The Formula GT – In a class of its own

18 Feb 2020

Flying the Formula GT is almost like flying a hard-core aerobatic aircraft but with an extra seat and loads more baggage space. But no, it is not a competition aerobatic aircraft. The GT is more like a luxurious sport aerobatic capable cruiser which makes it an amazing utility aircraft.

The six cylinder power under the cowl, combined with the lightweight airframe, is astonishing and the aircraft could easily be classed as a racer. However, the wing designer of this aircraft was way ahead of his class when he created the airfoil. Several high performance experimental aircraft today use the exact same wing. One example is the Turbine Legend, one of the fastest kit-built aircraft in the world. At the same time, the nontraditional fish-shaped airfoil and relatively large ailerons allows for great controllability and harmonized stick forces throughout the flight envelope.

The Formula GT is relatively short coupled and requires significant rudder input when abrupt throttle input changes are made. It can be a handful if flown aggressively but can also be an amazingly slow sunset cruising aircraft when flown gently. It is almost like it is adapting to your flying style. It has large control services and the trim tabs on all axis allows for the aircraft to be flown almost hands free and with the autopilot pilot enabled one could steer the aircraft by only turning the heading knob on the Dynon EFIS, just like an airliner.

Many people would argue that a Van’s RV is just as capable, or even more with less horsepower, but flying behind a 260HP engine with way more than excess power is way more fun. Bolting at 195kts in straight and level flight at 6500ft is not something that many aircraft can achieve, and especially not in a fixed gear configuration. Enjoying loops and rolls while having the capability of loading your golf clubs and fishing rods for a trip to your favorite destination makes for exciting flying experiences. If you don’t have a use for more than 2 seats, you will never need any other aircraft.

I get asked many times what is it like to fly the Formula GT. In my Pitts S1S days I never thought that I would enjoy anything else except for upgrading to a larger and more powerful competition aerobatic aircraft. I was so wrong. The GT is a high performance aircraft, but in straight and level flight she handles like any other aircraft that requires only small inputs to maintain its flying attitude, good for when you are flying from point A to B. As soon as you start maneuvering the GT with larger than normal control or throttle inputs, she becomes alive, like a horse racing back home. The aircraft is responsive, yet not too sensitive, and requires active feet and good situational awareness skills. It is easy for the aircraft to run away at over 200kts if a ‘descend to circuit altitude’ clearance is given. Yet, because of the light airframe, the large Whirlwind Rocket propeller acts as an airbrake and slows the aircraft down with significant forward G-forces felt.

Aerobatic maneuvers in the GT are fun. It takes a little getting used to the higher than normal G-forces and with proper training aerobatics can be flown very accurately and safely. The roll rate compares to that of a Pitts and loops can be initiated from cruising speed with no significant effort.

Landing the GT is relatively easy. It has to be flown a little more accurately than your conventional Cessna of Piper. Even with an approach speed of 90kts, flying into short runways is a non event and the runway stays visible all the way down to the flare. The slotted flap system is very effective and slower speeds can be flown, however, the long nose at higher angles of attack can be a surprise to some.

Getting out of short runways with the full 300 liters of fuel on board… well, it has six cylinders!

Sadly the Formula GT is in search of a new home. The owner has a love for the Focke Wulf (Piaggio P149) and has no real need for the Formula GT. At R1,6mil this is a total steal as a newly manufactured aircraft will cost well over R3mil.

 

The low drag airfoil and relatively small frontal area allows for a very economical cruising speed of 170kts at less than 45 liters per hour, or you could get to your destination fast at over 190kts, burning only 54 liters per hour.

Wherever you go, the aircraft turns heads. It is not a small light sport aeroplane with a small fuselage. The GT is majestic; it has style, and it’s different to anything else you’ve seen.

 

The Formula GT is in a class of its own!

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