Piaggio Aero has not ruled out adding a business jet to its expanding aircraft line-up, but any decision to launch a new programme is unlikely to be made before 2017.
Carlo Logli, who was appointed chief executive of the Italian airframer last month, says Piaggio’s immediate focus is to bring three derivatives of its P.180 Avanti to market, starting in the third quarter with the EVO twin-pusher business aircraft.
This will be followed in 2015 by the P.1HH HammerHead unmanned surveillance and reconnaissance stablemate, and in 2016 by Piaggio’s multirole patrol aircraft, dubbed the MPA.
“Our engineers have a lot on their plate right now,” Logli says. “The market is not ready for the P1XX [twinjet], but things may be very different in a couple of years. We will see”.
Logli is confident, however, about the long-term future of Piaggio under the stewardship of its owner, Mubadala. The Abu-Dhabi investment and development company took control of Piaggio last month, after acquiring co-shareholder Tata Industries’ stake.
Mubadala and Tata each had “different visions for Piaggio”, Logli admits, which has hindered the company’s progress.
“We suffered twice during the economic downturn,” Logli says. “Both in terms of [conflicting shareholder] strategies and the weak business aircraft market.
“Now Mubadala has taken control of Piaggio [with a 98% stake], we have a clear and solid strategy for the company, which continues to concentrate on the military and business aircraft sectors. Innovation is alive and well at Piaggio.”
The EVO is currently Piaggio’s only business aircraft offering. The third-generation Avanti was launched last month, and Piaggio is hoping the nine-seat aircraft will breathe life back into the beleaguered programme, which has been a casualty of the embattled light and medium business aircraft sector.
Deliveries of the Avanti II have fallen from a record 30 aircraft in 2008 to only two last year, according to Flightglobal’s Ascend Online database.
“We expect to deliver three Avanti IIs this year – the final one in August. The following month we hope to hand over the first EVO,” says Logli.
This latest civil Avanti incorporates a host of improvements and upgrades over its predecessor, including a revamped and quieter interior, enhanced safety features and increased performance, thanks to winglets, redesigned engine nacelles, a reshaped front wing and five-blade composite scimitar propellers.
“With the EVO we have addressed a number of weaknesses in the Avanti that our customers brought to our attention,” says Logli, a former aeronautical engineer.
EVO flight testing began in February, and the test aircraft has so far clocked up 90h, Piaggio says.
Logli adds that the EVO had a “great reception” following its launch, and he is confident it can build on this momentum.
“The Avanti is unique. It’s an icon,” he says. “It has a great size cabin, great speed and range, and because it is a turboprop it is more economical than a business jet. We should have a lot of hot prospects by the end of the year.”