Customer:Liberty Aerospace (design and production)
Type: general aviation two-seater
Powerplant: 1 x 125 hp Continental IOF-240
Significant date: 2001
The Liberty XL-2 is a 2-seat aircraft with a 48-inch wide cockpit, a payload in excess of 600 lbs, a cruise speed of 138 mph and a range of over 500 miles. With a list of unique options, the Liberty XL-2 has been designed to meet the needs of the private pilot and flying schools alike. A few miles down the road from where NASA fits the space shuttle for flight is an assembly plant of much more modest proportions: the final put-together hangar of the Liberty XL-2. And yet, this is not the way things were originally meant to be...
In an agreement worth more than $60 million, Scaled Technology Works (later STW Composites), a subsidiary of Precision Castparts Corp., had initially been contracted to build up to 400 single-engine airplanes a year, a rate that would comfortably exceed demand.. The contract called for Scaled to assemble and manufacture the Liberty XL-2 for Liberty Aerospace, a company based in North Yorkshire, England. In addition to manufacturing all composite components, STW was to assemble each aircraft, including installation of the wings, control surfaces, engine, hydraulics and landing gear. Additional suppliers to Liberty included Dowty Aerospace; Rotax (a subsidiary of Bombardier Inc.) among others.
The first flight of the XL-2 took place on the exact day that Liberty had predicted six months before: April 2nd 2001. "To be exactly on time for our first flight demonstrates the tremendous strengths of the partnership between Liberty and STW Composites. When you see the aircraft itself though, you can understand why everyone knows there is something special in the air", said Tony Tiarks, Liberty's Chief Executive Officer. "We have put together a team of excellence, from our suppliers, through our engineers to our partners, and the result is the Liberty XL-2. The benefit will go to our customers."
The first flight of the Liberty XL-2 was a complete success. Dale Ruhmel, the independent FAA-approved test pilot who flew the first flight, is quoted as saying, "When I was with Cessna, I flew the 152 - the 2-seat aircraft of the 20th Century. I have now flown the Liberty XL-2, which I believe will become the 2-seat aircraft of the 21st Century. The XL-2 is easy to fly, has excellent control response, good visibility, and is well suited for both private pilot and training school alike. This is a great airplane." Ruhmel went on to state that whilst he had flown every 2-seat aircraft in the business, the Liberty XL-2 was unquestionably the best".
Bill Wailes, President of STW Composites said about the firstflight "This is exactly what STW was founded to do: to to manufacture the next generation of general aviation aircraft. Our teaming relationship with Liberty Aerospace has helped make our dream real... and we saw it take to the sky today." The XL-2 then made its public debut at the Sun ‘N Fun Convention at Lakeland, Florida, in April, 2001. The future seemed bright for the Liberty/STW partnership. Yet only three examples were built before the fledgling STW company closed down in 2003, leaving Liberty to change its plans.
Among the two seaters, Liberty Aerospace has big hopes for its composite and metal model, despite having to shift fuselage production to Florida-based Matrix Composites after the closure of STW. The XL-2 has a cruise speed of more than 120 knots and a range of more than 500 miles. Liberty Aerospace is positioning the XL-2 as a two-seat touring airplane, suitable for single pilots and empty-nesters who want to travel at reasonable speeds with low operating costs. The company’s unusual strategy—which matches the somewhat unusual airplane—hinges on success in two areas. It needs to build the right airplane for that mission but it also needs to be right that the market for an airplane tailored to such a mission is big enough in the first place.
Population: 17 (more to be built) [N202XL, N203XL, N204XL by STW Composites]
Best Price: $116,500
NOTE: All numbers are preliminary.