Interview with Franz Mittermayr

Test Driver

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Interview with Franz Mittermayr

Test Driver

Mr. Mittermayr, you get to do something every day that makes many people jealous: You drive the new PANTHER every day. What does it feel like to sit in the world’s most innovative aircraft rescue and fire fighting vehicle?

It is a great feeling time and again. My own fascination is constantly renewed every time I receive a request from a fan or young kid who wants to visit us from far away for a ride along in the PANTHER. In terms of the driving experience with the new PANTHER, I am especially impressed with the driving cab, which is better organized than the previous version. And the optimized visibility lends itself to a better and safer driving experience.

How many kilometers have you logged in the new PANTHER?

The vehicle has undergone intensive testing encompassing a few thousand kilometers, approx. 3,000, and the test phase is actually still under way, so it will be a lot more eventually.

What are some of your favorite tests you have conducted with the PANTHER?

My favorite is the thrill of challenging driving conditions: sharp curves at high speeds, pushing the limits to get a feel for the vehicle. I also like to drive everyday automobiles and I like speed.

What has been your most exciting test drive?

One of the most exciting trips was definitely the first drive in the new PANTHER at the test site in St. Valentin in Lower Austria. Despite the same routine for many years now, it was an amazing feeling to be the first to take the new PANTHER for a spin – a one-of-a-kind moment. At that time, the PANTHER was still a big secret and there was a great deal of curiosity and the interest was huge – even among my friends and relatives. This contributed to the excitement naturally.

A truly special experience with the PANTHER that I will never forget was my trip to Athens in 2004. I delivered a PANTHER to the airport in Athens. A Greek escort vehicle and a view of the Acropolis at the end of the trip made it especially memorable. The streets in downtown were impassable – too tight for the PANTHER. The police had to shut down the streets and traffic was completely gridlocked. With countless curious pedestrians gawking at me, I had to drive the PANTHER for nearly 2 km in reverse to get back to a passable road.

I also get stopped frequently on public streets and asked, for example, for my special permits. It quite common for people to take pictures or wanting to check out the driving cab.

If you could have anything, what would you wish for with regard to the PANTHER?

If I had just one wish – even if it is unrealistic – I would really like to drive a PANTHER with a manual transmission so that I could really optimize the speed.