Oshkosh AirVenture 2014 Rocked! What’s Coming Next…

The SPA caravan headed NW toward Oshkosh AirVenture 2014 on Thursday July 24th and arrived on Saturday afternoon around 4 PM.  We were so happy to be at OSH 2014!!!

It was an interesting trip up. We did make it safely, however we had a few issues along the way. Our resident engineer, Paul Salter, had a total of three tires replacements along the way on his travel trailer. We didn’t blow any tires, but the generator in the RV started acting up. We ended up replacing the air and fuel filter along with the fuel pump. So far this has corrected the issue.

The trip up to Oshkosh was good other than the few mishaps. The kids took turns keeping Dad from total boredom with questions about cars and physics. Andrew with the car questions and Luke with the physics.



Once we arrived we noticed the camping was quite a bit more full than the past years – what a good sign! We did get to park in our usual spot – out in the cow fields in the pet non-generator area. The kids know the layout and the area is nice.

Luke gets a workout while helping Dad unhook the Panther trailer.

The weather is typical of Oshkosh – you never know what to expect. The sun, when it is out, is nice and warm but the breeze is chilly and strong. We had 3 different bands of rain come through on Sunday and only lasted 20 minutes or so. We even had a funnel cloud show up behind our booth! Mamma Panther is very happy to have the ability to tuck the Panther into the Panther Cave for safety when the weather gets rough.  So far we have done that twice!


This year we had Paul Salter’s fuselage in the booth. This was a great opportunity for potential builders to get a glimpse at the ease of building a Panther, along with what a beautiful design our welded fuselage cage is. In order to make everything fit in the Panther Cave for hauling we put Paul’s Panther rear fuselage along side of the prototype and stood the forward welded cage on end in the front of the trailer.

Pete and Barbara Krotje from Jabiru USA came over with a display engine for the front of Paul’s Panther. The Jabiru firewall forward package for the Panther has been designed by Pete and his crew and will be offered through Jabiru USA. You can see more about the prototype Panther and Jabiru 3300 setup with Beta Builder Tony Spicer HERE

The Panther bows to the Jabiru 3300. Easy way to get an engine bolted to an airframe – right?
The Jabiru engine is light (180 lbs) and 120 HP.  A great fit for the Panther.
The Jabiru engine is light (180 lbs) and 120 HP. A great fit for the Panther.


Paul Salter sits in his Panther for the first time!
Paul Salter sits in his Panther for the first time!

Some photos from the booth:

The traffic at OSH this year was steady and heavy all week.  We were extremely happy with all of the new people we met and introduced to the Panther and we were impressed by all of the familiar faces too.  This is a testimony that EAA is a tradition that lives on, continues to grow and people are in Experimental aviation to stay.

People coming by to find out more about the Panther.  For some this is their first time seeing it, for others they are impressed by how far we have come since last year!
People coming by to find out more about the Panther. For some this is their first time seeing it, for others they are impressed by how far we have come in a year!

New Panther builder John Steere is looking forward to starting his build.  He is no amatuer builder.  Among other things he has built an BD-4 with a super charged 3.8L Ford V6 and has been flying it for years.  We have some of the coolest builders!

New Panther builder John Steere - looking forward to starting his Panther project!
New Panther builder John Steere – looking forward to starting his Panther project!

Builder Kelley Kokemiller found renewed motivation for building his Panther after trying the Panther cockpit on for size for the first time.  He purchased a Panther tail kit last year at Oshkosh and hasn’t done much building, simply because life gets in the way.  After I found out he had never tried the Panther on for size I insisted he climb in so I could take a quick photo.  After sitting in the Panther he is raring to go and came back the next day to upgrade his tail kit to a full Panther kit!

Builder Kelley Kokemiller tries the Panther on for size  and finds renewed motivation to build!
Builder Kelley Kokemiller tries the Panther on for size and finds renewed motivation to build!

We had a record tall guy try the Panther on this year.  Last year our tallest was 6’5″.  This year the record stands at 6’7″.  A Panther for all sizes, simply with the pull of a pin – adjustable from 5’2 to …..now 6’7″

This gentleman on the right is 6’7″ tall. Paul Salter on the left is 6’1″.


All three kids were with us at Oshkosh this year.  Our oldest, Brett, recently graduated so this is likely the last year we will have him with us.  Our kids love going to Oshkosh every year – they hit the ground running as soon as we arrive and we generally don’t see them until they get hungry.  In the mornings we head to the booth and they head to the park, museum or the Ford tent to start their days.  We purposely don’t give them lunch money and this forces them to stop by the booth at least once during the day, because we all know that kids love to eat, especially boys.  They generally show up by noon, and always have a clan of kids they have either recently met or found from previous years.  EAA is a family oriented organization and it shows with the families that come, and camp, and bring their kids and grandkids to share the Experimental Aviation world with them.

