Piaggio Aerospace is celebrating a million flight hours for its P.180 Avanti fleet, 34 years after the distinctive twin-pusher first took to the skies in Genoa.
The Italian airframer, which is seeking a buyer after going into administration two years ago, has marked the occasion with a video of its original prototype – I-PJAR or MSN 1002 – flying over the Ligurian coast in a special livery designed for the event. The example is still used for experimental flying.
Vincenzo Nicastro, the state-appointed commissioner who took over control of Piaggio in December 2018, describes the milestone as “symbolic”, given that the company “seemed to be close to collapsing” two years ago.
Previous owner Mubadala, the Abu Dhabi investment house, had pulled out suddenly after an ill-fated attempt to secure a launch customer for the P.1HH HammerHead, an unmanned surveillance version of the P.180 developed early in the 2010s.
Since then, a series of maintenance contracts and new orders, many from Italian state entities, has helped salvage the company’s fortunes.
“Despite a very negative economic scenario, we have succeeded in bringing Piaggio Aerospace back to being fully operational, saving thousands of jobs and a more than 100-year-old brand,” says Nicastro. “We now look forward to finding a new owner, who, benefiting from a rich order portfolio, will be capable of redesigning the future of the company.”
The P.180 Avanti, the third and most recent iteration of which is the Evo, was designed in the early 1980s by a team led by Alessandro Mazzoni, who was tasked with creating a twin turboprop faster than a similarly sized jet, but with lower operating costs.
His design included not only pusher propellers, but a forward canard to create three lifting surfaces.
Piaggio has produced 246 P.180s, of which 213 are in service, with 96 in Europe, 95 in the Americas, 18 in Asia-Pacific, and four in Africa and the Middle East, according to the company.
The P.180 with the most flight hours – more than 11,000 – is still operating in Canada.
Piaggio says it has a current backlog of 13 aircraft, including the first Avanti destined for the Italian air force.