US fractional operator Avantair has ordered 36 Piaggio Avanti IIs for delivery between late 2007 and 2010. The aircraft, valued at $230 million, will follow on from 23 Avantis still to be delivered under a contract signed in 2004.

Some of the new Avanti IIs will replace existing aircraft as they leave the programme from late 2007, while others are for growth, says Avantair president and chief executive Steve Santo. The profitable fractional, formed in June 2002 and operating only the Avanti, has taken delivery of its 23rd aircraft and plans to double its fleet by the end of next year.

Avantair will get its first Avanti II in January and create separate crew groups for the original P180 and the upgraded aircraft with its Rockwell Collins Pro Line 21 integrated flightdeck. The uprated engines and increased weights of the Avanti II will be retrofitted across the fleet, Santo says.

Changes are under way following Avantair’s acquisition by shareowner Alfred Rapetti, focused on providing “elite levels” of service. The company plans to manage 10 additional Avantis by year end, to back up the fractional fleet and ensure a shareowner always gets an Avanti, says Santo. The managed aircraft are all 2002 or newer models, he says.

The company will move its corporate headquarters in mid-2006 to St Petersburg Clearwater airport in Florida, where it will service and maintain the fractional and managed fleets. The company also has service centres in New Jersey and Nevada.

Operating one type is key to Avantair’s profitability, says Santo, adding: “By the end of next year, we will have more aircraft of a single type than any other fractional.” FlightSafety International will have Avanti and Avanti II simulators operational in West Palm Beach, Florida in March next year, which will reduce Avantair’s costs, as training is now performed in the aircraft. “To qualify a second in command takes 18h in the aircraft, and that is expensive,” Santo says.

Source: Flight International