German light-sport aircraft (LSA) manufacturer Flight Design continues to make progress on its first Part 23-certified aircraft with the selection of a Garmin avionics package, negotiations for a diesel engine and plans to assemble the C4 in both the U.S. and China.
The company, which began as a hang glider manufacturer 25 years ago and moved into LSAs once new rules opened up that market, has teamed with the Taiwanese company Aero Jones to produce its CTLS two-seat LSA in mainland China, and ultimately the C4 as well. That agreement—announced during EAA AirVenture 2013 in Oshkosh—is well under way, with Aero Jones employees undergoing training for the assembly work.
The CTLS received Chinese approval from the Civil Aviation Administration of China in 2009.
Meanwhile, the company is growing its presence in the U.S., moving into an existing 15,000-sq.-ft. facility at Windham Airport in Connecticut, expanding its space as it begins preparations to assemble the C4. Flight Design USA’s president, Tom Peghiny, expects to receive components for the first C4 in the U.S. in 2015, with ramp-up into production in 2016.
Peghiny notes that the company already has a U.S. distributor for its LSA products, but with nearly 50% of the C4 coming from the U.S., “it makes perfect sense” to assemble the aircraft here.
Flight Design CEO Matthias Betsch stresses that the main base is going to remain in Germany—“we want to stay a German company”—but the agreements enable the company to expand its market reach, and production in both the U.S. and China also helps balance currency exchange factors, particularly with the C4.
Betsch adds that so far Flight Design has not seen a strong enough market in the U.S. for its other LSAs to begin assembling them here.
Flight Design, which unveiled plans for the C4 at Aero Friedrichshafen 2010, in April announced that it had altered the production schedule to align it with progress of the international effort to rewrite Part 23 certification standards. The company was an active participant in the Part 23 Reorganization Aviation Rulemaking Committee, which developed a series of recommendations designed to cut the costs of certification in half, while increasing safety by a factor of two.
“Now that we have a clearer idea of the timing and content of the new and improved Part 23, we have adjusted the C4 schedule to take full advantage and enable us to remain with our original pricing commitment,” Betsch said during the most recent Aero Friedrichshafen event.
Betsch adds that the timing is not necessarily geared to the completion of rulemaking, but rather to different aspects of the recommendations that can and already are being adopted sooner on an international basis. The changes in the certification approach—which include moving the standard-setting to an outside, international body under ASTM—is important in maintaining Flight Design’s target price of $250,000 for its first Part 23 aircraft.
Plans call for flying the first proof-of-concept C4 later this year or early 2014, and beginning a flight-test program in conforming aircraft in 2014, with certification following 12-18 months later. Flight Design first will seekELA (European Light Aircraft) approval, and then validation.
Betsch says the C4, which will have a 1,200-nm range and a 1,320-lb. useful load, is gaining steam as development progresses, and Flight Design has booked 60 deposits for the aircraft so far.
The company announced plans to equip the aircraft with Garmin avionics, citing its experience in Part 23 manufacturing. Details of that package will be unveiled next spring during the Sun ‘n Fun Fly-in, but Peghiny says the package will be Garmin’s newest suite.
Flight Design had already selected the Continental Motors IO-360-AF piston engine to power the aircraft, but also said it wanted to offer a diesel option. Betsch noted that with Thielert’s bankruptcy issues, the Centurion had not been seen as a viable option. But Thielert’s recent acquisition by Continental Motors’ parent, Avic International, reopens the option for the Centurion diesel, he says. BRS Aerospace also was selected to supply an integrated, full-airplane parachute system . The company has yet to select the propeller, but Peghiny says it will be from a U.S. manufacturer.