Designed to appeal to wealthy Fortune 500-listers, the Piaggio P.180 Avanti, nicknamed the Ferrari of the skies, is a twin-turboprop executive transport aircraft and is considered one of the safest and most fuel-efficient turboprop aircraft ever designed.
The aircraft is unique from its overall fuselage shape, the wing combination and the twin engine pusher configuration.
The uninterrupted aerodynamic curve shape from nose to tail gives the Avanti decreased drag and improved laminar flow for efficient and high-performance flight characteristics. The aircraft has three separated lifting surfaces which support stability. As a result, the Avanti appears to have a shorter wingspan than equivalent aircraft. It also has two-thirds of the conventional surface area, which makes a major contribution to its overall reduced drag.
The forward anhedral wing has greater incidence than the main wing and provides additional lift to push the nose of the fuselage upwards rather than using a conventional aerodynamic configuration which forces the tail down. The T-tail provides overall stability.
About 90% (by weight) of the aircraft is aluminium alloy and about 10% are composites, including carbon fibre-reinforced plastic for high-stress areas. The construction method starts with shaping the aluminium skin in a vacuum mould and then sequentially fabricating the aircraft in layers.
The Avanti is powered by Pratt & Whitney Canada PT6A-66 turboprop engines, mounted above the wing in all-composite nacelles and are rated at 634kW, driving Hartzell five-bladed, constant-speed, fully feathering, reversible-pitch propellers. The position of the propellers removes the drag of propeller vortices on the wings.
The Piaggio P.180 Avanti can be flown by either one or two pilots and the pilot and co-pilot have adjustable and reclining seats. Similar in design to the Beechcraft Starship, the Piaggio P.180 Avanti underwent stringent wind tunnel tests in Italy and the United States.
Design studies started in 1979 and in 1983, Piaggio partnered with Learjet to develop the aircraft, which can be seen in the raked windshield and ventral delta fins under the tail. Piaggio believed that the USA would be its biggest market. Unfortunately, Learjet ended its relationship with Piaggio three years later due to financial constraints.
The prototype Piaggio P.180 Avanti made its maiden flight on 23 September 1986 and received its Italian airworthiness certification on March 7, 1990. In October of the same year, it received its certification in the United States.
The first fuselages were constructed in Wichita, Kansas and then sent to Italy for final assembly. In 1994, Piaggio Wichita ran out of money and the project temporary stalled. Rescue came in 1998 when a group of investors led by Piero Ferrari, the vice president of the Ferrari automotive company, bought interests in the business. The Avanti II was born and is the successor to the P180 Avanti. Piaggio also upgraded the aircraft with Pratt & Whitney Canada PT6A-66 turboprop engines and a new glass panel avionics suite from Rockwell Collins.
Avanti II was certified by the European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) in October 2005 and the first aircraft was delivered to a private customer in Switzerland in December 2005. The Avanti II received US FAA certification in March 2006.
Orders were received for more than 120 Avanti II aircraft with the 150th Avanti delivered in October 2008.
Further upgrades were introduced in 2006, with Pratt & Whitney PT6-66 ‘B’ engines, offering a 12 knot increase in the cruise speed. This aircraft can easily accommodate 6-7 passengers with a maximum passenger capacity of nine. For those long journeys, an enclosed lavatory is fitted. A flight from London to Athens or Paris to Moscow will take less than four hours. A 570km (300 mile) journey can be completed in 53 minutes. This beats many business jets in time and cost.
In 2014, Piaggo offered the Avanti EVO, with new Hartzell composite scimitar propellers and new winglets. The first EVO was delivered in April 2015. The latest Avanti can climb at the rate of 14.98m/s to a service ceiling is 41,000ft, allowing the aircraft to fly above many weather systems.
By December 2020, 246 Piaggio P.180 Avanti’s had been built, with 213 still active. The aircraft are now wholly constructed at Piaggio Aero’s manufacturing facilities in Genoa, Italy.
Maximum speed: 740 km/h (460 mph, 400 knots) FL310 high speed cruise
Cruise speed: 589 km/h (366 mph, 318 knots) FL410 long range cruise
Vmca: 190 km/h (120 mph, 100 knots)
Range: 2,800 km (4 passengers, NBAA IFR, 100-nm alternate)
Service ceiling: 12,000m (41,000 ft.)
Time to altitude: 10 min to FL 250
Take-off (SL, ISA): 994 m (3,262 ft.)