The AESL CT/4
Often confused with the Victa Airtourer or more justly the Aircruiser, the CT4B is in fact a faster, heavier and more powerful relative of both. The origins of the CT4 start with Henry Millicer and Victa, who came up with the fundamentals for the Airtourer and put it into production. A little way down the line the design was taken on by New Zealand based AESL and the CT4 grew into great things.
The prototype took off in the early seventies just as AESL became New Zealand Aerospace Industries. Production was kicked off on the back of an order from the Thai Air Force which later led to orders from many other national Air Forces including Australia and New Zealand for the use of the CT4B as a primary trainer.
A complex history aside, the CT4 has now leaked its way onto the private market and has been taken up by many caring private owners as a reliable and fun aerobatic and cross country aircraft.
On the outside the all aluminium CT4 is very much like its brothers and sisters but boasts a few distinctions. Under the cowls lies a much more powerful 210hp Continental IO-360 which translated into a tidy cruise speed around 135 knots, even if it remains just a little thirsty due to its weight. The sleek aerodynamic bubble canopy and centre control column give the design a bit of attitude and make it worthy of its aerobatic category (+6, -3G). Even if you don’t like the aero’s, the canopy is great for visibility cross country and the centre column much friendlier than the splayed centre column in the Airtourer or Aircruiser. Structurally there are also changes to the skin and upgrading of the four sheet metal longerons in the fuselage to stronger extrusions.
Bad points are few: the one that sticks out is a drastic sink rate during a glide approach. So long as the pilot knows to imagine the landing point somewhere under the nose and not in front, it’s safe, just not likely to win a gliding championship any day soon.
The undercarriage is a friendly tricycle set up with a leafy and forgiving main gear that has been tested by time to take the worst a student can offer. It is an idea to look for any evidence of the main gear hitting under the wing as this has been known to happen and could leave the unsuspecting buyer up for some repairs. The CT4 is no Cessna, so carrying a good safety speed is the key, before closing the throttle and letting all that sink settle you onto the runway. Don’t be put off buying a CT4 by a lack of experience in low wing aircraft: this is a responsive and fun aircraft to fly and it will give you hours of fun, or even pay you back a bit if offered up to a school as a trainer.
I know it gets repetitive in this section, but always check the books and CASA for Airworthiness Directives and the like – it is your bank account after all!
Stats – CT/4B
Engine: 1× Teledyne Continental IO-360-HB9 210 hp
Length: 23 ft 2 in
Wingspan: 26 ft 0 in
Height: 8 ft 6 in
Empty weight: 1,720 lb
Max takeoff weight: 2,650 lb
Range: 600 nm