With 8 flights and over 5 hours flight time in N515XP I guess I’m the worlds high time pilot for Panther LS sport aircraft, and it is time to give my impressions.
These are only impressions and flight testing will continue over the next 4-5 weeks (if all goes well). The airspeeds given are plus or minus and are corrected for the errors we have already found.
Take off is fairly short even on our grass strip, which is often a little long and many times damp. Climb angle at 70 mph is great and it inspires confidence. The Corvair pulls well, but with a 2500 static rpm and 2650 rpm in slow climbs it is not making typical Corvair power. My Cleanex had a 54×58 Sensenich prop and pulled 2850 static and 3150 at 100 mph in climb and 3400 WOT. The 62×48 prop on the 3.0L is holding RPM and power down, but I’m still impressed with the thrust and it is very quiet. 200 more RPM will make a big difference in takeoff and climb, as well as top speed performance (a new prop will be on order ASAP). On the 6th flight with a DA of 2900 ft climb at 110 mph was around 1200 ft. per minute and at 95 it’s closer to 1500. I’ve been cruising at about 21 inch manifold and around 2800 rpm. This gives me a solid 135 indicated and under 5 gal per hr. fuel burn. WOT at 5000 ft DA was about 158 indicated and 3100 rpm. This is low rpm for a Corvair, it should be up around 3400. We will soon start documenting performance and post information as we gather data and have reliable info we are confident in.
Basic handling is excellent. It has quick, light positive handling in all axis, without being twitchy or prone to PIO. Much of this is owed to the long stick with ample travel and text book tail volumes. The yaw and pitch rates per unit force are perfect in my opinion. The ailerons are also powerful and in 45 to 45 reversals it feels great. Roll rates build up and fall off after 50% travel, and overall roll rate is around 140 degrees per second. I’m still poring through flight data recording from the MGL but should get actual rates soon. I would like to see roll rate higher though, so after testing will likely do some experimenting. I’ve been warned already that most yank and bank pilots will likely find the roll rate exciting, so I will get more feedback before making permanent changes. It is positively stable in pitch and trims well in climb, cruise and pattern speeds. It stalls honestly with ball centered and if a little sloppy on rudder tends to drop left wing a bit. Stall speed at this point seems to easily meet the LSA 51 MPH clean requirements at about 48 mph true, corrected for sea level.
OK now the fun stuff, what the Panther is made for: On the 7th flight all instruments and indications were perfect. Gripes were fixed and verified , so I carefully tested from stall to 180 MPH TAS (Vne 200) and 3.5 Gs. I did a few aileron rolls, barrel rolls, and lazy 8s. (and a few radical as my uncle Bob calls them). After a complete airframe and engine inspection, I launched for the local fuel stop 20 miles away. I flew wing on Bob Woolley’s RV-4 and it was a joy to do some formation work in her after spending a long 10 months of building! We fueled and headed home. Near our home airport Bob signaled to go in trail and we proceeded to gently and freely trade airspeed and altitude for about 10 minutes in smooth rolling and looping maneuvers. I realized after that I hadn’t put the GO Pro in. Darn; it’s likely the last time I will have that RV in front of me. But we will see soon enough. As I flew along looping and rolling I was caught with emotion. This airplane was just electronic dots on a screen a year ago. Now I was in it as I had imagined 1000 times. The world slowly moved around and I truly realized how well the Panther flies. It was designed for this, and to help share this type of flight with others. The Panther performs and handles as good as I hoped (and planned, and planned for).
I want to take a moment to thank my friends and family and customers for their support, tolerance and assistance on this project. My friends at and around Haller were always here to help or lend a bolt or rivet. I thank my God for the opportunity and blessing to accomplish this, and the courage to dream even bigger!
I thank my best friend, business partner and wife, Rachel for everything she’s done to realize this dream of ours. Many guys have supportive wives, but I have one who makes me feel like this is her dream as much or more than mine. The best part of this project has been working side by side with her. (She is so cute with pro-seal on her nose). Thank You Rachel !
Stay tuned for more flight test info and videos.
– Dan Weseman