Sunday, December 29, 2013

Aircraft Manufacturing comes to Newport

Tom Peghiny (left), president of Flight Design USA, has sold his light aircraft manufacturing company to Jay Peak co-owner Ariel Quiros (right). A newly created Flight Design Americas LLC will establish manufacturing and sales operations at the Newport State Airport, also managed in part by Quiros. Photo by Hilary Niles/VTDigger.

By Manfried Rieder Starhemberg

After many months of speculation and much press coverage it is now final: There will be a new aircraft manufacturing facility at the Newport State Airport and it will be owned by Jay Peak partner Ariel Quiros. The company has stated that its goal is to hire up to 100 personnel to facilitate the assembly and sales of a light sport aircraft, namely the flagship model of the company, the CTLS, a high wing monoplane which has been in production for years and some 1,800 of which are currently in use world wide.
Flight design expects to sell approximately 200 of its current models which come in various levels of sophistication in the coming year. The planes retail from $ 150,000.- to $ 180,000 depending on avionics choices and other available options.
So - aside from rejoicing that there will be new life injected into the NEK economy, how good is this airplane? We spoke to Karl Heinz Maier, a German sports photographer who owns a CTLS and uses it extensively for his work:
"I have owned four aircraft previously, first a Piper 180, then two Cessna 172s and before the CTLS flew a Mooney. The CTLS is the best aerial platform for photography by a long shot and it is far easier to insure, maintain and service than anything else I have owned" states Karl Heinz. "The economy of operation alone justifies the price and this little flying machine has a level of visibility and safety that is exceptional".
One of the fascinating features of the CTLS is an emergency automatic parachute system that will deploy when there is structural failure in airframe or wings and will let the craft descend in relative safety and the unavoidable hard "landing" impact is lessened by an excellent restraint system and a cockpit safetly cell which will be able to make even a catastrophic incident highly survivable, a first in the sport aviation industry.
When we mention "Sport Aviation" we must explain that this a new category of pilot licensing which falls between the largely unregulated "ultra light" category and the private pilot's license. Obtaining a sport pilot license takes approximately 20 hours of flight training as opposed to the minimum of about 40 for the private license. Ground school is also abbreviated and the cost of this new form of license is less than half of that of the conventional airman's certificate.
There are restrictions of course, a sport pilot will typically only be able to fly in good weather when the visual flight regulations apply as opposed to the available instrument rating obtainable by private pilots. However, as many of the CLTS owners are already licensed under the conventional regulations, they will be able to fly in IFR (instrument flight) conditions and may bring their craft into airports which are not permitted to sports pilots.
The new Vermont company expects to attract customers for the new sports pilot license to Newport as it will be operating a flight training center here. The Jay Peak partners envision the Northeast Kingdom to eventually be able to attract pilots to Newport as an aviation vacation center which could also have an impact on the tourism industry in Orleans county and the neighboring regions of Vermont.
Flight design states that 60% of the aircraft components will be manufactured in the United States. Currently, pieces come from Germany and the Ukraine and many avionics packages are made in the US. The interestingly designed airframe with its ventral fin and external winglets for short take offs and landings, is made mostly from carbon fibre, there is extensive lightweight honeycomb construction, the tanks are in the wings, safely away from the passengers and the cockpit layout is quite sensational: The control panel resembles something that is more familiar to jet jockeys than the common man yet it is straight forward with easy to read panels, superb visual presentation of all needed flight data, couples with pinpoint accuracy GPS. This is not your grandfather's Piper or Cessna. Gone are the confusing analog dials and even the old bubble compass. Radio systems are finely integrated and easy to understand and use and the all-round visibility is spectacular.
At the other side of all this electronic wonderland is the flight controls and pedals which still emulate the old Tiger Moth: A stick for pilot and co-pilot, aluminum rudder and brake bars and fixed landing gear still give the feeling of "seat-of-the-pants" aviation. Just don't forget the goggles, a leather bomber jacket and a scarf!
The loud part of the machine is a Rotax engine, the engine of choice for aviators from powered gliders to sophisticated ultralights and experimental aircraft. This engine has been around for decades and even powers drones! The newest versions are of course fuel injected and have been developed through so many iterations that it could be considered as about as bullet-proof as any motor in modern aircraft
Flight Design is currently developing a four seat version of this versatile craft and another variant for the current model is available as a float plane which should make it highly attractive to hunters, fishermen or anyone else who enjoys the open spaces still available in the North East or neighboring Canada.
The 100 horsepower engine is so fuel economical that it burns about five gallons an hour at approximately 13 mph and this gives the little machine a range of 800 to 1,000 miles depending on engine speed, weather and altitude.
As a life long pilot I am really looking forward to seeing this operation coming to Newport. Combined with the recently opened Parker Pye restaurant which has great view over the happenings at the flight line it will make a visit to the regional airport an outing for the whole family.

Modern looks and functionality make this plane stand out

Mixture of traditional and Space Shuttle make up the cockpit

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