Piaggio markets the P180 Avanti as offering close to jet speed and a generously proportioned cabin that can seat up to nine passengers (but more typically is configured for six or seven). Innovative aerodynamics give the aircraft its cutting edge, featuring laminar flow optimized throughout the low-drag fuselage.
The distinctive third lifting surface at the nose acts like the horizontal tailplane and has flaps to compensate for pitch by changing the attitude of the aircraft. This feature meant that Piaggio could have a smaller wing for the same payload, resulting in a lighter aircraft and less drag.
The cabin is comparable to more expensive mid-sized jets such as the Cessna Citation XLS and the Dassault Falcon 50. It has a significantly larger cross-section than the rival Raytheon Beechcraft King Air twin turboprop. The cabin maintains sea level pressurization up to 26,000 feet or 6,000-foot pressure at 41,000 feet. It includes a toilet with a belted seat for extra capacity and a heated baggage compartment.
The new Avanti II offers improved payload and range through a combination of new Pratt & Whitney Canada PT6A-66B engines (see main article) and increases to zero fuel weight (up by 300 pounds to 9,800 pounds) and to max takeoff weight (up by 500 pounds to 12,100 pounds). Fuel burn is expected to be around 30 percent better than rival turboprops and 50 percent better than jets in its class. In fact, U.S. fractional ownership operator Avantair says its Avantis are proving to be so thrifty in jet-A consumption that the firm is reporting fuel surcharges 73 percent less than those for midsized bizjets in rival programs, 69 percent less than for light jets and 50 percent less than for other twin turboprops.
In the cockpit, the Avanti II features Rockwell Collins’ ProLine 21 avionics suite. This includes three 10- by 8-inch LCD flight displays, the FMS 3000 flight management system, the AJS 3000 attitude heading reference system, weather radar with turbulence detection, the 4000A GPS and L-3 Avionics’ GH-3000 electronic standby instrument, L-3’s Skywatch HP traffic avoidance system and the LandMark 8000 terrain awareness system.
Piaggio has been conducting studies with Rockwell Collins with a view to possible offering the ProLine 21 package as a replacement for the Avanti I cockpit. The companies have acknowledged that this could prove to be a significant certification challenge, especially because of the digital FMS and autopilot.
The Avanti is certified for steep approach landings of up to nine degrees (including London City Airport). It can land in just 3,500 feet of runway.
According to Massimo Isidori, Piaggio’s senior vice president commercial, the Avanti offers cabin space that the new-generation light jets cannot match. He also said that with oil prices remaining as high as they are, the improved fuel performance of the advanced turboprop is proving to be an increasingly important consideration, especially for executive charter firms and fractional ownership programs.