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Long renovation revives old Slovenian-made plane

Murska Sobota, 23 June - After a decade-long restoration, the Libis 180, a rare plane built in Ljubljana in 1965, took to the sky for the first time in 50 years on Tuesday. Taking off from the Rakičan airport near Murska Sobota in the northeast, the plane was piloted by retired military aircraft mechanic Branko Bunderla, the driving force behind the renovation.

Murska Sobota
Libis 180 taking off.
Photo: Marjan Maučec/STA

Murska Sobota
Libis 180 taking off.
Photo: Marjan Maučec/STA

Built primarily out of wood, the aircraft is one of only ten built by the Letalski Inštitut Branko Ivanuš Slovenija (LIBIS), only nine ever took off as one was destroyed in a fire that also damaged Libis.

The aircraft is considered hard to fly and all but the one Bunderla renovated have been retired after only a few years of flying, likely because five crashed in the late 1960s.

Nonetheless, the aircraft is a unique example of Slovenian technical and cultural heritage, which Bunderla spent 4,000 hours renovating, while experts from a variety of fields invested an additional few hundred.

"Initially, the plan was to renovate it for a museum, but then the pressure grew and the boys said, lets give it a bit more and it will take off," Bunderla said.

The 870-kilogramme civilian utility plane can climb to 4,160 metres and reach a speed of 350 kilometres. It was the first plane built in Slovenia using plastic materials, and it was used primarily to tow gliders or take out paragliders.

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© STA, 2020