If you are new to experimental aircraft building, it is often hard to visualize the exact techniques that are used to build airframes in the major groups, Steel tube, wood, composite and sheet metal. Companies spend a lot of time showing you how cool their planes are, but until you buy the kit, you don’t see a lot about construction. Wood is an easier visualization for most people, and Steel tube aircraft are often seen and photographed before they are covered. Sheet metal aircraft are a bit more of a mystery to new builders because it is much harder to look at the finished airframe and visualize how it went together in detail without first seeing detailed information, particularly in photos. If you are interested in learning more about how sheet metal aircraft are built, particularly how things like wet wings and control systems are done, I highly suggest following Dan’s Panther Building Blog listed below:
Rachel updates it every few days as the aircraft progresses, and there is a lot of good understanding to be had by following it. Dan is working late into the night every day on the plane and it is at the stage of construction were many components are coming together in their final configuration, a good place for new builders to look, read and understand.-ww
Above, Dan stands beside the Panther prototype at Sun n fun 2012, With 601 builder/flyer Greg Jannaokos. Although the plane Has a steel tube fuselage in the cockpit area that protects the pilot and ties together all the major loads in the plane like the landing gear, motor mount and wing spars, the airframe is otherwise all aluminum construction. Dan’s plan is to teach builders the construction techniques and have them make the sheet metal components from plans or kits, and then have them tie all of the sub components together on the steel tube section that he will supply fully welded and powder coated. Dan’s design is named for the Florida Panther, a rare and beautiful wild cat, a relative of the cougar/mountain lion/puma family.
Above, Grumman’s version of a Panther. It also has folding wings, is made out of aluminum and started out life with an engine made by General Motors (Allison J-33) This aircraft was used by some OK pilots like Ted Williams, John Glenn and a guy named Neil Armstrong.
If you have this day off from work, and would like to invest a little time in reading, check out the story behind the making of one of the most moving aviation films: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Bridges_at_Toko-Ri Although I love Waldo Pepper, Spirit of St Louis, and the Blue Max, I still find The Bridges at Toko-Ri my favorite flight film. Todays consumer driven Hollywood requires that every film have 2 or 3 pointless sequels, sold on 30 second tv spots, the story manipulated to tie it into fast food distribution and theme park rides. Todays aviation films like Pearl Harbor barely escape this formula. fortunately you can go back 60 years to a film like Bridges of Toko-Ri and see a real masterpiece that was very closely based in reality. It is not a kind nor uplifting film. it provides no easy answers nor settled feelings. It has a tremendous amount of flying done in Grumman Panthers, long before some thing called computer graphics made everything we see today fake.
Part of my connection to the film is that it was my Fathers era of Naval aviation. My Father spent many years in Vietnam and two long tours in Korea. While these both broke his heart and simultaneously hardened him, he has always said that his years at the Naval Academy after being an enlisted man in WWII are what formed him and prepared him for later trials. On his floor in Bancroft hall, among midshipmen, were three other men the were also being formed, Hudner, Stockdale and Lopez. Even at a very young age, in the company very good men, my Father said that these three stood apart from others. Take a few minutes today to read their stories. The links to Hudner and Lopez are from Wikipedia, read the award citation sections closely, they are moving. The link to Stockdale is a story I wrote last year for the Philosophy section of this blog.-ww
( follow the second link to Thomas_J._Hudner,_Jr.)