Kate Sarsfield/LONDON

Piaggio Aero Industries has begun flight testing its re-engined P166 twin-turboprop utility aircraft and plans to step up its marketing efforts in an attempt to stimulate demand for the gull-winged aircraft. Certification is scheduled for late next year.

The Italian manufacturer, formerly known as Piaggio Industrie Aeronautiche, announced plans in 1997 to replace the AlliedSignal LTP101-700 engines with the newer Pratt & Whitney Canada PT6A-121s, and to furnish the cockpit with upgraded Rockwell Collins avionics. Bankruptcy forced the company to delay its plans until a new owner was found. Late last year, Piaggio was rescued by Turkish state holding company Tshav, which acquired a 51% majority share. Private Italian investors took the remaining stake.

Piaggio is also re-engining Italian-based P166s with the PT6. "We are giving all 30 Italian P166s a mid-life update," it says. The Genoa-based firm is targeting the new-build aircraft at law enforcement and border control markets within the Mediterranean region, which it claims will account for the largest volume of sales.

Meanwhile, Piaggio is planning to quadruple annual production of its P180 twin turboprop within two years, from six aircraft this year to 22 next year and rising to 26 aircraft in 2001. "We have 11 firm orders and 19 potential sales for the P180," says Piaggio.

The Italian Government-owned Civil Protection Agency, the launch customer for the new company, took delivery of its second P180 in June. The emergency medical services-equipped aircraft are operated by Rome Airport-based Compagnia Aeronautica Italiana. Piaggio will provide maintenance, service and support.

Source: Flight International