Textron unit Pipistrel plans to seek full EASA IFR certification for its four-seat Panthera single-engine aircraft equipped with a Lycoming IO-540 engine and Garmin G1000 Nxi avionics. The aircraft is currently flying under an experimental license and is on display at EAA AirVenture 2022. The low-wing, retractable gear aircraft has a range of 955 nm and a cruising speed of 200 knots. It features gull-wing passenger doors and a removable back seat for extra baggage space.
Also at AirVenture, Pipistrel plans to display and promote its two-seat, all-electric Velis Electro for the flight training market and will seek FAA certification validation. The aircraft has already been certified by EASA and the UK’s Civil Aviation Authority (CAA). The Velis Electro was under development for 12 years and has an external noise footprint of just 60 dBA. The aircraft “already has achieved a lot of success in Europe,” said Gabriel Massey, Pipistrel president and managing director. “Having the only certified electric aircraft in the world available in the U.S. is a very exciting prospect, especially for such a large GA and flight training market.”
Textron acquired Pipistrel earlier this year in a deal valued at $222 million. It is now part of Textron’s new eAviation division headed by Rob Scholl, but will continue to be run as a separate company and a distinct brand, headquartered in Slovenia with additional manufacturing in Italy. Pipistrel founder Ivo Boscarol remains an adviser to the company.
Pipistrel manufactures a family of gliders and light powered aircraft with both electric and internal combustion engines, has additional electric and hybrid propulsion models under development, and has delivered 2,500 aircraft worldwide since 1989. Scott Donnelly, Textron chairman and CEO, said the Pipistrel acquisition was part of the company’s strategy to make Textron, “a world leader in sustainable aircraft for a wide variety of missions.”
Speaking with AIN ahead of AirVenture, Scholl said Textron plans to use its certification and product support experience to strengthen the Pipistrel brand, while taking advantage of Pipistrel’s extensive experience with electric flight for some of Textron’s other programs, including its eAviation division’s Nexus urban air mobility aircraft project.
“We're really excited about the team and the manufacturing facilities that they [Pipistrel] have in place in Slovenia and Italy,” Scholl said. “We plan on keeping both the business headquartered there in Slovenia and the production in Italy. They've got very good supply chain around composite manufacturing. We're not planning on changing the key aspects of how they design and build aircraft. We can hopefully help them scale up to be able to produce more aircraft and increase the service and support by leveraging Textron Aviation’s global reach.”
Scholl said Pipistrel aircraft were “complementary” to Textron Aviation’s existing Cessna and Beechcraft brand piston engine airplanes. “We’re giving customers another option to step into a different type of airplane,” he said.
Under the Textron umbrella, Pipistrel will continue development work on a hybrid-electric-powered version of the Panthera, Scholl said, but he offered no timeline for bringing it to market. He did say that the company would likely offer a variety of powerplant options for the aircraft in the future.