Plane & Pilot
Friday, April 20, 2012

Ultra-Efficient Panthera Makes its Grand Entrance

Slovenian eco-friendly manufacturer, Pipistrel, revealed their super-sleek "Panthera" at Aero Expo in Friedrichshafen, Germany this week. It was the public's first glimpse of the futuristic airplane that aims directly at the high-speed single-engine market dominated by Cirrus. The four-seater was conceived almost entirely using computer-aided design (CAD) resulting in a low-drag, hyper-efficient airframe that Pipistrel says will cruise at 200 knots for 1,000 nm with four large-size adults on board, while burning just 10 gallons per hour (compared to 17 GPH on the SR-22). In fact Pipistrel says the performance figures are true "for any payload."

Innovation is everywhere on the Panthera, including a windscreen that utilizes a single center post and wraps all the way behind the custom-airfoil wing, affording helicopter like visibility. The three unusual, gull-wing doors gape wide open for entry and exit, and the Panthera will come standard with a ballistic parachute system. The T-tailed, Kevlar and carbon-fiber beauty is approved for grass operations. It utilizes retractable, titanium, trailing-link landing gear, and is powered by Lycoming's 200 horsepower fuel-injected IO-390 engine. Inside, the panel is built around the Garmin G500 avionics suite.

Pipistrel calls the Panthera a "personal time machine," and the description fits. The much-anticipated aircraft looks like something out of a spacecraft designer's notebook, with its organic lines and promise of high performance, quiet operation, and ability to use future fuels. The manufacturer even has variations in the works for both hybrid and pure-electric powerplants. The FAA expects to have the Panthera certified in the U.S. in 2015, though Pipistrel also offers an experimental version. The certified Panthera will be priced under $500,000, fully equipped. CEO, Ivo Boscarol, said, "Panthera will shake the world of General Aviation, setting the benchmark for efficiency, cabin comfort and safety for others to follow."

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