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Pipistrel Panthera (combined thread)

I think the figures are plausible.

The cockpit has a low cross-section, which AFAIK is the first-order effect on fuel flow.

I was concerned about this but actually the cockpit is comfortable and way better than the cockpit on any of the microlight/sports (I use the term loosely) types which make up 80% of Friedrichshafen

It's not up to the standard of say the TB20 spaciousness but the Panthera outclasses the TB20 (and the SR22, etc) substantially on efficiency.

The weight is a first order effect too but only if you are flying near Vbg (as jets do, at altitude); GA flies way above Vbg so weight is 2nd order.

They are bound to lose a bit with things like antennae; each rod antenna is about 0.5-1.0kt gone. The KR87 ADF antennae are worse, but can be mounted recessed IF you design for that from the outset. You can also embed antennae in the structure e.g. into the vertical stabiliser leading edge. You can fit two COM/NAV antennae, one above the other, within the VS leading edge. Embed the coax into the composite and being out the two BNC sockets at the bottom. At 170kt TAS that will be worth a good 2kt, and will look good.

It's a very interesting plane, and the design team seems to know what they are doing, which is novel too...

Administrator
Shoreham EGKA, United Kingdom

Looks like a great design and interesting features planned and implemented.

While the IO390 is good as an initial engine as it is Mogas capable as well as Avgas and in a good power range, they will be pushed hard to offer Diesel sooner or later. From the power/weight aspect, the SMA/Conti would be ideal for it, as it delivers roughly the same amount of power but is content with Jet fuel.

The Avgas problem is horrendous and grows worse by the day. Therefore, I would not bet any money on an Avgas aircraft anymore, nor Mogas unless there is a real change on it's availability and price.

The situation silvaire describes in the US (Jet more expensive than Avgas) is certainly not true here, quite the opposite. Checking today's pricing:

Avgas 100: CHF 3.03 (€2.52) per liter, $ 12 per USG

Jet A1 : CHF 2:39 (€2.00) per liter, $ 9.6 per USG

Mogas : CHF 2:31 (€1.92) per liter, $ 9.3 per USG

Add to that, that diesels usually use less fuel per hp, the advantage is quite significant. However, there is another factor which makes Avgas a very bad handicap for a touring plane: Availability.

Whereas Jet A1 is available almost everywhere in Europe, Avgas is vanishing fast and rare and far between where it is available. In Southern Europe, Avgas is found on a selection of airports but the majority in Greece, Bulgaria, Italy e.t.c. do not have it or do not offer it. To fly a 600 NM range plane into S-of Europe needs major planning these days, as you might end up without fuel. I've seen planning examples where the nearest alternate with AVGAS is over 100 NM away, which will cut those off your range. (e.g. Kerkira: Nearest Avgas Alternates are Brindisi and Dubrovnik!) In BG, only Sofia and Gorna Oryahovitsa have Avgas (ok, Burgas has but at € 4 per liter ($19 per USG)) of the customs airports, whereas Lesnovo and Primorsko, who have no customs and immigration, sell at € 2.50. Germany, silvaire, in that regard is still a haven for GA but this changes rapidly if you move S of the Alps, the very reason why most of us do fly GA to get there....

Go South of there and the Avgas situation gets worse. LR travel into Africa or Asia is these days ruled by the Avgas problem.

There is exactly ONE refinery in Europe which does Avgas these days, and they have a monopoly and prices to match. They would love to stop doing it tomorrow if they could and probably will once existing contracts run out. By then, it will have to be shipped in from the US or elsewhere.

So Avgas is one leverage which the anti GA lobby (which is HUGE in Europe especcially in Brussels and Köln) have to stop or prevent GA planes from being used efficiently.

Regarding mixture: Full rich on my airplane won't work for long, in fact it doesn't even work on the ground. We start leaning to 100F ROP basically after climb checks and from there on agressively up to cruise, which usually is around FL070 but can be up to FL170 if the Alps are involved. Yes, an automated system would take a LOT of workload off the pilot. I remember how lovely the FADEC on the turboprop I used to fly many moons ago was... and I've seen engine management with Diesel engines. That is what I'd love to see in the future, one lever.

So looking at this design, yes, definitly a step in the right direction. I am a bit wary of the thin connection between the tail and the rest of the airplane, but it works with Diamond so it may well work with them. This plane may well deplace the Mooneys in terms of efficiency, something no other design has managed to do. Perish the thought they'll bring out a Turbo version in the future?

I do agree however that Pipistrel as well as some other European companies have taken the design intitiative out of US hands for now, especcially when it comes to efficient and europe minded designs. It was about time someone did something along those lines.

