Italian airframer Tecnam has entered the detailed design phase for its P2012 Traveller and has signalled its intention to roll out its first commercial piston-twin early next year.

“The toughest part of the design process is already complete,” says chief executive Paolo Pascale. “We are scheduled to roll out the Traveller in the first few months of 2016. The aircraft will then make its maiden flight in June.”

Tecnam is building a dedicated production facility for the 11-seat aircraft at its headquarters in Capua, near Naples. “This should be ready at the end of 2015,” Pascale adds.

The Traveller programme is a departure for Tecnam, whose line-up comprises mainly light single-engined designs aimed at the owner-flyer, training and special-missions markets.

The company – the largest producer of light sport aircraft globally – has partnered with US regional carrier Cape Air to help it create the ideal platform for the commercial aviation sector.

The Hyannis, Massachusetts-based company is the biggest commuter airline in the USA, with an ageing fleet of more than 80 out-of-production Cessna 402s, which it is looking to replace.

“Cape Air has been involved since day zero,” Pascale says. “Its experience as a heavy user [of commercial aircraft], combined with our experience in aircraft manufacturing, is helping to create the next generation of piston transport aircraft that will benefit both the operator and the passenger.”

Pascale adds that the partners are entering a segment of the aviation market that has been forgotten, “maybe even neglected” by the major aircraft manufacturers. “It has been more than 40 years since a new design was launched in the [6- to 10-seat] Federal Aviation Regulation Part 23 aircraft piston-twin aircraft category,” he says. “There is an urgent requirement for a new small commuter aircraft in this market.”

Tecnam has received several letters of intent for the Traveller, which it will shortly convert into firm orders and begin assigning production slots to the position holders. “Considering the [current] dollar/euro exchange rate, we will freeze the price in euros to keep it more competitive,” says Pascale.

The Traveller will be powered by two 350hp Lycoming TEO-540-A1A engines, which can be fuelled by avgas or mogas.

The aircraft will have fixed landing gear – allowing it to operate from unpaved runways – large panoramic windows and four doors, including a sliding passenger door and a cargo door.

The Traveller is projected to have a maximum take-off weight of 3,290kg (7,253lb), maximum cruise speed of 210kt (390km/h) at 8,000ft and a long-range cruise speed of 170kt.

While the first aircraft will be delivered in airline passenger configuration, Tecnam says the Traveller is also being targeted at the VIP, corporate, cargo and special-missions markets.