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Jessy Panzer Makes AirVenture Debut

Aerobatic pilot performs afternoon air shows in rebuilt Pitts Special

By Megan Esau, EAA Assistant Editor

July 24, 2018 - Jessy Panzer, EAA 641360, performed in front of EAA crowds for the first time during the Monday afternoon air show in her recently rebuilt Pitts Special.

“I like to call it an S-1M because it’s kind of a mutant,” Jessy said with a laugh. “I say that with all the love in my heart. It’s a one off. It’s a Rich Bastian-built airplane, and he was the wolf of his day.”

The Pitts was built in 1980, and within five years of being built its first owner sold it to Harry Barr, who would eventually become Jessy’s mentor in aviation and aerobatics. Harry sold the airplane after about 10 years and it changed hands among friends and acquaintances until, after Harry and Jessy met, Harry convinced her to buy the airplane.

“This airplane, barring the first owner specifically, has been basically in the family its whole life,” Jessy said, referring to the community of aviators in and around Lincoln, Nebraska. “I didn’t want another biplane, and they said just go fly it, and the first flight, it was just like falling in love. … I instantly knew. I came back, I landed, and I said okay I’ll buy this airplane. I just instantly felt so good, and it flew so good, and it had good horsepower. It was just a performer.”

The Pitts was rebuilt from the ground up in 2012-2013, with Jessy doing a bit of hands-on work with the engine overhaul shop and enlisting friends to do the finish work and painting.

Jessy’s routine at AirVenture starts off with an inverted flat spin.

“The number of the turns varies a little bit depending on the performance that day, which is kind of fun, so the crowd gets to count them and tell me how many I did that day,” Jessy said.

She also performs a double avalanche, a double hammerhead, and a torque roll, among other maneuvers, reaching +6/-2g during the show. Jessy said she is absolutely ecstatic to be flying at Oshkosh for the first time.

“This is the pinnacle,” Jessy said. “It’s the show and the place that everybody wants to be at and everybody wants to participate, because everybody who comes here appreciates what they’re seeing and what it takes to get here. It doesn’t take months to get here; it takes years and a lifetime sometimes to make it happen. So when you do get here, it is so special.”

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