WE FLY: FLIGHT DESIGN F2
Flying|January - February 2021
AN ALL-AROUND ALL- COMPOSITE TREAT
Julie Boatman
The angle of attack readout on the PFD wasn’t the first thing that caught my attention. No, that would be the unending cry of the audible stall warning as we just couldn’t catch a break. We began a steady descent, nose high, and slowed somewhere below 39 knots.

We were flying rather well, all things considered; I could maneuver the F2 around within this part of the envelope, practically begging it to fall off and drop its nose past the horizon. It didn’t comply. Instead, with a little push of the stick and throttle, we flew right out of the deep end of the slow flight regime as soon as the airplane was asked.

The Flight Design F2 reflects well the aerodynamic understanding and advanced avionics technology-driven into the design. After the company’s CT series gained a reputation as a somewhat fussy airplane to fly, the F2 turns that impression on its head.

New Ownership

The clean-sheet design that comprises the F2 comes from the rebirth of the company that created it. Flight Design evolved from a small business building ultralights and gliders into an airplane manufacturer in 1988, managed by its founder and visionary leader, Matthias Betsch. However, financial troubles dogged its existence, and while the CT series of microlight (in Europe) and light-sport category (in the US) aircraft proved reasonably successful in both the US and Europe (see sidebar), new designs were hard to fund and get off the ground.

Those fortunes changed in 2017, when Flight Design was purchased by Lift Air, a division of Lift Holdings and financially supported by Lindig Group, an industrial manufacturer in Germany. With a new infusion of capital and leadership under managing director Daniel Guenther, Flight Design began the development program on the two-seat F2 series and a four-seat F4. The new models debuted at Aero Friedrichshafen in 2019.

Siemens has joined forces with Flight Design to support an electric version, the F2e, with a proof of concept that debuted in summer 2019. But the first out of the gate will be the traditionally powered F2. As of November 2020, P2—the second prototype of the standard F2 flown for this report, which will meet light sport aircraft standards—has a couple hundred hours on it. The third conforming prototype, P3, is finished and flying in the Czech Republic, and it’s being used to secure European Union Aviation Safety Agency CS23 approval (the rough equivalent to the FAA’s Part 23). The model is now officially in production, and Flight Design expects to have them in the US by the end of January. The F4 project is funded, in development, and projected to debut stateside in summer 2022.

The production quality has kicked up a notch, too, for the all-carbon-fiber airframe. Next-gen CNC machined molds are used to make the fuselage in two pieces—the left and the right sides match exactly. Weight savings derived from the switch to Hexcel pre-preg carbon fiber— reducing the amount of epoxy and filler used—pencil out into a higher useful load on an already generous figure for the LSA category.

“Safety sells the airplane,” Tom Gutmann Jr. says. The Gutmanns—Tom Jr. and Tom Sr.—have been with Flight Design since the aircraft were first imported under the new S-LSA guidance in the US. “We’ve worked together for 18 years. They’re really hardworking and cheerful,” says Tom Peghiny, principal of Flight Design USA. The Gutmanns’ company, Airtime Aviation, in Jenks, Oklahoma, has been the distributor for the central and mountain US since the beginning of Flight Design’s tenure stateside. Flight Design USA serves as the importer and distributor for the northeastern US. A network of dealers spans the country.

The Gutmanns have seen the results of better manufacturing, reporting closer fit on the doors and cowling in particular, which bodes well for maintaining the airplane more easily in the field. The F2’s wider than the CT series too, according to Tom Jr. With a standard BRS ballistic recovery parachute and an AmSafe air-bag system, safety is indeed part of the F2’s DNA.

The main landing gear saw an overhaul as well: Instead of separate gear legs attached to the left and right undersides of the fuselage, a single carbon-fiber strut carries through the belly. The result is much better dampening on landings, which I experienced firsthand during my initial touchdowns during our flight test. This should help the F2’s placement in a flight school lineup, mitigating student errors that the previous designs may have exacerbated.

The Walk-Around

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