|First flight||23 September 1986|
|Introduction||30 September 1990|
|Primary users||Italian Air Force|
|Number built||246 (Dec 2020)|
The Piaggio P.180 Avanti is an Italian executive transport aircraft with twin turboprop engines mounted in pusher configuration. It seats up to nine people in a pressurized cabin and may be flown by one or two pilots. The design is of three-surface configuration, having both a small forward wing and a conventional tailplane, as well as its main wing, with the main wing spars passing behind the passenger cabin area.
A 1980s wave of new-generation planes, developed to appeal to Fortune 500 clients, included Piaggio's Avanti and Beech Aircraft Corp.'s very similar Starship. Engineering studies for the airplane that would eventually be named Avanti began in 1979 and designs were tested in wind tunnels in Italy and the United States in 1980 and 1981, conducted by Professor Jan Roskam from the University of Kansas (using Wichita State University's wind tunnel and Boeing's transonic wind tunnel in Seattle) along with Professor Gerald Gregorek at Ohio State University (using OSU's 2D pressure wind tunnel).
Piaggio's chief engineer, Alessandro Mazzoni, filed in 1982 to patent the Avanti design. Beginning in 1983, Gates Learjet partnered with Piaggio to develop a fuselage for the new aircraft (referred to as Gates Piaggio GP-180). Learjet's design influence can be seen in the steeply raked windshield and the two large ventral delta fins under the tail. At high angles of attack these delta fins provide a nose-down pitching moment and help to avoid a potential stall, and they increase stability in flight by damping yaw and Dutch roll.
Gates Learjet's financial problems ended their collaboration in January 1986, but Piaggio continued the project, and the first prototype flew on 23 September 1986. The P.180 Avanti received Italian certification on 7 March 1990 and American certification was obtained on 2 October 1990.
The first 12 fuselages were manufactured in Wichita, Kansas, with H & H Parts and Plessey Midwest, then flown to Italy for final assembly. Avanti Aviation Wichita ran out of money in 1994; the project languished until a group of investors led by Piero Ferrari became involved in 1998. The 100th aircraft was delivered in October 2005 and the 150th in May 2008. Piaggio reported that, as of October 2010, the Avanti and Avanti II fleets had logged over 500,000 flying hours.
An improved Avanti II obtained European and U.S. certification in November 2005. Six months later, 70 planes had been ordered, including 36 by Avantair. Avanti II received type approval for Russia in 2011. The Avanti II featured uprated Pratt & Whitney Canada PT6A-66B turboprop engines and flies about 18 km/h (11 mph) faster, with better fuel economy; and an all-new "glass panel" avionics suite from Rockwell Collins reduced cockpit clutter. In addition to heading, attitude and navigation information, flat panel color liquid crystal displays add collision avoidance (TCAS), ground proximity (TAWS) and real-time graphic weather depiction.
The Avanti is marketed as being faster than other turboprops and many midsized jets, with cost efficiency as much as 40 percent better than market-competing jets, as a result of less drag and a lower fuel burn rate. Powered by the same Pratt & Whitney Canada PT6A-66 engines as the Beech Super King Air 200, the Avanti II is 100 knots (190 km/h) faster than that model. Flying magazine judged the Avanti to be the "Fastest Civilian Turboprop Twin" in 2014, saying "Avanti's speed is pretty much on par with Cessna's M2, while providing more space and a lower operating cost."
First flown in 2013, the P.1HH UAV prototype crashed off Sicily in May 2016 after 100 hours of flight tests; a second prototype flew in July 2017 before two others joined. The first Avanti EVO manufactured at the new $150 million factory at Albenga Airport was delivered in 2016, one year after moving production from its previous Genoa Cristoforo Colombo Airport plant.
On 22 November 2018, Piaggio Aerospace entered receivership after declaring itself insolvent as its restructuring plan failed. After the financial crisis of 2007–2008, a key US fractional customer went bankrupt and P.180 Evo sales dropped from a 2008 peak of 30 deliveries to just three in 2018. By November 2018, no P.1HHs were delivered to the UAE and the Italian Ministry of Defence €766 million support for the P.2HH program was frozen as populist coalition partner Five Star Movement prioritized social programmes over defence spending.
