Almost 20 years since the P180 Avanti made its first flight in August 1986, the eye-catching twin pusherprop at last seems to have established itself in the business aviation community. Piaggio acknowledges that the radical new design arrived in the marketplace at the wrong time in the early 1990s and its slow initial sales almost killed off the company.
After four or five years in bankruptcy protection, Piaggio was rescued in 1998 by an Italian consortium led by chairman Piero Ferrari (who is a vice president of the Ferrari sports car company, and the son of its famous founder Enzo Ferrari). The airframer is now trading on its association with Ferrari and will introduce some of the car maker’s advanced production techniques at its new Albenga factory. Ferrari Grand Prix drivers Michael Schumacher and Felipe Massa have both endorsed the Avanti, and they and other members of their Formula-1 team use the aircraft to travel between race circuits.
In addition to the Avanti production line, Piaggio Aero also makes subassemblies for Dassault’s Falcon 2000, as well as wing boxes for the Lockheed Martin/Alenia C-27J military transport and engine parts and hydraulics for the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter. High technology aerospace development work is conducted at its facilities at Naples in southern Italy and Nice in the south of France.
Avanti sales and support are handled by the Piaggio America subsidiary, headed by president and CEO Tom Appleton and based at West Palm Beach, Florida.
Last year the Piaggio group achieved revenues of ?205 million ($246 million), representing an 18-percent increase on the 2004 total of ?174 million ($209 million). The group employs 1,340 people.