There might be something else in the pipeline out of the same corner of the world... 2 seat, Long Range traveller, 200 kt @ 5gph Mogas/Avgas and 2000 NM range.... we'll see what that does. That kind of range would largely make the availability issue go away, but not quite...

LSZH, Switzerland

I would be less negative.

Avgas is scarce but it always was. Very few airports have lost it in the last 10 years.

The IO390 is a safe bet. It should make 2k hrs. Name a diesel you can be sure of. And if you are going to fly to the places listed then you want to be REALLY sure. This is a very hard marketing decision but I think they are right. The market is not in Italy or Greece. It is northern Europe and USA.

They can do a diesel anytime later..

Private pilot diesel acceptance is very low, not helped by what happened with Diamond.

Administrator
Shoreham EGKA, United Kingdom

Neat video. To me, it really doesn't look to have adequate forward visibility in the climb.

I paid $5.30/ USG for avgas this weekend, and premium auto fuel is a little over $4/USG. If I were paying megabucks for the aircraft, I'd personally be happy to accept an extra gallon pr hour (or $5/hr) higher direct operating cost to see where I'm going :-)

Mooney Driver - is the "CHF 2:31 (€1.92) per liter" price for Mogas at the airport, not on the road? Switzerland has about the lowest Mogas prices in Europe.

The other thing to consider is the future of duty-free avtur in the EU - at the GA pumps, this is the main reason for the avtur-avgas price differential.

In the UK, this is already gone. You can still get it but not for private flights. AFAIK there is a "training" exemption... The system relies on self declaration, so I guess it's hardly watertight, but they will get around to it, like they do with everything else in tax collection.

And if you remove the tax differential, the financial case for diesel disappears completely.

All you are left with is the much better avtur availability in southern Europe, which is huge and undeniable.

The present situation is a choice between two options which are both crap but in different ways.

But a pilot with money (and nobody else is going to buy a new €200-300k plane) can afford to fly an IO390.

With so much relatively proven American content, Pipistrel will be able to throw in (I guess) a 2 year warranty, which they would be mad to do with any Diesel currently out. There is a key difference between Diamond and Pipistrel in this case: the Diamonds sold mostly to FTOs, who were "business" users, whereas the Panthera will sell wholly to private owners who, under EU laws, will be able to sue the airframe vendor for any engine issues and it won't be possible to separate the engine and airframe warranties which, with any diesel, you would definitely want to do.

Recently I read an article by Peter Garrison, from the 1980s, on the Socata TB20, shortly after it came to the USA. I will see if I can repost it here. It contained interesting comments on why most European planes failed in the US market.

Administrator
Shoreham EGKA, United Kingdom

in this article Peter Garrison said:

it's not entirely disappointing, however, to find that the Trinidad is pretty conventional; it's like a Cherokee that's been done over at Club Med ... :-)

EDxx, Germany

The 1980s version of Club Med :-)))

(just kidding Peter, I am a child of the 80s and have, oh, let's say 'several' well loved vehicles from the era, not to mention the 70s)

The problem with anything like the Pipistrel in the US market is that if you put the same engine in an RV and you can go just as fast for a fraction of the cost, more practical to maintain, IFR no problem, plus aerobatics. The added utility of four seats plus Euro styling isn't what the average guy really needs, although if its a good aircraft with a reliable engine they'll doubtless sell a few.

The Pipistrel and its ilk are aimed at a "rich guy with pilots license and sense of style" who doesn't actually much exist. Owner/pilots drive Ford Ranger pickups and operate on retired airline pilot income. The few who drive Porsches etc and can throw money around fly warbirds, not anything with a little girly 4-cylinder Lycoming on the front :-)

Peter,

Name a diesel you can be sure of.

Continental seems pretty sure of the SMA SR305-230, otherwise they would not have bought it to market it as their own. It's also not exactly new, has been flying on C182's for a while and with good results.

The Austroengine also has very good performance so far and has done away with most shortcomings of the Centurion engine. The only reason it has not yet been installed on other airframes is that Diamond needs all the production engines for themselfs so Austroengine is not available at this time as an OEM product.

The Diamond issue was not so much a Diamond problem but one of Thielert (today Centurion), who not only marketed his engine with way too optimistic maintenance packet which then bankrupted his company but also ended up in legal problems after that. Centurion engines will suffer from this stigma (despite a pretty impressive safety and reliability record in the last years) but this should not be extended to the other makes.

We should not forget in any event that as well the Centurion as well as SMA and Austroengine now have passed sufficient time to have known operation in flight schools and on private planes to TBR/O and beyond. As far as I am aware they have done so without a significant failure or shut down rate, the only thing which disqualifies the Centurion engine for myself is their gearbox problems.