On 21 June 2019, the Italian government committed to €716 million in orders to make the business more attractive to a potential buyer: €260 million from the defence ministry for nine new Avanti Evos, plus an upgrade of 19 earlier aircraft; €200 million for engine maintenance; €160 million for the P1HH HammerHead certification completion and at least one system (two aircraft and one ground station) acquisition; and €96 million for logistics support. While the deals should be approved later, two aircraft had been delivered so far in 2019, and two more remain in the backlog.
Three non-binding expressions of interest to buy the aircraft business had been received, 10 for the engine business and 26 for the whole company. The official tender for the sale of Piaggio Aerospace was to start after the summer of 2019.
By December 2020, the fleet surpassed one million flight hours. 246 aircraft have been produced, of which 213 are in service: 96 in Europe, 95 in the Americas, 18 in Asia-Pacific, and four in Africa and the Middle East.
The Avanti's counter-rotating turboprop engines are placed on a mid-set, high-aspect-ratio wing located just behind the cabin. The three-surface design incorporates both a T-tail and a pair of small, fixed forewings having slight anhedral and landing flaps. On the Avanti II these flaps automatically deploy in concert with the main wing flaps. This reduces the load on the tailplane, even when the flaps are deployed, by reducing the pitch-down moment created by the deployment of the main wing flaps. This in turn allows the size of both the tailplane and the main wing to be reduced. This particular three-lifting-surface configuration was patented in 1982.
The forward wing's angle of incidence is slightly greater than that of the main wing, so that it stalls before the main wing, producing an automatic nose-down effect prior to the onset of main-wing stall; its five-degree anhedral (negative dihedral) keeps the stream wash interference clear of the engine inlets, the main wing and the tailplane.
The cabin cross-section varies continuously along the length of the aircraft; the shape approximates an NACA airfoil section, and the slowly changing curve helps prolong laminar flow on the front of the fuselage. Piaggio claims that the fuselage contributes up to 20% of the Avanti's total lift, with the front and rear wing providing the remaining 80%. Due to the unusual fuselage shape, the mid-cabin is considerably wider than the cockpit. The front and rear airfoils are custom sections designed by Jerry Gregorek of Ohio State University's Aeronautical and Astronautical Research Laboratory to achieve a drag-reducing 50% laminar flow at cruise. The company claims the overall design of the P180 Avanti II enables the wing to be 34% smaller than on conventional aircraft.
The P180 is reported to have good fuel efficiency relative to small turbojets flying in the same speed and altitude range. Flight International stated: "The Avanti has no direct turboprop competitors, its closest jet rivals are the Raytheon Premier I and the Cessna Citation CJ2+ ... Piaggio says low-drag laminar flow is maintained to around 50% of the wing chord, compared with around 20–25% for conventional tractor turboprops where propeller wash disturbs the airflow over the wing... specific air range at high altitude is 3.4 km/kg (0.84 nmi/lb) compared with around 2 km/kg (0.49 nmi/lb) for current jets or 2.7 km/kg (0.67 nmi/lb) for other turboprops." By this estimate, mileage is 70% better per fuel unit than comparable jet aircraft, although this greater efficiency is achieved only at a relatively slow 315 KTAS and FL410. P180 Avanti II Specifications now show slightly lower numbers for specific range of 3.1 km/kg (0.76 nmi/lb).
Interior noise is lower than in conventional turboprop aircraft, because the propellers and engine exhausts are behind the cabin. Piaggio quotes 68 dBA. However, due to the strongly disturbed flow in which the pusher propellers operate, the exterior noise is higher. The exterior noise level and its higher pitched sound has been shown to be the result primarily of the interaction of the turbine engine exhaust flows and the five-bladed pusher propellers (est. +9 dB). On takeoff, the Avanti has been measured at 81.9 dBA sideline noise level, slightly lower than the Beechcraft King Air at 82.8 dBA. This is below FAA stage-3 noise limits, which set a maximum of 89 EPNdB for takeoff. However, the P180 has been the subject of noise complaints at airports, such as Aspen–Pitkin County Airport in Colorado, as well as Naples Municipal Airport, Florida, where that airport authority determined that it was the noisiest aircraft using the facility. Alan Parker, chairman of the Naples Municipal Airport Authority's technical committee, described the Avanti as "irritating loud" and compared the high-pitched sound "to fingernails on a chalkboard".
