From the Cockpit Part 3: P&M Aviation Quik GT450

Ryan Flies


US Navy Pilot Ryan Rankin continues his exploratory journey through the world of aviation, shifting gears from last week’s Stearman with a flight in a P&M Aviation Quik GT450. A flexwing ultralight aircraft (not technically an airplane), Rankin compares it to a tricycle attached to a hang-glider—with a bit more sophistication but still leaving the pilot almost entirely exposed to the elements and steering the wings manually. “For week 2, I wanted a departure from anything I’ve done before and something where I was very much a student,” he says. “And this fit the bill.”

Flying out of Jack Edwards National Airport in Gulf Shores, AL, Rankin paired up with local flight instructor and owner of Beach Flights Gary Berdeaux for a 45-minute flight over the coast. From the moment he stepped into the cockpit, Rankin saw he had a lot to learn. “I knew how to operate the radio and the seatbelt,” he says. With Berdeaux handling the takeoff and landing (because of the nature of the beast, flight instruction for a Quik GT450 entails a separate class for ground operations), the pair went airborne and Rankin took the wings.

“I’ve flown open-canopy aircraft and I’ve experienced that sensation of being out there in the wind, but this was even more,” says Rankin. “It took a few minutes to get adjusted.” But beyond the rushing wind, Rankin had to adapt to a whole new method of steering. The familiar “stick” that all the pilots in the movies use is gone, replaced by an almost DaVincian mechanical solution operating on simple principles. Instead of using a control stick to send signals through the aircraft or operate complex internal workings, the pilots use their hands to move the wings how they want. When turning right, the pilot uses his or her hand to push the left wing up, and vice versa. Rankin likens it to how one would pretend to be a plane and spread their arms like wings. When they turn right, in addition to making awesome sound effects with their mouths, they tilt their left arm up.

Quickly developing a knack for it, Rankin says he found the Quik GT450 “surprisingly” nimble, as he and Berdeaux banked and corkscrewed through the air. “I was impressed.”

With 50 more planes to go this year, he’s happy to already be pushing his horizons. “There is no one-size-fits-all when it comes to how you get up there,” Rankin says. “The how is different for everyone and there’s a lot more out there than I thought.”

For more about this flight in Rankin’s own words and a video of the flight, follow the link below.

Pictured: Gary Berdeaux and Ryan Rankin in front of the Quik GT450. Photo courtesy of Ryan Rankin.

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