On Sunday under a humid central Florida sky, a Piaggio P.180 Avanti settled to the runway at Orlando Executive Airport, setting a speed record for Class C-1.E/2 aircraft (twin turboprops 6,614 lb to 13,228 lb).
The trip required 2 hr and 25 min over the 865 nm from Fort Worth’s Meacham International Airport and was flown by Piaggio director of engineering and standards Bill Hauprich, with executive v-p of sales and marketing Jim Holcombe along as a crewmember. Hauprich said the aircraft averaged 361 ktas and reached a cruise altitude of 29,000 ft (ISA+13). The record awaits official approval by the National Aeronautic Association.
Hauprich added that the flight might have been faster yet, had it not been for some initial 29-kt headwinds, courtesy of tropical storm Fay. “Everybody thinks you always have tailwinds when you go from there to here. And you do, except when I’m flying,” said Hauprich with a grin.
The airplane, owned by a California-based customer, was the 50th Avanti delivered.
“Setting the speed record is a tremendous accomplishment and we are delighted to be able to start this NBAA Convention on such a positive note,” said Holcombe.
The sleek twin-turboprop pusher is on display on the static line at Orlando Executive, not far from the Showalter FBO terminal. Holcombe describes the Italian-built airplane as “. . . the only aircraft in the world that offers light-jet performance, midsize cabin comfort and propjet efficiency.”
It is also the only corporate aircraft designed, developed and certified with a three-wing lifting configuration. With a max cruise speed of 395 kt, it is the fastest Part 23-certified turboprop aircraft in production.
Since the creation of Piaggio America in 2000 to provide sales, support and interior completion, Piaggio has increased the number of P.180s in service in North America to more than 30 aircraft and said only one Avanti remains for sale in 2002. The interior installations are done by Stevens Aviation at Greenville, S.C., not far from the Piaggio America headquarters across the field at Donaldson Center Air Park.
The Avanti was first flown in 1986. Holcombe said since then the speedy PT6-powered bizjet has held its value well.