"New" Luscombe Battles Legal Headwinds

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After years of bitter legal battles, a company's plans to build a souped-up modern version of the venerable Luscombe 8F taildragger revolve, predictably, around finding new investment. Renaissance Aircraft LLC has the facilities, the jigs and the equipment and should soon have the legal right to start building new Luscombes, but the court battles have drained its coffers. Renaissance was embroiled in suits and countersuits with the Arizona-based Don Luscombe Aviation History Foundation, which sued over Renaissance's plan to manufacture the 8F. Renaissance ultimately won a $2.2 million judgment against the foundation, which promptly declared bankruptcy. Now, an April 1 deadline looms in which the company has to start paying $21,000 a month in lease payments for 48,000-square-foot hangar built by the taxpayers of Cape Girardeau, Mo. Still, Renaissance owner John Dearden remains upbeat. "I feel very optimistic at this point," he said. As with most budding aircraft manufacturers, Dearden thinks the Luscombe, first built in the 1930s, is the right airplane at the right time. He said that at a price of $80,000, the side-by-side two-seater is less money and has as good or better performance than some kit planes. The word performance isn't often used in describing a Luscombe of old but Dearden's version sports a 150-horsepower Lycoming instead of the C-85 in the originals. The result, according to Dearden, is a 1,500 fpm climb at gross and a 75-percent cruise of 126 knots at 8,000 feet, along with a flaps-down stall speed of 37 knots. "It's a fun airplane," he said. So far two have been built but only one is flying.