Thursday, March 1, 2007
Liberty XL2: Trainer With A Difference
Cross-country comfort and performance enter the two-seat, flight-training class
Two-seat general aviation airplanes have had a checkered career at best. For every Cessna 150/152 or Citabria that’s had a model run of 30 years, there have been a half-dozen other types that only lasted for three or five.
Put together a small, slick, efficient, NLF wing, reasonable horsepower and a lightweight airplane, and you have the makings of a quick machine for the horsepower. Sure enough, the XL2 offers cruise more appropriate to the four-seat Cessna Skyhawk and Piper Archer. The company suggests 132 knots with everything optimized, but even 125 knots would be excellent performance with only 125 hp under the bonnet.
With 28 usable gallons in the tanks and a burn of around 6 gph at max cruise, you could reasonably expect to linger aloft for 3.5 hours and cover nearly 450 nm in the process. For those strange people who enjoy flying slow, the XL2 will reach out to more than 500 nm at 55%. This is more than enough for training purposes, VFR or IFR, and private owners should be pleased with the combination of economy and range.
Whatever the stage length, the XL2 makes a comfortable conveyance—roomy, modestly quiet and well ventilated. Vibration is modest with the FADEC-controlled Continental out front, and the combination of reasonable speed, good visibility and high wing loading for a better ride in turbulence contribute to a pleasant in-flight experience.
At the opposite end of the trip, the Liberty’s wide track and low CG contribute to good manners during landing. Stall with the full 30 degrees of flaps deployed is only 43 knots, so approaches as slow as 55 knots present no great challenge. Landing ground roll is less than 850 feet, which is reassuring if you fly into a short strip.
Prospective buyers are sometimes a little apprehensive about dealing with a single-product, start-up company—there’s often a greater feeling of security buying from Piper/Cessna/Beech/Cirrus/etc.—but Liberty’s backing is about as solid as it can be. While the company doesn’t have unlimited funding, it’s backed by the Kuwait Finance House of Bahrain, which owns 75% of the assets. Such solid ownership suggests reasonable financial staying power.
Base price for the XL2 is $159,000 before avionics and other options. Liberty has embraced Garmin International’s line of radios, with the top options being the GNS530 and Mode S 330 transponder, with the GNS430 and 327 transponder as less-expensive alternatives. Plan to spend about $180,000 for a reasonably equipped VFR airplane, $200,000 for a full-on IFR machine.
The recent AOPA Convention in Palm Springs, Calif., suggested a new optimism among general aviation pilots, and the Liberty XL2 is ideally placed to benefit from the resurgence. It’s a trainer, it’s a cross-country traveler, it’s two planes in one.
SPECS: 2006 Liberty XL-2
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