A tonic to revive the piston-single

Published: 22 Jul 2016

WW Arthur Léopold-Léger - 20160726

A lifetime aviation devotee, Arthur Léopold-Léger co-founded French start-up Elixir Aircraft to create a family of innovative, low-cost, composite aircraft, starting with a two-seat model set for 2017 approval.

What sparked your interest in aviation?

I was fortunate to have been born into an aviation-loving family, where the passion for flying has passed from generation to generation. Even though I have been surrounded by aircraft from an early age, whenever I see or hear one, I am excited.

For me, aviation is all about travelling, discovering wild landscapes and sharing these moments with those close to us. I truly enjoy taking friends or family and flying as far as I can. Most of all, I love to fly all over Europe.

Tell us about your career to date

I am not sure whether a career is the right word to sum up my path; it’s more about experiences. After completing science at A-level-equivalent qualifications in France, I moved to London, where I studied aerospace engineering at Kingston University.

On a more practical side, since my early childhood, my time was shared between sailing and flying. I have always been a keen flyer, and wanted to become a pilot before I ever took a real flight lesson. In fact, my dad was a flying instructor, so that clearly helped my chances.

I have been involved in a lot of project-building and management. I have built my own racing boat and over 20 kit planes, as well as performing maintenance on many aircraft. This vast experience has helped me to create the first aircraft in the Elixir family: a two-seat, light piston-single.

Why did you launch Elixir?

After interacting with a great number of aircraft owners, I knew that many of them shared the same vision I had about what qualities an aircraft should have – comfort, reliability and performance. From sailing I knew that some technologies unused in aviation could help us to revolutionise this market by bringing much more value to the customer at a very competitive price.

Over the past 10 years, the financial and regulatory environment has been too rigid to launch a company. But following a recovery in the light aircraft market and the introduction around two years ago of EASA’s new certification rules for light sport aircraft (CS-LSA), the decision was made to launch a new aircraft.

Elixir’s new development emphasises quality, safety and price

How will a newcomer like Elixir take on established players in the crowded and competitive piston-single market?

Customers today are forced to choose between very old, expensive, slow, heavy metallic or wooden certificated aircraft and 20-year-old ultralights with questionable payloads, limited performance, non-lasting composite structures using lots of bonding with questionable longevity and reliability.

Elixir is creating a modern aircraft to very high standards of construction, quality and safety – it has a parachute and anti-explosion bladder tank – plus great comfort, performance, payload, price and maintenance.

Tell us about your typical day

Elixir Aircraft was created 18 months ago and each day is different – I love it. The only ritual that we have is a Monday morning team meeting where we discuss every aspect of the work in detail.

There are also some aspects of my life that are consistent, however, such as working in the office each day from 07:00 to 20:00. Since we launched the company, I have had little spare time to fly.

What are your major challenges?

Our major challenge is the planning. We are confident in the product and the manufacturing process. We hope to have the first prototype built by the end of the year and secure certification in 2017. Although we are aware that every aircraft project comes with some delays, we are fighting and innovating every day to try to prove that a small company like us, with small initial funding, is able to make it on schedule.

What are your plans for Elixir Aircraft in the future?

My dream is to bring our innovative methods to bigger aircraft designs, which would in turn make flying cheaper, safer and with a lower environmental footprint.

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