First Piaggio P180 Avanti II Goes To [drum roll please]...
This is a story about a
Swiss customer that found his plane over the border in Italy. No,
nobody stole it; it's brand new, and in fact, it's the first
Piaggio P. 180 Avanti II to be delivered to a customer.
Piaggio Aero Industries announced on January 4th that it
delivered the Avanti II to the private customer, whom it did not
name, on December 23, 2005.
"We are delighted to deliver the first Avanti II into
Switzerland as we ring in the New Year," said Piaggio Aero CEO Jose
di Mase in a statement.
"It is the culmination of a lot of hard work and dedication by
our designers and engineers in Genoa, and close collaboration with
our partners, including the European Aviation Safety Agency
The new Avanti II, serial number 105, will carry out corporate
and private flights from southeastern Switzerland's Lugano Agno
Airport, a mountain-girdled 3,800-foot-long airstrip in the
Italian-speaking region of Switzerland. The airfield is at 915 feet
MSL; the Avanti II's performance probably had more to do with its
selection than any linguistic affinity between its new base and its
Which raises an interesting question. Do national
characteristics, stereotypes if you will, show up in planes?
Marketing people think so; that's why they tell us the Pilatus
PC-12 is "relentlessly Swiss," and why SOCATA and Eurocopter, to
name two, always make sure that they hit every signpost of French,
or Continental, sophistication at a product introduction. And
bushplanes like the Murphy Moose or the Found BushHawk wear their
nationality in their muscular stance -- they're as "Canadian, eh"
as two minutes in the penalty box.
So... what would an Italian plane look like? It would have to
have style, like an Armani suit or Gucci loafers. Power, like a
Ferrari or Lamborghini. And it would have to be gorgeous -- like
Sophia Loren in her prime.
It would have to be the Piaggo Avanti-II. This update of the
Piaggio 180 Avanti has all the latest bells and whistles, including
a full glass cockpit, more speed, more payload, and all the
features -- and beauty -- of the original P. 180 Avanti.
The airplane has an unusual conceptual layout, unusual enough
often to be mistaken for a Burt Rutan design (it isn't; it was
originally a joint venture of Piaggio and Lear. And it's mostly
aluminum). The three-surface craft has a mid-mounted wing set back
behind the cabin, a small lifting canard forward, and a t-tail
which produces stabilizing downforce at lower speeds and zero loads
at the plane's blistering 395-knot max cruise (at FL 410). That
speed is average-ish for a jet, but the Avanti II isn't a jet; it's
powered by a pair of PT6s, usually seen dragging a King Air through
the atmosphere at half that pace.
The Avanti II's PT6s are some of Pratt and Whitney Canada's more
robust, PT6A-66Bs flat-rated to 850 shp. (But Piaggio's speed
demons still aren't satisfied. Later this year, uprated 66Bs with
even more power -- and speed -- are coming). They, and the high
altitudes, yield the jet speeds of the Avanti (but at a 40% fuel
savings over a jet).
They are mounted on the back of that set-back wing, in a pusher
configuration, making for an exceptionally quiet cabin inside (for
up to nine passengers), and a quiet, but unusual sound outside.
Once you have heard an Avanti you will never mistake it for
The speed of the Avanti is one of its greatest characteristics.
In the ultimate certification of high-speed authenticity, the
Ferrari Formula 1 Team uses an Avanti to get from their Maranello
home base to the various events around the world. And yes,
seven-time World Champion Michael Schumacher -- something of an
authority on speed himself -- goes by Avanti. (There is a business
and investment relationship between the Ferrari and Piaggio firms,
too). There's nothing "stealth" about the Ferrari plane, as it
bears the celebrated prancing horse on the vertical stabilizer.
While many of the strengths of the original Avanti carry over to
the Avanti II, the differences are more useful load and speed, an
improved interior, and the abovementioned glass panel... but it's
not just any glass panel. The Avanti II's flightdeck features
Rockwell Collins Pro Line 21 avionics, truly state of the art
equipment. The three 10” x 8” liquid crystal adaptive
flight displays are arranged in portrait mode, fully integrated
with the FMS 3000 flight management system and the AHS 3000
attitude heading reference system. The system offers a higher
degree of precision and reliability than the glass cockpit displays
found in light general aviation aircraft, a necessity when one is
playing in the fast-and-high leagues where the Avanti II can
Despite the airline sophistication of the flight deck, or
perhaps because of it, the Avanti II is certified for single-pilot
The Avanti II was introduced at NBAA last year with an order for
36 from new fractional operator AvantAir, and now Piaggio is
sitting on orders for $630 million worth of space-age propjets,
over 100 airplanes (which should let you do a rough back of the
envelope estimation of the cost of a well-equipped P. 180).
[If you really, really want to fly the Avanti... and are a
starving student... pawh a couple of your textbooks and buy this
nifty Microsoft Flight Simulator
version. But the bad news right now is, FSD
International's slick Avanti model is the earlier model with steam
gages -- no Collins Pro Line 21 for the simulator set, I'm
And, if you find yourself in Lugano, perhaps you can catch a
ride in the first Avanti II out of captivity.
After all, there's nothing wrong with traveling in Italian
style, even if you are relentlessly Swiss.
FMI: www.piaggioaero.com (Where the
engineering and manufacturing happens in Italy), www.piaggioamerica.com (North
American completion, delivery and support subsidiary of Piaggio