From the Cockpit Part 4: Sting S4

Ryan Flies


In the sky! It’s a bird! It’s a plane! It’s, more specifically, US Navy Pilot Ryan Rankin in a TL-2000 Sting S4, taking his third flight for the year in his journey through the world of aviation.

A light sport aircraft built in the Czech Republic, the Sting S4 is a composite aircraft, meaning the frame and body are constructed primarily of carbon fiber instead of metal. With the freedom to craft shapes metal will not allow, the resulting plane is not only lighter but stronger as well. “This allows for more complex curves, which enhances the aerodynamics,” says Rankin. “It’s a slick aircraft.”

It’s also a very simple aircraft, he says, and “user-friendly.” Although the Sting S4 differs greatly from most of the planes Rankin has flown in the past—with one of the closest somehow being last week’s GT450, by merit of its weight—stepping into the Sting’s cockpit, the layout of the controls was almost instinctual. “There aren’t dozens of switches and different things,” he says. “You sit down and you look at the way things are laid out and it just makes sense.”

Flying again out of Jack Edwards National Airport in Gulf Shores, AL, Rankin eschews the aerobatics this time around, instead opting for a smooth cruise down the coast toward Pensacola, eventually passing over his house. “It’s a very easy airplane to fly,” he says. “Very forgiving.” Which explains why alongside Rankin rides Brody Hughes of Salt Air Aviation, where the Sting S4 serves as the primary aircraft for flight training, including in its Navy IFS program, a sort of pre-training flight school to gauge cadets’ pilot potential.

“It seems like the goal is to bring aviation closer to people and make it more accessible,” Rankin says of the Sting. “They’re a lot of fun and very low-stress aircraft. That’s what I appreciate.” And being a rather “hands-off” plane, much time is left for sightseeing out of the Sting’s massive canopy. “I’ve never flown in an aircraft with such great visibility,” says Rankin. “It was like sitting in a bubble.”

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

Pictured: TL-2000 Sting S4. Photo courtesy of TL-Ultralight Aircraft.

Ryan Flies

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