From the Cockpit Part 23: Flight Design CT

Ryan Flies


Editor’s Note: This is part 23 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.

This week, Rankin returns to St. Elmo, AL, where he last flew the Quicksilver GT500 with Herb Tipton in May (From the Cockpit Part 19), this time to take a flight in one of Tipton’s personal favorites—the Flight Design CT. A German-built aircraft, the CT debuted in the late ‘90s as a remarkably capable cross-country flyer with a composite frame built for speed. As Rankin would discover, the folks at Flight Design succeeded, but maybe a little too well.

“It’s a safe airplane,” says Rankin at the outset, “and it’s a plane you can get in and go relatively long distances without spending a lot of money.” The CT may not rival some of Rankin’s military craft for range, but topping out at just over 1,000 miles is no mean feat, especially considering a low initial cost and fuel efficiency that makes the CT a viable option for pleasure-cruising and hobbyists. However, unexpected challenges stemming from an overachieving aerodynamic design bring an extra level of difficulty that makes piloting the CT its own experience, even for Rankin.

Maybe that’s why the CT can also come equipped with a Ballistic Recovery System—a lever-deployed parachute for the entire plane—in case of drastic pilot error. But even then, it would be a rough ride down, says Rankin, and what remained likely salvage. Rankin and Tipton did not test it.

Instead, they practiced landings, running touch-and-gos on the strip. Because while the CT is a smooth flyer in the air—“One of those hands-off airplanes,” says Rankin—it can be difficult to get back on the ground. Largely, it just doesn’t want to slow down. A composite aircraft, the CT sports a smooth airframe, without the rivets and seams and other drag-inducing components found on metal-skinned aircraft. As a result, “there just isn’t much for the wind to hold on to,” says Rankin. Easing the throttle back to its minimum without shutting the engine off, he’s forced to turn and bank on the way down, the descent only adding velocity, in an attempt to slow down enough to land. “It’s crazy,” he says. “I’ve never encountered a plane like it.”

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

Pictured: Ryan Rankin flies the Flight Design CT. Photo courtesy of Ryan Rankin.

Ryan Flies

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