EBACE: Piaggio moves closer to jet launch

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Suppliers are lining up to join Piaggio's first jet programme, as the Italian manufacturer's P1XX project continues "on course".

Although Piaggio has not confirmed a launch for its long-mooted leap into the jet market, it is "well into discussions" with a potential engine partner, says John Bingham, Piaggio's chief marketing officer and chief executive of its US business.

Piaggio has not confirmed a manufacturing site for its new aircraft, but Abu Dhabi and India are possibilities. The Arabian emirate's state investment fund Mubadala and India's industrial giant Tata each own a third of the Genoa-based company, with the Ferrari and di Mase families holding the remainder.

"It is logical that either of our shareholders could see an interest in an industrial application of any new product from Piaggio," says Bingham.

He adds that, after a tough 2009 for the company, prospective buyers for the company's existing turboprop aircraft, the P180 Avanti II twin-pusher, are emerging.

"People who are serious about their buying intentions are coming out," he says. "All the work we have done to raise our profile is paying off. We are now on people's shopping lists that we weren't before."

About half the Avanti fleet of around 220 aircraft are based in the USA, with 55 of these under the wing of fractional operator Avantair. The all-Avanti Tampa-based venture has been recession-resistant, says Bingham, adding six P180s last year with no cancellations in its forward orders.

"Avantair has given the aircraft tremendous exposure," he says.

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