Coming off its first two airplane sales in China, announced last month, Italian manufacturer Piaggio Aero is eager to prove here at the ABACE show that those two P.180 Avanti IIs represent just the opening of the door into the Chinese business aviation market. “We think there’s a lot of opportunity here, which is why we paid so much attention to the market,” said John Bingham, chief marketing officer for Piaggio Aero Industries. “Our strategies on China will develop over the coming months.”
The company’s presence in Shanghai (Booth P316) is augmented by the presence of an in-service Avanti II in a prominent position at the front of the static display. There are presently seven of the aircraft in operation in Asia: three in Indonesia, two in Bangladesh, one in India and one in Taiwan. That number will rise sometime before November when the first pair of Chinese Avantis will be delivered. Around that time frame the company also expects to announce a new support structure for the region’s airplanes.
Piaggio believes that the combination of the pusherprop aircraft’s 1,500-nm range coupled with its size, speed and fuel economy will attract Chinese operators. The Avanti is powered by two Pratt & Whitney PT-6 engines.
“Our aircraft is very green,” said Bingham. “When you consider a fuel burn of under 100 gallons an hour in a cabin that’s a full stand up, in an aircraft that has a top speed of 402 knots [745 km/hour], that’s amazing.”
To further its sales, Piaggio appointed CAEA Aviation Investment Co. as its exclusive sales agent in China, and representatives of the company are on hand at Piaggio’s booth. The dealer, which lists China’s Duowei Group, Beijing Shangshuai Education Group and China Red Sun Health Industrial Group among its major shareholders, began operations last year with an initial investment of approximately $17 million. The company also provides private equity fund investment, aircraft management and a jet card charter service.
During the recent economic downturn, Piaggio, like many airframers, turned its focus from the traditional markets to a more global view. With an eye toward entering new regions, the manufacturer earned certifications for its speedy turboprop in Australia, Brazil, Russia and, at the end of last year, China. The manufacturer delivered three more Avantis in 2011 than it did in 2010. “We think the strategy we took is correct because we saw some growth last year, which we wouldn’t have otherwise seen because the growth was obviously in new markets,” Bingham told AIN.