Plane & Pilot
Thursday, July 1, 2004

Liberty XL2

This two-seater is certified and ready to roll!

libertyAs owner of one or another four-place airplane for the last 40 years, I can count on my fingers and toes the number of times I’ve used all four seats for people. Like most aircraft owners, I’ve consistently purchased at least two seats more than I need, so far, at least five times. Apparently, I never learn.
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Another fringe benefit of the Powerlink FADEC computer control is an sfc in the sub .40 pounds/hp/hour area. According to Liberty, such efficiency generates a miserly 6.0 gph at max cruise, 5.3 gph at the recommended training power setting of 60%, the latter worth something like 110 knots. With 28 usable gallons aboard, that means you’ll have an easy 3.5 hours plus reserve, over four hours at the recommended 60% instructional power setting. You could plan 450-nm cross-country flights with a reasonable reserve, realizing better than 20 nmpg in the process.

One of the greatest joys of an XL2 may be that it feels like a much bigger airplane on the inside. By two-seater standards, the cabin is huge, 48 inches across by 46 inches tall. Compare that to the 39-inch cross section of a 152 or even the 42-inch width of a Bonanza. The rudder pedals adjust for long-legged pilots, although seats are fixed in place. The folks at Liberty designed the cockpit to accommodate two big men, and it does so in both size and weight allowance.

As Americans continue to chunk up, the FAA is rethinking its 170-pound allowance per occupant for general-aviation airplanes. Even at 200 pounds per seat, the XL2 should have enough full fuel payload for two big pilots plus toothbrushes. Preliminary numbers suggest an empty weight of 1,065 pounds, leaving a 420-pound payload with full fuel.

Engine start with the FADEC system regulating all parameters of engine operation requires little more than hitting master and fuel pump, and engaging the starter. Taxiing is a little different in that it employs differential finger brakes rather than toe or heel brakes. Finger brakes take some getting used to, like thumb steering in an Aerostar, but they offer a good mechanical advantage, and once you’ve used them for a while, they’re not that different. In combination with the full-castering nosewheel, directional control is nearly good enough to turn the airplane 180 degrees in its own wingspan.

Takeoff and climb are more enthusiastic than you might expect, closer to 1,000 fpm than the old 152 and Skipper’s 600 fpm to 700 fpm. The more significant advantage comes at typical cruise heights where the XL2’s extra power allows you to climb an extra 2,000 feet in minimal time. Service ceiling is listed at 14,000 feet.

The XL2’s handling is quick with conventional joysticks for roll and pitch, but not so brisk as to be touchy. That’s partially a function of push rods rather than cables for control activation. Ailerons are wide span, covering nearly 40% of the wing’s trailing edge. Pitch control employs an all-flying stabilator rather than the more conventional horizontal stabilizer and elevator. One curious anomaly is electric pitch trim mounted on the panel rather than the yoke.


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