A little less than two months after Italian manufacturer Piaggio Aero Industries launched the third generation Avanti EVO, the company unveiled the aircraft during this week’s Farnborough International air show and scored its first major contract for up to 50 aircraft.
The contract, from Hong Kong-based investment and advisory firm Bravia Capital Hong Kong, includes 10 firm orders and 40 options. Deliveries are to begin early 2015.
The order provides a significant boost to the beleaguered Avanti program. In 2013, Piaggio Aero had experienced one of the worst years in its history — its three major shareholders were unable to work together, and it was slammed by the bankruptcy of Avanti’s largest customer, Avantair. Piaggio had delivered just two aircraft last year, and bankruptcy resulted in the dumping of up to 56 of the aircraft into the market.
“We were in serious trouble financially,” says CEO Carlo Logli, who took on that role in May after overseeing a company restructuring. The former CEO of Superjet International says he is now more optimistic about the future after Abu Dhabi-based Mubadala bought out Tata Limited and the Ferrari/Di Mase families to take a 98% stake in the company.
“There was no real focus on new projects,” Logli says. Now the company is forging ahead with the unmanned P.1HH HammerHead medium-altitude long-endurance UAV as well as the Multirole Patrol Aircraft with intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance capabilities; both are based on the nine-passenger P.18 Avanti business aircraft.
Piaggio Aero is also breathing new life into the Avanti progam with the next evolution of the aircraft, the EVO. First detailed during the European Business Aviation Convention and Exhibition in May in Geneva, the EVO incorporates new winglets, redesigned nacelles and a reshaped front wing that will reduce emissions by 3% and increase climb performance by 3%. The reduction in drag will boost range by 50 mi. and the optional 390-lb. extended fuel tank will provide up to 250 nm longer range (to 1,720 nm). The EVO maintains its top speed of 402 kt. true airspeed while lowering fuel consumption by 3%.
Piaggio selected new five-blade scimitar propellers, which, along with the aerodynamic changes, the company claims will reduce external noise by 68% and reduce internal noise by 20%. Anti-skid brakes have been added to the Avanti EVO, along with a new Magnaghi landing gear system with a 10,000 cycle/15-year overhaul interval, a new digital nose wheel power-steering system, a new air conditioner with 25% greater capacity, new cabin furnishings, and other upgrades.
Piaggio believes the EVO will revive sales. The company expects to deliver nine Avantis this year, and 20 next year for both civilian and military customers. “And we plan to deliver 100 EVOs in the next five year,” says Logli, with the first at the end of September.
Logli contends that the company will remained focused on the refining of the Avanti platforms for the time being. While the company has contemplated a twinjet for a number of years, “I think we have enough going on,” says Logli. “In a couple of years we will be in a position to decide where to allocate our engineering resources.”