First Step Is De-Mining The Area Where Construction Will Take Place
The first ground works at Pipistrel's new facility at Italy's Gorizia Airport, just 15 miles from Pipistrel Headquarters in Slovenia, began on Friday, February 24th, according to the company. The new facility will be built at the Duca d’Aosta airport next to Gorizia.
The area where the factory will be located was heavily bombed during the WWI, so it is subject to a law which requires compulsory de-mining before the beginning of any construction. A local certified company will remove all the vegetation and the entire top layer of soil in the following months. When the de-mining process is finished, the construction will begin. (Pipistrel photograph de-mining in progress)
Pipistrel d.o.o. Ajdovšcina has founded a subsidiary company Pipistrel LSA S.p.A in Italy in 2010 as the majority shareholder (81%), for production of the Panthera (pictured below), a modern 4-seat business aircraft offering three engine configurations; a traditional avgas engine, a hybrid engine, and a fully electric power-train. Pipistrel says Panthera is so revolutionary that the company has already received a few dozen confirmed orders with advance payments several months before the airplane's public unveiling.
Along with thirty Pipistrel R&D engineers, there are several other partners involved in the development of the Panthera. The aircraft and all its systems are in its entirety a product of Slovene tehnology.
“There are several reasons why we decided to build in Italy," said Pipistrel CEO Ivo Boscarol. "One of them is the so-called bilateral agreement about aviation safety with the USA, which Slovenia doesn’t have and Italy does. The second reason is the weather: in Ajdovšcina we can't fly for over 100 days per year due to the very strong gusty local wind, called Burja, which can reach speeds up to 200km/h (124 mph). If we want to produce 200 aircraft per year, we have to be able to test them in the air. The new location is only 17 km away from the current Pipistrel headquarters, but the weather is completely different. The third reason is the availability of space for construction. At the airport in Ajdovšcina, we're slowly running out of space. At the Gorizia airport, there is still plenty of it available. This leaves us freedom for possible future expansions.
The fourth reason – the administrative one – is that the Slovene Ministry of Defence did not enable us to purchase the terrain adjacent to our existing HQ building in Ajdovšcina. The Italian ENAC (civil aviation authority), however, issued the permission in 5 months while the other authorities – the airport terrain lies between two municipalities, Gorizia and Savogna d'Isonzo – immediately started to work together to ease the process. The two mayors really committed themselves to this project, they helped us to obtain all permits and agreements, they appealed for the support of the regional government, contacted banks, they even changed the spatial plan and the road infrastructure, they arranged everything – they really go out of their way to help us!”
The construction was enabled by the Italian Directorate of Aviation (ENAC) which offered Pipistrel a plot of ground at Gorizia Airport for long-term management, and the municipality Sovodnje - Savogna d’Isonzo, which enabled and facilitated the beginning of construction on its territory by issuing all the necessary permits and deeds in a very short time. The value of the building (artists' concept pictured) together with the modern administration and management extension, exterior and all the equipment amounts to 5 million Euro ($6.6 million U.S.). As the building grounds were granted by the relevant authorities, the total cost of the investment turned out to be so much lower that Pipistrel could place a 1.1 MW solar power plant on the roof of the complex.
The complex will be built over the next two years, and Boscarol said the first aircraft should be produced there in 2015. Simultaneously a very demanding and expensive process of certifying the aircraft is in progress, to be concluded by the beginning of 2015.
A large crowd gathered on Saturday, March 17 at the edge of the Duca d'Aosta airport in Gorizia, Italy, to witness the laying of the foundation stone (pictured) for the new factory. Many important local and regional officials and politicians from both Italy and Slovenia were present to hail this new undertaking. Cav. Adriano Ceccherini, the project manager and the co-owner of the Pipistrel Italia LSA company, greeted the present spectators and thanked everyone who contributed to the realization of the plan and the beginning of the construction.
Both mayors, Alenka Florenin, mayor of the Savogna d'Isonzo municipality, where the land for the new factory is located, and the mayor of Gorizia, Ettore Romoli (the airport Duca d'Aosta of Gorizia is under his jurisdiction) greeted the assembled public. The president of the region Friuli-Venezia-Giulia, Renzo Tondo welcomed the Slovene friends arriving at the airport bringing sophisticated technology and excellent know-how, in his speech. He added that the FVG region supports international cooperation along the Italian-Slovenian border.
The foundation stone was blessed by the priest of Savogna, Karel Bolcina. Slovenia was represented by the general consul of Slovenia in Trieste, Vlasta Valencic Pelikan. There were also several mayors of both Italian and Slovene municipalities. Grazia Rusjan, the grand-daughter of legendary aviation pioneer Edvard Rusjan, also visited the event and took a look at the foundation stone. The aviator Rusjan took off with his aircraft for the first time in 1909 from the Gorizia airport.
A representative of the Italian ENAC-a (Directorate for Civil aviation) was also present at the event.