Piaggio Aerospace is betting that China’s business and general aviation market has matured enough that buyers are now wanting to own an aircraft that is different to others on the market.

“People are looking for something special,” says Piaggio Aerospace CEO, Carlo Logli, adding that the fact that the Piaggio P180 Avanti II is made in Italy is a strong selling point.

He says once people go inside the P180 business aircraft, they can “feel the luxury” and see the quality of the design and finishes. One of the P180’s other key selling points, is it has a top speed of 402 kts, which means it is fast. But because it uses turboprop engines, it is more fuel efficient than a jet. Also the engines are mounted towards the rear of the aircraft and are pusher engines. This reduces noise inside the cabin.

Logli says: “The aircraft is very comfortable and has the biggest cabin in its category.”

Piaggio Aerospace has a P180 Avanti II on static display at the Zhuhai Airshow, one of the two delivered to Tianjin-based charter operator FreeSky Aviation. The Italian aerospace company also recently appointed FreeSky Aviation as its first service center in mainland China.

The other P180 operator is Sparkle Roll’s SR Jet, which ordered two P180s with a further eight on option. Logli says the first two P180s for SR Jet arrived in Tianjin on September 5. This brings to four the total number of P180s operating in China today, he adds.

SR Jet’s P180s have extra fuel tanks, which means the aircraft has an additional 250nm range, increasing its capability to 1,720 nm.

Piaggio has also developed a new variant of the P180 called the Avanti EVO. Configured with new, five-bladed, composite, scimitar-shaped Hartzell propeller blades, winglets, improved aerodynamics and an additional 60-gallon (400-lb) fuel tank, the EVO has improved climb performance, 250 nm additional range and 3% lower fuel burn. The revised propeller configuration, combined with a reduced rpm setting for the PT6A-66B developed in association with Pratt & Whitney Canada, reduces external noise by 68% and internal noise by 20%.

Logli says EVO should receive European Aviation Safety Authority (EASA) certification sometime this month.