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April 2, 2014
By Mike Collins
Discovery Aviation Inc. announced April 2 that it has acquired the rights to manufacture the single-engine, two-place Liberty XL-2. As part of the transaction, the former senior management team of Liberty Aerospace Inc. has joined Discovery Aviation, and the IFR-certified XL-2 will go back into production.
“We have found the perfect partner in Liberty and the XL-2,” said Rick Cunliffe, CEO of Discovery Aviation. “Combining the expertise and experience of the two organizations will result in a stronger and more capable entity. We have two aircraft that will have tremendous appeal to aviation businesses all around the world. These are both airplanes that will make people money.”
Flight testing has been completed for the new Discovery 201, a twin-engine, multirole utility aircraft; only dynamic seat testing remains to be done. Orders will be taken only after a type certificate is issued, Cunliffe said. “If it happens by July or August, we hope to be rolling airplanes off the line before the end of the year,” he said. “It’s a simple, working airplane. It doesn’t need to go fast—it needs to be rugged and deliver.”
The Discovery 201 offers a large cargo capacity, with easy access through large clamshell doors on the rear of the fuselage. The high-wing design seats seven, has a maximum takeoff weight of 4,850 lbs., and cruises at 113 kt. It is powered by two 210-horsepower Continental IO-360 engines. The aircraft will cost between $900,000 and $1 million, depending on customer options.
The new airplane will be manufactured alongside the XL-2, and the company plans to capitalize on the benefits of manufacturing two FAA-certified aircraft under one production certificate. “We’re looking for a lot of continuity between the two airplanes,” noted Paul Bartlett, COO of Discovery Aviation and former president and CEO of Liberty Aerospace. Both use Continental engines and Garmin avionics, he noted.
The company is looking at possible new locations to assemble the aircraft. Neither the former Liberty facility in Melbourne, Fla., nor Discovery Aviation’s California facility is large enough to produce both airplanes, Bartlett said. “We’re looking for a home.” Large components will be assembled by a supplier in Europe and shipped to Discovery. “We’ll assemble the aircraft; add engines, avionics, flaps, and other options; then we’ll sell or export the airplane from the U.S.”
First XL-2 deliveries are anticipated in about six months, he added. “We’re now in a position to take an order.” Prices for new XL-2s will average about $240,000, depending on customer options. “A lot of our flight school customers are looking for glass cockpits and ADS-B,” he said. “We’ve been very encouraged by the reaction from existing XL-2 customers.”
Discovery Aviation was created in 2011 to act as the U.S.-based development, sales, and production company for new, light, all-metal aircraft being developed and produced by Avia Ltd. in Russia. For more information, see the Discovery Aviation website.
Mike Collins has worked for AOPA’s media network since 1994. He holds a private pilot certificate with an instrument rating.
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