So I've been reading the ctflyer forum for some time trying to get an unbiased opinion about the CT aircraft. Recently, though, I learned that any negative posts get deleted. This irked me, as I spent lots of time trying to get an informed view of the aircraft, only to now have to get opinions elsewhere.
I was told I should take my criticism and comnparisons to other aircraft to other forums, specifically to this forum. One of my posts was deleted when I questioned the new trim attach point on the CTLS, asking whether it will wear out like a cheap Chinese hinge on plastic boxes (it's not a hinge, but rather a piece of carbon fiber that flexes.) So here it goes...
This is the post about the CTLS comparing some of its features to a 172, SportStar and EuroFox.... Enjoy!
I recently flew the CTLS for a bit... Now that I had time to mull over my experience, I'm going to summarize some of my feelings and try to make comparisons to a 2006 Evektor SportStar (which I also recently flew,) a 1998 Cessna 172 SP (which I fly a lot - about 50% of my time in the air, the other 50% being in a R182) and a EuroFox. I will hopefully fly the new SportStar SL shortly, and maybe others, and if there are any new insights, I will share. I never liked the look of the original SportStar, but the new SL looks impressive.
So, it was a warm day (above ISA at 75-80 F) and a typically nasty early to mid-afternoon with lots of puffy cumulus clouds at about 7000 feet: a nice day for land-lovers, a struggle to get anywhere for the skyward bound. Here in the NY area this meant lots of turbulence and thermals to climb or ride through. All of the LSAs were pretty close to gross weight, with the 172 at about 300 lbs below gross.
The CTLS feels a little more elemental than either the 172 or the SportStar, maybe even more than the EuroFox. I don't know how to describe this, but it's a sensation that the things you feel are less damped and more in your face. Control forces seemed a bit less harmonized, and less smooth than the other two airplanes. The stick movement specifically did not feel smooth. This may be due to the autopilot coupling, as there was a distinct gear-like grinding feel. More on the autopilot later.
The CTLS and the Evektor get bumped around a lot in this type of weather. The 172 does as well, but it's really a noticeable difference. Also, somehow the SportStar and 172, seemed to feel a bit more cushioned in the turbulence. I noticed this on the Cirrus I used to fly as well, and I attribute it to metal vs. composite.
Climb performance is about equal betwen the three airplanes, with the Evektor climbing at a slightly lower airspeed. However, the 172 seems to be able to climb through the thermals better than the CTLS. Several times through the climb to 5500, the CTLS would just stop climbing even at 75 KIAS indicated (through descending air.) This same climb profile, on the same day within 30 minutes of the two flights, was not a problem for the 172. The highest sustained climb rates I saw in all three LSAs were right around 800 ft/min.
The visibility in the CTLS is really good, however, the SportStar definitely beats the CTLS, although it beats the CTLS in greenhouse effect as well. In terms of ergonomics, the seats in the CTLS are the most comfortable, with the EuroFox coming in a close second. The SportStar needs lumbar support, and it would be nice to have a high back. The seats in the 172 are between the CTLS and the Evektor. Entry into the CTLS was more awkward than the others.
The amount of rudder required in the CTLS was about the same as the 172, nothing noteworthy. In the EuroFox you needed to work the rudder nonstop with both feet in both directions (pressure applied on both pedals all the time.) The specific airplane I flew was very yaw neutral, if not yaw negative. It was, however, fairly easy to get used to. The SportStar, on the other hand, required no rudder. You just rolled into a turn and the ball stayed put; no adverse yaw either. Even in a steep turn (greater than 45 degrees) the ball was off-center only slightly and minimal rudder was required. While I think it's nice to have that stability, it may make you lazy...
Performance was about even between the 172 and CTLS. At cruise and 5500 I saw about 110+- indicated in the CTLS, and that's exactly what I see in the 172 SP up to about 7500. If there is a difference, I don't think it's more than 5 knots. I'm sure there is more of a difference when compared to the older 172s. The Evektor was a disappointment however. At 6500 feet we couldn't get it past 90 knots indicated. We'll see how the new SL does.