The Piaggio P.180 Avanti has a sea-level standard-day maximum-gross-weight takeoff distance of 869 m (2,851 ft) and a landing roll of 872 m (2,861 ft).
Deliveries were at a high of 30 in 2008, but only two in 2013.
In 2014 Piaggio announced development of an updated version, named EVO. It uses new Hartzell composite propellers, with blades of scimitar configuration. Its wings carry new winglets; aerodynamic improvements have been incorporated, and an additional 60-gallon (400 lb) fuel tank option to increase range to 1,770 nautical miles (3,280 kilometres; 2,040 miles). The company predicts improved climb performance, 250 nmi greater range, and 3% reduction in fuel usage. The revised propeller shape, combined with a lower engine speed, promises a 68% reduction in external noise. Avanti EVO type certification was granted by EASA on 28 November 2014, and by the FAA on 6 July 2015. Projected purchase price was $7.4 million in 2014. By 2021 the equipped price was $7.695 million. The first EVO was delivered in April 2015, with five more to follow the same year.
The Avanti is operated by charter companies and small feeder airlines, and is also used as a business aircraft. The fractional aircraft operator Avantair was Piaggio's largest client, with a fleet of 57 Avanti aircraft, before they went bankrupt and the fleet was liquidated.
In May 2017, 220 aircraft were in operation around the world, with 89 being first-generation Avanti, 126 second-generation Avanti II and 6 Avanti EVO models.
A Piaggio Avanti San Diego-to-Charleston flight in 2003, piloted by Joe Ritchie with co-pilot Steve Fossett, set National Aeronautic Association and Fédération Aéronautique Internationale transcontinental speed records with an average speed of 475.2 knots (880.1 km/h; 546.9 mph), breaking the previous Los Angeles to New York turboprop record of 395.21 knots set by Chuck Yeager in 1986 in a Piper Cheyenne 400LS. Elapsed time for the Avanti's coast-to-coast trip was 3:51:52.
United Arab Emirates
Data from Aviation Week
Like the Starship, the Piaggio Avanti features a canard and rear-mounted engines. But the Avanti is made mostly of aluminum, not composites. It weighs thousands of pounds less than the Starship and is about 60 m.p.h. faster.
This is the futuristic Piaggio Avanti. It, and a handful of other avant-garde designs like it are leading American business aviation into the 1990s.
Jan Roskam managed the low speed and transonic speed windtunnel programs for the SIAI Marchetti S-211 and Piaggio 180-Avanti.
As Director of Engineering for I.A.M. Rinaldo Piaggio from 1974 to 1991, he designed the P.180 Avanti, and is the US Patent holder (4746081) for the Three Lifting Surface Configuration (3LSC) aircraft.
Mr. Neal… …will also direct and coordinate the company's role in developing the new Gates Piaggio business aircraft, designated the GP-180.
It is manufactured using techniques 'unique' to an aircraft of its size, according to Ronald Neal, the manager who heads Gates Learjet's involvement with the aircraft, currently limited to fuselage construction.
Perhaps its greatest asset is being the world’s most eco-friendly, twin-turbine business aircraft.
Think of the Avanti II as a jet with props and you’ll be close to the mark…
The Avanti was one of the highlights of my career. The laminar flow airfoils were very clean sheet. I think they were the first of the new breed of laminar flow airfoils that demonstrated high performance at transonic speeds.
Operation of the P180 has climbed onto lists maintained by the airport, which tracks noise events and noise complaints, though the aircraft is actually quieter, in terms of decibels, than some private jets, according to Paul Dunholter, noise consultant for the airport. It’s the pitch that’s noticeable.
Mark Jones describes his company’s newest ambulance, the Piaggio P180, as 'a turboprop that thinks it’s a jet.'
Italian twin-turboprop modified for military missions.
Piaggio Aerospace has rolled out a new multi-role aircraft it is developing with a company from the United Arab Emirates.
The Hammerhead will be controlled from mission control stations produced by Selex, with line of sight and beyond line of sight using satellite communications.
Given that the crashed aircraft was the only version flying, the delivery schedule may suffer while investigators seek the cause of the incident.
The United Arab Emirates air force has selected the Piaggio P180 Avanti II as part of a fleet expansion programme, which includes two of the business aircraft for use as light multi-utility aircraft.