In 1998, Liberty Aircraft was formed to take the Europa concept to serial production. Now, the dream of certification has been a siren song to many kit manufacturers over the years. Some came to their senses in time, and others wound up on the rocks. Just a couple of others, Cirrus and Lancair (Columbia), have emerged from the type certification process with a certified airplane, many years and tens of millions of dollars later. In both cases the airplanes that evolved shared little in common with the one that launched the dream.
And so it has been with Liberty. While it hasn't spent as much money on the project as either Cirrus or Columbia, it has spent a lot. And the airplane it wound up with is a very different bird than the one with which it started. The good news is that the whole thing has worked out to this point, though it took a lot more time and money to get to certification than the company had anticipated. No shock there.
The purpose of that airplane might have changed on its journey from aerobatic kitbuilt scamp to certified normal category runabout, but many of the airplane's eccentricities have remained, giving it more character than just about any certified two-seater built in the past 50 years.
One of the biggest market obstacles that Liberty faces with the XL2 is the perception that the airplane is an updated Cessna 152. It's not. Or if it is, it has moved so far beyond Cessna's archetypical two-seater that the comparison is no longer instructive. For starters, it's huge inside. The shoulder room, 48 inches, is fabulous, and while I won't name names, it's as good or better than some production four-seaters with 310-horse engines, and they're roomy up front. And the Liberty is fast enough, 125 knots in cruise compared with 105 or so for the Cessna two-holer. Really, a far better comparison to make is with a brand new 172. Think of the XL2 as a really modern four-seat general purpose airplane... but with the rear seats missing.
In creating the Liberty, its designers made use of materials in unexpected ways. While Cirrus and Lancair are all-glass (as was the Europa, by the way), the Liberty sports aluminum wings and stabilizer to go with its carbon fiber fuselage and mixed-media vertical fin. The Liberty even uses carbon fiber for rollover protection. The structure passed the FAA's fiendish inverted drop test. Another odd design choice was to put the single 28-gallon (usable) fuel tank in the fuselage, a tack not often taken due to the obvious concerns of crash safety and fire potential. But Liberty pulls off the feat convincingly, using two layers, a sheet metal fuel tank enclosed in a carbon fiber shell and reinforced with additional carbon support structures. Again, it passed the FAA's 23-G crash test, and that-ask anybody who's had to do it-is no mean feat.
The end result, at least outwardly, is a two-seat airplane with lots of room inside, decent speed and range, and nice flying qualities.