Fit and finish was good, but not amazing. This was the biggest disappointment. I expected a much bigger jump in quality between the SW and LS (like comparing a 2002 SR20 to a 2006 SR20-G2.) The SportStar was really well built, and top notch in finish. I would say the Evektor seemed better built than the 172. I'm curious how the new SportStar SL will fare. The EuroFox was very nicely put together as well. What you really notice are the little things, like glue flowing over, or the gaps between surfaces, or the detail given to the trim pieces. The thought and care of the build process, I thought, stood out on the SportStar and EuroFox. You expect high quality from manufacturers that have been doing this for decades, but not from newbies.
The autopilot behavior on the CTLS was a bit weird. On the climb out the stick would occassionally bump forward. This, turned out to be - or so I was told - the autopilot servo slipping, because the plane was out of trim. It exhibited this behavior on an autopilot commanded descent from cruise as well. You would think there would be an out-trim annunciation somewhere. Why buy the VS version of the autopilot if you have to disconnect anyway to trim for a climb or descent before enaging the feature. Even the cheapest STEC ALT 30 altitude hold autopilot warns you of a trim problem.
My overall impression was that it was a nice plane, a marked improvement, but that it lacked some finesse. The evolution seems very similar to how Cirrus has been evolving their airplanes. If they keep on this path, it should become a truly remarkable airplane in the next 5 years. But, of course, by then it will probably cost 250k. I will have to wait for the ASTM IFR rules before making some kind of a decision. I was told that Evektor may be announcing an IFR version of the new SportStar at Oshkosh. I'm sure FD will follow if not pre-empt.
BTW, I took some pictures, but they turned out like all the pictures that others posted, so I'll refrain from cluttering the board. Also, I tried to keep my tone positive throughout, as I know negative messages are shunned, or worst yet, beheaded. This is about as positive a tone as I can muster... I'll apologize now for those who may think anything in this message is pessimistic.
Apparently the above post was negative as well, and the banter and jab at post deletion in the last paragraph was not appreciated. So much for sarcasm - I had a better one before regarding post deletion about my Chinese comment: my posts disappear like dissidents in China... What can I say, I'm from NJ. Alas, my response.
I'm interested in the CTLS as much as you are, because I think it's a good plane that can replace my existing airplane needs. Despite some of it's faults do I think it's the best overall SLSA out there? Yes, probably. See, I came to this boad to learn the good and the bad about the airplane so that I can make an informed decision (just as I have gone to the Cirrus board to do the same when I was considering a Cirrus.)
Only recently did I find out that anything negative about the airplane may not be on the board. That was a shock. I've been reading all these posts to find out that it may not provide the complete picture I was looking for. People come to an open forum to learn. If that forum is biased, and they don't know I think they're getting a disservice. Anyway, I posted what I thought would help everyone on the board learn something about the CTLS, without being directly negative. But, maybe I'm just a glass half empty kind of guy by nature. I also don't see anything wrong with a little banter.
As I said, I think it's a good plane, I'm just not willing to put on blinders about it. I think discussing both the good and bad about an airplane helps everyone, including the manufacturer. Just because I buy something, does not mean I cannot criticize and complain about it (plenty of criticism about Cirrus on those boards.)
Now, as I said my post included thoughts about the airplane, as a first impression. I would have liked to fly the plane longer (I generally prefer to pay for the plane and instructor, so that it's more of a real flight than a sales pitch but FD wouldn't have any of that.) I would have liked to climb to smooth air, do stalls, steep turns, a bunch of landings, so I could give feedback on that, but I refrained because I didn't have information.
I thought I had enough information about the autopilot, to post about it. If there is a trim annuncation, excellent! But it was not pointed out to me by the demo pilot (the solution presented was to disconnect the autopilot, trim the plane, and then engage the autopilot again) and was not apparent in the model I flew. Even then, it pobably shouldn't be bumping the stick. If you wish, I will take my posts elsewhere. But, thank you for creating this board. I would gladly pay a subscription fee to have no censorship other than that for common decency.