because the pilot puts it on the ground.
4. Once you are on the ground, keep the stick back.
I frequently see pilots pushing the stick forward after landing as if to try to keep the aircraft on the ground. You should hold the stick back to keep the weight off the nose wheel and aid deceleration on the ground. In windy conditions, the manual recommends that you hold the stick neutral. It is also important that you hold the stick into wind when taxiing with a crosswind. The CT2K is prone to lifting the into-wind wing if the stick is not held into wind after a crosswind landing.
5. Get to grips with the rudder.
Like most types with the Rotax 912, when applying power, the CT will yaw left. It should become natural to the pilot to apply right rudder as power is increased. You may even need a touch of left stick when applying the rudder. Practice applying and reducing power to see the effect on yaw. Try to feel it rather than looking at the inclinometer.
The reduction in rudder authority when flying below 70kts is noticeable. You will need to push the rudder pedals further to keep the aircraft in balance whilst operating in the circuit and on final approach. During the landing phase it is important to ensure that the aircraft is aligned with the runway before touching down. You may find that whilst flaring the aircraft, you push right rudder to align with the runway only for the aircraft to yaw left again after a couple of seconds. It seems to me that as the aircraft is decelerating, the rudder becomes less effective and the slipstream effect more so. The result is that you need to push the right rudder a second time just before touchdown to straighten up.
6. Trim in the circuit.
You should trim the aircraft as much as possible. This is especially useful on final approach. If the aircraft in trim on final approach, you will find it easier to maintain a steady speed and your workload will be reduced.
7. Master side-slipping.
The CT side slips quite well. A full deflection forward slip can create a large increase in the rate of descent. This is useful for losing height on final approach without gaining speed. If you are competent you should be able to slip without destabilising the approach.
8. You’re not straight.
Students (and some pilots) often taxi or land to the left of the centreline and yaw to the left whilst flaring even when they believe they are straight. When sitting on the left, your viewpoint is somewhat distorted due to parallax and it is made worse by the yawing to the left caused by engine power. Make sure that you know what straight looks like. In a tandem aircraft such as the piper cub, pilots wouldn’t have this problem as they’d be sitting in the centre of the aircraft.
9. Park the aircraft on level ground.
In the UK, the CT fuel system always feeds from both tanks. When parked, the fuel can cross feed between both wing tanks. If the aircraft is left on a significant slope, the fuel will gradually begin to flow into the lower wing tank. When you have a lot of fuel on board, the lower wing tank may overflow and fuel will leak out of the vent. If parking the aircraft on a slope is unavoidable, consider rotating it 180 degrees for a while before you start up. This will give the fuel a chance to even out somewhat. You should only dip the fuel tanks on level ground for a reliable reading.
10. Know the differences between the models.
The CT2K wingspan is 3ft longer than the CTSW and does not have the droop tips. The result is a significantly higher glide ratio. This means that you need to begin a glide approach earlier than you would in the CTSW. The CT2K also has a longer fuselage and a simple up/down flap switch meaning that the pilot needs to stop the motor at the desired flap setting, whereas the CTSW has selectable flap positions. The CTSL and CTLS have a new style of undercarriage which is a single composite member running across the fuselage and attached by four clamp bolts. The fuselage is modified to accept the new undercarriage. This makes the aircraft less likely to rebound after a hard landing. There are other differences which are not listed here. The CTLS is only available as a general aviation aircraft in the UK with a MTOM of 600kg.
Are you learning to fly? Our Learn to Fly video series features the Flight Design CT2K and CTSW. The series contains 22 videos which cover the flying syllabus for the NPPL Microlights in detail. There are over three hours of high quality tutorials and explanations with cockpit and external footage, animations and images.
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