Piaggio Working on Avanti Upgrades
Piaggio Aero general manager Eligio Trombetta announced that the company is currently working several new product upgrade programs for its P.180 Avanti II twin turboprop pusher, including new and quieter propellers, an improved environmental control system (ECS), a digital cabin management system (CMS) and anti-skid brakes. He said some of those improvements could start showing up as early as 2012, but was noncommittal on a firm timeline. He said these new features also would be made available as retrofits to owners of existing aircraft.
Meanwhile Piaggio Aero co-chairman Jose DiMase remained intentionally vague about Piaggio’s long-rumored P1XX jet development program, saying “now is not the time” to reveal program details. However, he did say that the company did not necessarily need to form a partnership with another OEM to develop the aircraft and that any final decision in that regard would largely rest with the company’s two majority shareholders, Mubadala and India’s Tata Group. “We are exploring whatever opportunities that make sense,” DiMase said. “The final strategy rests with the shareholders.”
Sales for the P.180 appear to be holding even with 2010 results and could even improve slightly, said Piaggio Aero America president John Bingham. Last year the company sold 11 aircraft and year-to-date it has sold eight. Bingham said the company had made significant progress recruiting new service centers and gaining foreign certifications, noting that the company recently received approval from Brazil’s national aviation authority, ANAC, and Russia’s Interstate Aviation Committee (IAC). In Brazil, Piaggio has paired with Algar Aviation as its authorized sales and service partner. The company also added Corporate Jet Management as its exclusive dealer in the UK and Ireland and Alkan Air to service Egypt.
Currently, 213 Avantis have been delivered to date, and of those, 114 are in the Americas. Florida-based fractional operator Avantair remains the largest commercial fleet operator of the type with 56 aircraft in service, each averaging more than 100 flight hours per month.
The company (Booth No. C6632) currently is building a new factory in Italy at the Villanova d’Albenga International Airport, scheduled to open in 2013. The new facility will be used to manufacture the Avanti and aircraft and helicopter engines Piaggio currently builds under contract, including the Pratt & Whitney PW210S slated for installation in the AgustaWestland AW169. DiMase said the new factory will employ the latest “lean” processes and could easily manufacture 45 to 50 new Avantis per year if demand for the aircraft grows.