We took the younger kids with us to the Homebuilders dinner again this year and heard two families give speeches.  First was the family who designed the Breezy – the Unger family – this was their 50 year anniversary.  The founder and father of Breezy, Carl Unger, passed away last year and his son spoke.  We also heard from Chris and Sebastian Heintz with Zenith, another family owned business.  The EAA is about family and friends and sharing a common goal – making your dreams a reality, and it shows everywhere you look at AirVenture.

Luke and Andrew at the Homebuilders Dinner
Luke and Andrew at the Homebuilders Dinner

We may have been at Oshkosh but Panther construction is happening at a rapid pace nonetheless!

Tony Spicer has his fuselage forward and rear mated – see HERE for more photos!

Tony Spicer is building the Panther LSA with the Jabiru 3300.

Bob Woolley has his forward and rear fuselage mated and landing gear installed – won’t be long until he is rolling it around and making airplane noises!

Bob Woolley is building a pre-production Panther Sport with a Lycoming O-320
Bob Woolley is building a pre-production Panther Sport with a Lycoming O-320

Builders Eric Muehlberg and Will Mensink have completed their wings, tail and rear fuselage. They are working on getting their forward fuselages mated to the rear now.  Eric is powering his Panther with a Lycoming O-235 and Will is going with a configuration of the light weight Titan O-340 from Titan Experimental Engines.

Builder Dan Heath recently received his shipment of parts and is working on his wings.  Dan is powering his Panther LS with a Corvair conversion engine.  See his progress HERE

Back at the SPA production shop the welding production continues! Welded fuselage cage #13 is complete and more on the way. We are churning out one a week on average.

Production continues at SPA.
Production continues at SPA.

Our CNC shops are running more sets of sheet metal parts as well to keep parts rolling out to customers.

We are now headed back towards FL in our caravan.  It is a 24 hour drive that takes us a little over two days to complete.  We headed out of Oshkosh Sunday evening and should arrive home Tuesday evening if all goes well.  The kids are catching up on some much needed sleep.

Andrew snoozing..
Andrew snoozing..
Luke snoozing
Luke snoozing

While we were at Osh we took some time to follow up with vendors.

Coming in the Next Few Months:

Panther Hardware kits – we are working with suppliers to offer the hardware kits on our website to be included with the kit shipments.  This will provide one stop shopping for our customers, all at our website and give a better overall total project cost for builder budgeting purposes.

Panther Canopy Covers – Cleveland Tools will be making a pattern in the next few months for Panther canopy covers.

Panther Tool Kits – Avery Tools is working on getting a tool kit available on their website to include the tools needed to build a Panther/Cougar.

Corvair Stroker Crankshaft Kits –  We received our first Corvair billet stroker crankshaft, made in the USA from USA sourced forged billet Timken 4340 steel.  It is CNC cut from the solid forged billet, then ion nitride treated.

After flight testing we will offer two options.

The first will be a drop in/bolt together option requiring no machine work on the case and use our stock bore pistons designed to work with our stroker crank.  This will allow you to bolt together a 2975 CC engine.  This takes the original 2700 Corvair conversion to approximately a 2975 CC engine which should equal the output of the current 3.0L engine.

The second option will be designed to use the 92mm cylinder of the current 3.0L conversion along with our stroker crankshaft and custom piston which will produce a 3300 cc engine.

Before we start flight testing we will use an independent, unbiased dynamometer against our currently running Panther Prototype 3.0L engine and the new 3300 CC engine build.

Engine Options for Panthers – Since SNF 2014 Dan has been working with Titan to spec an ultra light weight engine for the Panther/Cougar.  This OSH 2014 Titan brought an 320LT for display and had some literature about this new engine combination.  See HERE FOR MORE INFO

The basic engine will be a conical mount O-320 with a Titan designed magnesium rear cover.  Using ECI’s tapered fin O-320 cylinders and a light weight crankshaft/rod/piston combination, it will use relatively low compression and be able to burn low octane fuels.  Induction and ignition, well as accessories will be finalized in the coming weeks and will go into Titan’s dynamometer.

The goal is to offer the largest displacement engine, light enough for the LSA Panther version which would further solidify the Panther LS as the highest performing sport LSA aircraft available on the market.  Also this would be an ideal engine on the Cougar LS.

We are also going to work with Titan on a light weight O-340 which could prove to be the optimum engine for the Panther Sport (non-LSA).

After testing our Corvair stroker crank this fall we are considering re-engining the Panther Prototype.    Look for a poll in the next few months to give your feedback on what engine you would like to see flight tested.

And in closing:

The words of Colin Powell – “A dream doesn’t become reality through magic; it takes sweat, determination and hard work.” 

Now that we have renewed motivation, like builder Kelley Kokemiller, after an inspiring week at Oshkosh AirVenture 2014 we head back to FL to put in the sweat and hard work to make the dream transform into the reality.  And because of the dreams, sweat and determination of our fellow Panther builders our first few Panther cubs are only months away from their first flights!  This will be an exciting few months!




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