Textron Inc. is buying into electric flight. The aviation and defense company, perhaps best known for its Cessna and Beechcraft brand planes, announced today it would purchase Pipistrel, the company behind the first electric plane to receive full certification from Europe’s version of the FAA.
Founded in 1989 as a manufacturer of gliders and light aircraft, Pipistrel is notable for its creation of the Velis Electro, which in 2020 became the first and only electric plane thus far to receive full certification from the European Union Aviation Safety Agency (EASA).
Neither company disclosed the purchase price, but in a March 17 release, Textron said the deal is expected to close in the second quarter of the year. At that point, it will join a new branch of Textron’s business, Textron eAviation, dedicated to low-emissions aircraft.
While the new sustainable aircraft branch will be headquartered in Wichita, Kansas, Textron says Pipistrel will maintain its existing European operations, including its headquarters, R&D, and manufacturing site, in Slovenia and Italy. Pipistrel’s founder and current CEO, Ivo Boscarol, will continue to consult on the company’s projects for two years and remain a minority stakeholder.
In a joint statement, Boscarol noted the deal will lend Pipistrel more resources to continue on future projects. “To drive Pipistrel’s ambitious goals and to continue its story of success, the joining of Textron and Pipistrel provides deep expertise and resources which would otherwise be inaccessible to Pipistrel alone,” he said.
Textron CEO Scott Donnelly said the purchase will advance the company’s long-term goals to increase its stake in the emerging electric aviation industry.
“Pipistrel puts Textron in a uniquely strong position to develop technologies for the sustainable aviation market and develop a variety of new aircraft to meet a wide range of customer missions,” Donnelly said.
Thursday’s statement recalls remarks made by Donnelly on Textron’s latest earnings call. In reference to Boeing Co., which had previously invested $450 million in Wisk Aero, an electric vertical take-off and landing startup, Donnelly claimed his company is better placed than other companies to move into innovative electric aircraft.
“I think we’re in a better position than anyone to go execute on these market opportunities,” Donnelly said on the call. “I think the advantage for us is that we have already, in the company, the infrastructure and the talent to do these sorts of things. So, I don’t need to announce a half-a-billion-dollar investment.”