As it turns out, the designers apparently agreed, and they introduced a certified version, the Liberty XL-2, which is quite conventional in comparison. It features tricycle landing gear and permanently fixed wings, thank goodness. Furthermore, the airplane will be certified in the normal category.
Though outwardly tamed, the Liberty is much like its predecessor in several important ways. Like the Europa, the Liberty is a roomy, two-seat side-by-side stick-controlled airplane with great visibility and snappy performance. It's relatively fast -- around 130 knots -- and it has a baggage area in back that can accommodate lots of cargo, both in terms of space and weight. It is, in short, a sporty touring airplane, just like the Europa.
Touring airplanes, while popular in Europe, seem rightly foreign to Americans. The conventional wisdom over here is that two-seaters are good only for touch-and-goes or loops and rolls. Such has been the view in the certified airplane industry for decades -- look at how many runabouts Cessna, Piper and Beech have built over the years -- by my count, none.
Have times changed? Maybe. For more than a decade kit makers have been tapping a market for two-seaters that people use for traveling. Lancair, Glasair, Van's and Europa, among others, have sold thousands of kits to people who were willing to give up the back row of seats for a little extra speed or utility.
Recently this trend has spilled over to the world of certified airplanes, where several two seaters have appeared on the scene. The Diamond C-1 Eclipse, the OMF Symphony and, now, the Liberty XL-2, all seek to fill a niche that had gone unserved since the 1940s, when the slick but underpowered Globe/Temco Swift came on the scene at the peak of the biggest general aviation boom ever. The Swift's future burst with the bubble. Since then, with few exceptions, two-seaters have been designed expressly for training or specialty purposes such as aerobatics, pipeline patrol and banner towing.
The Liberty's outward appearance is deceiving. While it looks for all the world like an all-composite airplane, it's not. It's a hybrid, using sheet metal for the wings and stabilator, carbon fiber for the fuselage and steel tubing for the interior cockpit structure.