Textron Acquisition Fuels Pipistrel’s Ambitions
GENEVA—Slovenian aircraft manufacturer Pipistrel, now under Textron ownership, plans to grow its workforce and accelerate development of new products, including the Nuuva hybrid-electric uncrewed cargo aircraft.
“The resources and the knowhow that Textron can provide is meant to accelerate the product development,” Gabriel Massey, Pipistrel president and MD, told ShowNews on May 23.
“Textron Aviation and Textron have a global distribution network and sales network that we’ll be leveraging,” he added. “Definitely, the investment, the capital and the knowhow from Textron are meant to accelerate [development] and keep that innovative spirit—we’re going to keep Pipistrel as a separate brand located in Slovenia, hiring locally in Slovenia.”
Textron announced its plan to acquire Pipistrel and make it part of a new Textron eAviation business segment in March. Massey, a veteran Textron executive who recently served as Textron Aviation vice president for Asia-Pacific customer service, based in Singapore, took over as Pipistrel president in mid-April when the acquisition closed.
Founded by pilot and entrepreneur Ivo Boscarol in 1989, Pipistrel manufactures aircraft ranging from ultralights and gliders to the two-seat Explorer, Virus and electric-powered Velis Electro and the four-seat, Lycoming-powered Panthera, which is being modified as a hybrid-electric aircraft. A flying prototype of the Panthera developed under Europe’s MAHEPA (Modular Approach to Hybrid Electric Propulsion Architecture) program is on display at the Pipistrel exhibit at EBACE.
The company employs about 200 people at four facilities in Slovenia and 50 people in Italy, where it operates a final assembly plant for civil production models at Gorizia. It produces 150-200 aircraft each year.
One of Pipistrel’s highest priorities is completing development of the Nuuva hybrid-electric vertical-takeoff-and-landing (VTOL) uncrewed cargo aircraft, Massey said. The company will begin assembling a first prototype in Slovenia soon, with plans to conduct a first flight in 2023.
“That market is a big market, we can tell,” Massey said. “The approach we’ve taken with that product is we want to design something that can actually work in today’s regulatory environment—it’s not an urban air mobility eVTOL, which is going to have challenges right away from a regulatory environment.”
Now that it has Textron as a corporate parent, Pipistrel aims to become even larger and more active. “With the investment from Textron on the R&D and bringing the Panthera to certification, the hybrid [version], the Nuuva, the next-generation electric aircraft, we will be hiring a lot in the engineering space in Slovenia and on the production side we will also be growing the facilities and expanding and hiring in Italy and on the Slovenian side,” he said.