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EAA AirVenture Oshkosh RSS FeedCobalt unveils, seeks certification for new canard aircraft
By James Wynbrandt
Startup manufacturer Cobalt Aircraft Industries is unveiling at AirVenture what it hopes to be the world's first certificated piston-powered canard production single: the Co50.

"I took the decision of building a canard [on the Co50] the first time I flew a canard on a Rutan design," said David Loury, president and CEO of Cobalt in Toussus-le-Noble, France. "I found that the flight experience was just amazing, and a well-designed canard doesn't stall."

The four-plus-one passenger Co50 also features swept wings, twin tail fins, and a pusher engine-Teledyne Continental Motors' twin-turbocharged TSIOF-550-D2B, a 350-horse six-cylinder with the company's full authority digital engine control, or FADEC.

The designer expects the engine-airframe combination to deliver a top speed of 245 knots and a 220-knot cruise.

Loury first began designing a production aircraft nine years ago while studying aerospace engineering at Georgia Institute of Technology (Georgia Tech), at the dawn of the hope-filled very light jet era.

"It wasn't a canard, and it was very ugly," Loury said of the initial concept.

He subsequently went to work for EADS in France and began developing the Co50 five years ago. In 2007 he built a model of the aircraft and began searching for investors.

He completed a first round of financing in 18 months and began developing the prototype, refining the design with input from potential customers, investors, and users of high-performance general aviation aircraft.

"They brought me a lot of ideas on what they wanted to see in an aircraft, and the things they were not satisfied with from airplanes that are on the market," Loury said of those who contributed ideas.

Cabin space, speed, and visibility were among their primary concerns.

The twin tail fins were incorporated to ensure the wide cabin does not block airflow over the tail fins in any flight configuration.

Cobalt plans to rely on subcontractors to build the majority of the parts, and 95 percent of the prototype on display at the Cobalt Booth (#21 and #22 in the Main Aircraft Display area) was subcontractor-supplied. The company plans to make its first flight in the prototype Co50 before the end of this year.

"To be quite honest, I hesitated to come here because I wanted to have something flying before coming to Oshkosh," said Loury, who is making his first visit to AirVenture.

"But many people told me, 'If you're not in Oshkosh, you don't exist.' So for investors, for some contractors, for potential customers, this was a good thing to come and show the aircraft."

The Co50 was unveiled online about three weeks ago (www.Cobalt-Aircraft.com), and Loury said the company has received more than 500 inquiries from potential customers.

Preliminary specs for the Co50 call for an empty weight of 1,874 pounds, a maximum gross weight of 3,087 pounds, and a 1,213-pound useful load. The 109-gallon tank gives the aircraft a projected range of 1,150 nm.

Cobalt plans to conduct flight tests in the United States and pursue FAA Part 23 certification initially, and expects the process to take two to three years.

Cost of the Co50 will be about $650,000, Loury said, in line with similar performing aircraft such as the Cessna Corvalis, Cirrus SR22, and Diamond DA50. However, Loury said the Co50 will come standard with many items other aircraft in this class consider extra-cost items-such as personalized interiors.

Loury is under no illusions about the challenges ahead for his company and for the Co50, but exudes absolute faith in the prospects for the aircraft he is debuting here.

"I know what happened to the major new (aircraft) ventures in the last five to 10 years," Loury said, alluding to startups such as Eclipse Aviation and Adam Aircraft whose promise went unfulfilled. "I know the road is long, there are going to be a lot of obstacles, but I'm 100 percent confident we are going to sell the aircraft because we have refined this design by listening to the pilots and to the customers."

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