The California-made Cobalt Valkyrie can carry four passengers 1000nm in a super-fast piston aircraft that looks more like a fighter than a shuttle service. P1 speaks to founder and CEO David Loury about his aim of rejuvenating the personal and small business market.
Only launched in November, the striking Cobalt Co50 Valkyrie secured 75 orders within the first 90 days of release.
This could be welcome news for the personal aviation market, which took such a merciless beating at the hands of the global financial crisis. Of course, there is potential for business use, too. The Valkyrie can fly 4 passengers (plus pilot) more than 1,000nm at 260 knots – making it the fastest single engine piston aircraft in its class. And costing less than US$600,000 means it’s an affordable transportation option that’s proving popular with businessmen and CEOs.
Based in San Francisco, Cobalt’s mission is to transform the private aircraft experience with a new category of plane that are design-centric, stunningly sleek, modern, as well as super fast, safe and easy to fly.
The company has just appointed a new test pilot to the team. James Schwartz, a former Delta pilot, will command Cobalt’s test program for FAA certification.
“The Cobalt Valkyrie is a magnificent airplane and it has created a tremendous amount of much-deserved interest,” said Schwartz. “It’s a beautiful design, profoundly enjoyable to fly, and it will outperform anything in its class.”
The Valkyrie is the fastest private aircraft in its class with the ability to travel up to 260 knots. In contrast, other single engine piston aircraft usually tap out at 242 knots. It is also a safe Canard aircraft, with a forewing to help prevent stalling. It also comes with onboard parachute. and the cockpit provides superb visibility.
Outside, the aircraft looks like a fighter jet, and comes in a range of custom finishes. Inside, passengers can expect premium leather seats, while the rear-mounted engine provides a quieter cabin.
It all looks and sounds great, and you know what they say about things being too good to be true, so is there a catch? One potential spanner in the works could be FAA certification, with paperwork yet to be submitted.
Cobalt’s founder and CEO, David Loury had the vision to improve the flying experience 10 years ago when he founded Cobalt. He spoke to P1 about the Valkyrie and his aspirations in aviation.
Q. Why did you decide to launch Cobalt?
A. 10 years ago in Paris, I drafted the first sketches of the aircraft designs and registered Cobalt as a company in 2008. At that time, I started Cobalt because the aircraft available on the market did not offer the experience my friends and I fantasized about flying. The plane designs were outdated and uncool. The flying experience was too noisy, cramped and slow while the user interface was too complex. We desired a design-centric, sleek, private aircraft that went super fast while still being safe and easy to fly.
Q. Bearing in mind this was 2008, at the start of the financial crisis, how hard was it to secure seed funding?
A. It was tough. Many people thought that I was a little bit crazy to pursue my dream of building my own private aircraft company. After many years of hard work and dedication, I was fortunate to work with European funders who understood my vision that the aviation industry was in desperate need of disruption.
Q. What has been the process to get to where you are today with the Co50? Was the Co50 the aircraft you always wanted
A. When I was first designing the Valkyrie, I looked at the market and identified a true need for sleek, modern, personal aircraft. The company spent many years refining avionics, redesigning the plane and ensuring that Valkyrie would be the safest single engine piston plane on the market. Cobalt is the plane of my dreams — a sleek, world-class, design-centric aircraft that’s sleek and super fast, complete with advanced safety and technology features for travel-loving consumers and aviation enthusiasts.
Q. The aircraft is fast, safe and easy to fly – which is the most important?
A. Safety is the utmost priority to Cobalt and our customers, which is why we equipped the Valkyrie with a Canard engine, which does not stall in the air. The small third wing located towards the back of the plane provides tremendous peace of mind to pilots and ensures the industry’s safest landings and takeoffs. An on-board parachute is also available for an additional sense of security.
Q. Do you envisage the Co50 being used as a business aircraft?
A. Yes, we see the potential for both business and consumers to purchase the Co50. In February 2016, Cobalt announced over US$50 million in pre-orders of the company’s first model, the Co50 Valkyrie, within the first 90 days. The Valkyrie has seen significant interest from investors, pilots and travel enthusiasts around the globe.
Upon opening the order book, Cobalt received hundreds of inquiries to buy the plane, including 29 orders that were placed within the first 24 hours. Many of the interested buyers are from top technology companies in Silicon Valley like Google and Apple. The company also witnessed strong pre-order sales in top international markets, including Canada, the United Kingdom, Germany, Australia, and Brazil.
Q. When do you hope to gain FAA certification and begin first deliveries?
A. The FAA type certification process is long, cumbersome and very expensive. Cobalt has the FAA paperwork complete but not submitted. My hope is that it can be achieved in the next two years. In the meantime, Cobalt is taking pre-orders for the experimental version. Cobalt plans to begin filling its orders for the experimental version as early as Summer 2016.
Q. Do you think the design will be a hit?
A. Cobalt’s design has been very well received by the market so far. Many people have described it as “fighter jet-inspired” and “luxurious.” The design was inspired by classic fighter jets with clean lines and premium finishes. The Valkyrie impresses people with its understated elegance. Pilots really appreciate the beautiful, expansive visibility above and below. Valkyrie has the largest one-piece canopy in the world and unrivaled visibility with a 320-degree view. My team will exclusively manufacture the Valkyrie in California to ensure quality standards and fast delivery to early buyers.
Q. Who do you see as your customers, and who are your competitors?
A. Our prospective customers are recreational pilots, aviation enthusiasts and those who appreciate the benefits of private travel. Our top competitor is Cirrus.
Q. Are there plans to launch other models of Cobalt?
A. At this time, we are focused on building Cobalt aircraft to satisfy all of the pre-orders. A safe production ramp up for the Valkyrie, consistent exceptional craftsmanship, and conformity to FAA regulations are Cobalt’s top priorities for the foreseeable future.