Pipistrel’s Four-Seat Panthera Completes First Flight in US Airspace

Right Rudder Aviation is now the exclusive dealer in North America for the Pipistrel Panthera. Right Rudder Aviation

After flying the first US flight for the Pipistrel Panthera on August 25, 2020, Right Rudder Aviation (RRA) in Inverness, Florida, announced recently that they are now the exclusive dealer for Pipistrel’s slick new composite four-seat airplane in North, Central, and South America. Also included in that announcement was a new flight training package available from RRA that can be used to earn an FAA private pilot-glider certificate for $2,999 by using Pipistrel’s Alpha Trainer as a motor glider.

Andrew Chan, Right Rudder Aviation’s chief operating officer, made the first US flight of the Panthera, departing Inverness Airport (KINF) for a 2.5-hour flight to test the entire flight envelope of the aircraft, check all systems, and verify performance figures. As of today, Chan has put about 10 hours in the Panthera.

Currently, the Panthera is available as a factory-built experimental exhibition [aircraft],” Chan said. “Experimental airframes take 9 to 12 months once ordered, with certified deliveries slated to begin in 2022. So far in our testing, we have seen a maximum cruise speed of 194 ktas, with economy cruise making 185 ktas at just 11 gph.”

According to Chan, the factory-built Panthera with 260 hp Lycoming IO-540V-V4A5 will have a base price of €497,000, which was $593,929 as of September 1. A deposit of €50,000 ($59,733) is required to obtain a delivery slot, and Chan estimates that after options are added, an “out the door” price for a factory-built Panthera will be $600,000 to $700,000.

The airplanes feature a glass panel based on dual G3X GDU 460s with both PFD and MFD. Other avionics include the Garmin GMC 307 two-axis autopilot, Garmin 750 Xi and 650 Xi touch screen navigators, Garmin audio panel, and transponder with ADS-B In/Out. Options include long-range fuel tanks and planned air conditioning and deicing systems.

Chan said Right Rudder Aviation is planning a US tour with the Panthera sometime in late September or October 2020. Before that, anyone interested in the Panthera can call 407-734-1442, or email Andy@flyrra.com to arrange a demonstration flight at Inverness or on the tour. “We encourage individuals who express interest in the Panthera to get in touch as soon as possible so we can plan our route for the U.S. tour,” he said.

Right Rudder Aviation uses the Pipistrel Alpha Trainer to lower flight training costs. Pipistrel

Right Rudder Aviation has also announced a private pilot–glider package that starts at just $2,999 and utilizes the Pipistrel Alpha Trainer as a motor glider.

By taking advantage of the efficiency of the Pipistrel Alpha Trainer, Right Rudder Aviation can offer a flight instruction package that can potentially take a student from a zero time novice to glider pilot in as little as two weeks. The package includes 10 hours of Pipistrel Alpha Trainer rental, eight hours of dual flight instruction, two hours of ground instruction, headset, logbook, FAA Glider Pilot handbook, Aeronautical Information Manual, FAA Private Pilot Glider Practical Test Standards, online written test prep software, written exam fee, and the examiner’s check ride fee.

Chan noted that the $2,999 fee for this program does not include travel to Inverness, housing, or meals. He stated that Right Rudder Aviation has a deal with a local motel to charge students $65/night and that students regularly use Airbnb and report rates as low as $30/night.

The Pipistrel Alpha Trainer is constructed with carbon fiber and other composites and features the Garmin G3X avionics suite. The “Alpha” exhibits a good mix between airplane and glider and can serve as a trainer for both purposes. The Alpha Trainer can be flown as a “touring motor glider” on cross-country flights, just like any airplane, or with the engine shut down, can take advantage of a best glide ratio of 15:1 to soar like a traditional glider.

Chan explained that when compared to a traditional aerotow glider, the Alpha Trainer shines. “With an aerotow glider either towed into the air by another airplane or winched up by a car, a student pilot may be able to squeeze a half-hour of flight time and one landing in before having to be hoisted aloft again. With the Alpha Trainer as a motor glider, that same student may be able to get up to six takeoffs and landings in for the same time period, significantly reducing costs,” he said.

Right Rudder Aviation is able to offer its $2,999 private-pilot-glider package because only 10 flight hours are required, instead of the 40 hours required to earn a private pilot-airplane certificate. Plus, students may fly a glider solo as young as 14-years-old and may receive their private pilot glider license at 16-years-old.

“The Pipistrel Alpha can be certified as an airplane or as a glider, depending on how it is equipped,” Chan said. “Ours is registered as a glider and is equipped with a fully-feathering propeller and spoilers. As a motor glider, we do shut the engine down in flight and soar as that is a vital requirement for the glider rating. Hours logged in our Alpha glider count towards total time, and powered aircraft time. For example, if someone completes our course and earns their private pilot-glider certificate in 10 hours, those can be counted towards the 40 required for private pilot airplane. Similarly, they count toward the 250-hour requirement for obtaining a commercial pilot airplane certificate.”

Dan Pimentel is an instrument-rated private pilot and former airplane owner who has been flying since 1996. As an aviation journalist and photographer, he has covered all aspects of the general and business aviation communities for a long list of major aviation magazines, newspapers and websites. He has never met a flying machine that he didn’t like, and has written about his love of aviation for years on his Airplanista blog. For 10 years until 2019, he hosted the popular ‘Oshbash’ social media meetup events at EAA AirVenture Oshkosh.

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