From the Cockpit Part 19: Quicksilver GT-500

Ryan Flies


Editor’s Note: This is part 19 of an ongoing series documenting the flights of active-duty US Navy Pilot Ryan Rankin on his journey to fly 52 planes in 52 weeks through the year 2017.

When Rankin first saw the Quicksilver GT-500, he thought he might have a handle on it. Similar-looking to the Quik GT450 and the Breese 2 XD he flew earlier in the year, the assumption was that the GT-500 would fly similarly as well. “Not even close,” says Rankin. “It’s not even in the same ballpark. This is way more ‘airplane.’”

A little high-wing aircraft comprised primarily of fabric and aluminum struts on a fiberglass nose, the tricycle landing gear and Rotax propeller give the GT-500 an almost toy-like aesthetic, but it’s built to move. Flying out of St. Elmo Airport in Alabama with Herb Tipton of M-Squared Aircraft, they zip the optional doors onto the cockpit, sealing themselves inside and the cold out (and adding about 10mph to the top speed), and take to the skies, soon hitting a nimble 90mph top speed.

Equipped with a yoke for steering (instead of the hang-glider-esque bars of the GT450), Rankin is back in his comfort zone, but each plane offers its own particular peccadillos to learn and love. In this case, it was the elevator trim friction knob, which, putting it quickly, the pilot uses to lock in a new “default” position from which to steer amongst the counteracting forces of flight.

Put another way, the phenomenon of flight is achieved through the careful counterbalance of accumulated forces. As the wind rushes over the body of the plane and the propeller cranks, disparate forces push the plane in different directions, and these forces change depending on speed and angle. So instead of the pilot perpetually pushing forward on the yoke to counteract an exterior force, he or she can use the friction knob to lock in that counteracting force and any further steering will compound that locked position.

Tipton’s “not the chattiest,” says Rankin, but up in the air, there’s often no reason to speak—just take in the moment and don’t mess it up with babble. “Every time,” says Rankin, “I’m taken back to the reason I fly—that freedom and that experience. It doesn’t matter if you’re flying a P-51 Mustang or a Quicksilver GT-500, flying is flying.”

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

Pictured: Ryan Rankin in the cockpit of the Quicksilver GT-500. Photo courtesy of Ryan Rankin.

Ryan Flies

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