Italy’s Piaggio Aerospace, which was acquired by Abu Dhabi, UAE-based Mubadala in 2014, said its new five-year plan unveiled in December has already led to positive results. In fact, sales and production of its $7.7 million Avanti Evo turboprop twin are picking up following a few years of sluggish performance.
A change of mindset is seeing a focus on customization to suit demand, including special mission variants and options such as a large cargo door, company CEO Renato Vaghitold AIN. He was keen to stress the focus on Italian design flair in the cabin and that this was particularly appreciated in emerging markets such as Asia and even the Middle East, which is becoming less averse to turboprops.
There are now 20 aircraft in various stages of assembly on Piaggio’s production line in Villa d’Albenga, Italy, including 12 Avanti Evos, said Vaghi. The other eight airframes are Hammerhead P.1HH unmanned variants destined for the UAE armed forces, a program that is also now being pushed through after several years of delays. The Italian air force is also expected to order Hammerheads, which would further boost the company’s return to form.
More than 230 P.180 Avantis are now in service worldwide, 10 of which are the new-generation Evos. “If you ordered one at EBACE, you should have it by mid-2019. There is an eight- to nine-month wait time,” he noted.
“We are hoping to double the production rate in a very short period of time,” said Vaghi, who explained the newly invigorated company has increased efforts to enhance its sales force, agents and customer support worldwide. It already has eight sales/support offices around the U.S. and “many more worldwide,” but wants to “open more where we have a concentration of aircraft,” said Vaghi.
At EBACE 2018 Piaggio Aerospace (Booth T123) has an Avanti Evo in the static display (SD10). According to the company, the third-generation P.180 cruises at up to 402 knots, with P&WC PT6 engines driving five-blade scimitar propellers “and the three-lifting surface configurations work together to give Avanti EVO unique aerodynamic performance.”
The eye-catching design dates back to the 1980s, with the prototype P.180 making its maiden flight in 1986. The Evo’s range is around 1,700 nm, and it has a stand-up cabin height of 5 ft 9 in (1.75m), “the biggest in its class,” Piaggio claimed.
“We have a wide cabin and for operating costs per mile I think the P.180 is unbeatable, especially compared to jets,” Vaghi said, noting that potential buyers typically compare the P.180 with the Cessna Citation CJ2, Embraer Phenom 300, and Beechcraft King Airs.
Furthermore, Vaghi said field performance is “impressive” and “the Evo has improved even further recently. It has better speed with winglets and the digital steering removes a weakness it had.”