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Capt. Wes B. Aircraft Reviews
Having flown a variety of aircraft over the years, I never pass up the opportunity to try a new plane out; regardless if it is a heavy jet, or a small two seat general aviation aircraft.
The Liberty XL-2 is not exactly the newest aircraft around, but is still a bit of a rare sight. I was invited to go try it out and take it for a test flight. Walking out to the airplane with my friend (also a CFI) I caught my first glimpse of the peculiar aircraft. On first notice it almost looks like a Cirrus SR-2X stripped of its pride. Just kidding, but you can't help but think that it does look similar in some respects to a Cirrus.
The walk-around inspection is not that unusual, except for when it comes to draining the tanks. For the main tank which is apparently behind the cabin; it is drained from beneath the airplane. So, I had no choice except to get on my belly, slither like a snake, then roll over and get a sample. The whole thing looked and felt ridiculous. Of course, I love flying, and I love airplanes... So, I can forgive that much I suppose.
Now we come to entering the plane.. The gull wing doors just add to the cool factor of any plane, and on the liberty look awfully fitting. Now on the subject of entering the craft. I am 6'1" and while I am a young pretty agile gentleman, I am not exactly a contortionist. I mention this issue because very few light low wing aircraft are easy to get in and out of; this plane was no exception. To add to the joy of the game, the seats are not (were not on this model) movable. To give the designer some credit, I will point out though that the rudder pedals are movable. So once you have danced, boogied, or bebopped your way in, you can make any needed adjustments to the pedals. Fair enough I suppose, and really then you don't have to ever worry about your seat sliding back during a max performance takeoff (a bit of a stretch I know).
On engine start-up and operation, we come to a bit of a fork in the road in comparison to other aircraft. The engine start-up is straight forward. You simply turn on the FADEC system and turn the key. The difference comes with and during the run-up.The Liberty XL-2 utilizes the FADEC system; which in simple terms means the airplanes engine is operated by a computer. So no fiddling with a mixture at altitude, it is just simple single lever power operation. The thing is though if your FADEC fails, so does your engine. Now of course the solution was/is that a backup system is installed. So, no worries on that part. Since computers run on electricity of course the engine operates a separate generator... The generator seems to switch on and off on the ground making a very peculiar whining type of noise-almost like a turbine engine.
Taxing the aircraft was not necessarily unusual, that is if you are used to taxing a free castering nose gear aircraft. With a few bursts of power, and kick on the rudder you can get the airplane to do what you want on the ground. Another technique you could use is to taxi with a bit of pre-set power which would allow the rudder to be more effective. The brakes on this early model were operated by two small hand switches-I call them switches because they seemed more kin to switches then levers. These were located aft of the throttle quadrant, and could be operated individually; one for the left, one for the right at varying degrees. During runup so that your hands could be free you would lock these both in place. I was reminded though that the brakes on this early model had a nasty habit of slipping during runup. So I needed to keep one eye on runup and cockpit prep, and make sure we weren't leaving earlier then we were supposed to. The runup was mainly focused around checking the FADEC system and its associated annunciator panel. This aircraft was powered by a 125hp Continental IOF-240-B and beyond the FADEC system wasn't operated that much more differently then any other light piston single powerplant. We checked both magnetos, and set the flaps to their takeoff position. The Liberty XL-2 uses an electrical flap operation system, along with electric trim. The flaps however do not have detents, and so you must give them a bit of attention in order to set them where you want.
Takeoff is smooth, and nothing to really get excited about. In the air the aircraft is pretty responsive, and control is pretty straight forward. I will point out though that this aircraft is operated by a stick which is centerally located between both seats. To me this gave the airplane a more sporty feel-and although this aircraft is not necessarily aerobatic, it still has a nice quick roll rate. The side stick adds to the feeling of sport-iness..(is that a word?) Trim takes a while to be effective, and so you have to plan a bit more when either leveling off or changing attitudes. I will point out that the aircraft isn't the most stable in roll. This imperfection is magnified even more in a crosswind. Stalls in this aircraft are rather calm, and don't pose an issue in particular. Steep turns are straight forward, and don't require to much to maintain altitude or angle of bank either.
The approach speeds are comparable to that of a Piper Arrow, with flaps being thrown out at the usual spots in the pattern. On final with a crosswind as I mentioned earlier you really have to give the airplane a little more attention. Also, the stall warning is in the form of a aural warning which states: Stall, Stall, Stall! in rapid succession until you recover from the condition. I have no problem with that, however the stall warning tends to be a bit to sensitive. And as we all know in a gusty crosswind you will get the warning horn periodically.
Even while flying at full flaps, and 1.5 above stalling speed in that configuration, I was still getting a stall warning. My friend said not to worry about it. This still kinda nagged me until short final-not a problem but still a bit distracting during most of the final approach.
During round out and flare the stick tends to dump its load kinda fast, and is a bit more mushy then I'd like. My friend also pointed out that at all cost, we must avoid landing on the nose wheel. The reason being that it is made out of fiberglass. As a matter of fact, it is nothing more then a fiber glass tube, connected onto what appears to be a few metal plates, which is directly connected to the engine cowling. Whatever the case was, it just didn't look sturdy! And so it is for that reason I would advise a full stall landing in this aircraft, making sure that the nose gear stays well clear of the runway until you have slowed and can gently let it down.
The Liberty XL-2(s) key selling point is its fuel efficient operation, and ease of operation. And really overall, I'd have to say it is a sleek little plane at a good price as well.. A few minor points such as the hand brakes could use some re-modification (later models as I understand have foot brakes). But otherwise this aircraft is a great trainer, and personal aircraft. As a CFI I think that it certainly would benefit students learning how to land it in a crosswind. I haven't had many opportunities or reasons to fly this little plane in a while, however if you would like to share your thoughts or any pertinent info please do so.
Capt. Wes B.
B.S. Aviation Management CFI-I, MEI
Marketniner.com Buy, Sell, or Trade All Things Aviation-First Ad is Free!
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