As for the Avgas situation, well, frankly, Avtur/Jet A1 is available from sufficient sources and in tremendous quantities everywhere, whereas with Avgas you rely on ONE supplier and ONE refinery for Europe and you deal with lawsuits and political lobbying in the US which wants to ban it.

If Continental and Cessna are concerned, so should we be. I have had conversations with people who regularly fly long distance flights and who tell me that AVGAS is the single most limiting factor in this undertaking. Avgas airplanes need today a range of 1000 NM + to safely operate in Southern Europe, Asia and parts of Africa. and that situation is not improving, it is getting worse by the day. Add to that the political will to strangle GA here, nothing will be easier for the Eurocrats to find a reason to ban Avgas or tax it to $50 an USG and pop goes the weasel. I am pretty convinced that by 2025, Avas will no longer be produced and available in Europe and probably replaced by something in the US, which EASA will conveniently ban or tax here. They C A N N O T ban AVTUR and that is why the future lies with Diesel/Jet A1 capable engines.

Pipistrel know this as well as the next guy, that is why they experiment in electric and hybrid engines. I reckon they are waiting for the Continental TD300 to offer it as an upgrade or variant.

Duty Free fuel will be gone where it is not yet gone. Europe is bancrupt and will grab any cash they can get their hands on, no matter what industry they are going to strangle as a result. I have repeatedly heard cries of battle by taxation officers that Airlines and commercial traffic should be taxed as well fully, no exception. Well, they don't care that they will kill off the airlines with this as well, as in their communist minds they don't want people to travel anyhow! Even in flight forums around Europe I hear such idiots talking how "much too cheap" airline flying has become. Peter, these people are purely evil elitists who feel the right to travel should be restricted as it was before mass transport. We, GA, are like flies or moskitoes on their faces which they would love to eradicate by any means possible. There is enough talk recently again that a liter of fuel for combustion engines should be taxed to € 20 or beyond "to save the environment". Well, this will come. They can't do this to Avtur either because if they do they will close off Europe from international air travel...

If you are not sufficiently convinced about the evilness of these left garbage then look how they are out in the streets dancing and celebrating the death of Baroness Thatcher in this night! I could throw up just watching this deplorable scum.

Silvaire, yes, taken from the Webseite of Birrfeld today. That is the taxed price. Mogas is cheaper than Avgas and Jet A1, but availability in S of Europe is zero, it is basically limited to Europe north of the Alps.

In the US, like Silvaire sais, we are seeing a movement into the direction of uncertified airframes and engines. That makes perfect sense as long as the policy remains that these airplanes can be flown as fully airworthy aircraft and IFR. This however will never happen in Europe. The quesiton is, how long it will in the US. It could well be that it will also collapse there, if some enterprising soul will ban non TSO'd and certified airplanes from flying IFR. of course, the US does have a lobby, which is the main reason they are still flying happily while in Europe we loose a huge share of pilots every year. The new EASA policy forbidding cost sharing for private pilots will do the rest to kill off GA.

LSZH, Switzerland

They C A N N O T ban AVTUR and that is why the future lies with Diesel/Jet A1 capable engines.

That's a very good point but you'll pay for it in complexity and (non-fuel) cost. It's a case of being forced into diesels by government. On their own merits, at current crude oil prices, with current technology diesels are worse.

I am in the US because of the last round of nonsensical anti-market nonsense, early 70s style. It won't work now, just as it didn't work then. I joint you in throwing up :-)

4:15 AM is an early riser in my book, Mr Mooney. Benjamin Franklin would be proud :-)

(P.S. There is zero interest in eliminating FAA experimental aircraft, including IFR. Its the growth area, well managed and moving forward. Do you really think FAA doesn't see experimental-homebuilt as a way to showcase American innovation? It makes them proud, not vice versa.)

And if you remove the tax differential, the financial case for diesel disappears completely. All you are left with is the much better avtur availability in southern Europe, which is huge and undeniable.

Don't forget that Avtur/Jet A-1 has a higher energy density, 1l of jet fuel gives you significantly more energy than 1l of AVGAS (about 25-30%). In addition to that the combustion process of a common rail turbo diesel is much more efficient compared to a 1950s style gasoline engine. So even at the same fuel price, there is a significant advantage.

The SMA engine appears to be a good product. A 2400h TBO already and good experience in the field so far. The Cessna-SMA deal might be the final breakthrough for this engine.

A TB20 with the SMA engine would be a great airplane, same holds true for the TR182. Just need those STCs coming...

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