Textron takes over Pipistrel to gain foothold in the electric aircraft market

U.S. industrial conglomerate Textron has signed a deal to acquire Pipistrel, the Slovenian ultralight aircraft maker and pioneer in electrically powered aviation, both companies announced on Thursday, March 17.

The Slovenian plane maker tweeted that the partnership will combine the expertise of both companies and “accelerate Pipistrel’s development and certification of sustainable aircraft.”

Textron is home to Cessna, Beechcraft, and Bell aviation brands. The value of the deal has not been disclosed. The transaction is expected to close during the second quarter of this year once all regulatory approvals are issued, Textron said.

Textron takes over Pipistrel to gain a foothold in the electric aircraft market

Pipistrel CEO Ivo Boscarol will remain a minority owner, both companies said.

Pipistrel said the deal would grant it access to greater resources, technical and regulatory expertise and a global aircraft sales and support network that would speed up development and certification of electric and hybrid-electric aircraft.

Kansas-based Textron has committed to maintaining Pipistrel’s brand, headquarters, research and development, and manufacturing in Slovenia and Italy while making additional investments in Pipistrel for the development and production of future products, the Slovenian plane maker said.

According to Slovenia’s STA news agency Boscarol said that under his leadership, the plane maker has positioned itself to offer “affordable, environmentally friendly and electric aviation.”

Textron is home to Cessna, Beechcraft, and Bell aviation brands.

Textron Chairman And CEO Scott Donelly said Pipistrel puts his company in a position to develop new aircraft “to meet a wide range of customer missions.” “Today’s announcement supports Textron’s long-term strategy to offer a family of sustainable aircraft for urban air mobility, general aviation, cargo and special mission roles.”

Along the same lines, the deal could also lead to significant changes to Textron’s Bell Helicopter portfolio. Hybridization has less traction in the urban air mobility market at the moment than with fixed-wing aircraft. However, hybridization is even more compelling in the eVTOL segment given the power requirements and challenges some competitors have had with hitting range targets.

Pipistrel, which currently employs some 300 people, posted a net profit of 4.5 million euros in 2020. It started production in the 1980s. Initially, Pipistrel made only powered hang gliders designed by Boscarol and a group of his friends.

The value of the deal has not been disclosed.

In February 2021, Pipistrel had announced it was working on a 20-seat zero-emission regional aircraft. It is expected to be available between 2028 and 2030. The Miniliner concept unveiled at the time could fly on hydrogen, but Pipistrel was also considering other propulsion solutions at the time.

In the mid-1990s, when composite materials became more widely used in aviation, the company moved to the production of ultra-light aircraft. One of the early models, the Sinus, was the first serially-built ultralight aircraft made out of composites.

The Slovenian company delivered the 1,000th plane of the Virus and Sinus light aircraft family in March 2019. In 2007, the company released an electric version of the Taurus, the world’s first fully-electric 2-seat aircraft and the first electric motor-glider to achieve serial production.

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