Piaggio says jet will come, but only when time is right

NBAA Convention News » 2009
October 19, 2009, 4:43 PM

Piaggio Aero CEO Alberto Galassi yesterday confirmed that the company’s much anticipated, follow-on aircraft to the P.180 Avanti II turboprop would be a jet. “Definitely,” he said. 

Galassi also said that he expects India’s Tata Group, currently a major Piaggio Aero shareholder, to play a major role in the new aircraft’s development and production. “On the new aircraft, 100-percent yes. I am expecting their interest to be confirmed.” Tata currently manufactures aircraft structural components for a variety of companies, including Boeing.

However, Galassi said that Piaggio (Booth No. 1097) has no plans to provide additional details on the jet until it is closer to its first flight and market conditions improve. “The world is not ready for it–yet,” he said. “We will be ready at the right time with the right plane,” he said. “When the world is ready for it, we will be there.”

Galassi said that “none” of the artists’ renderings of the new aircraft being circulated by third parties are representative of its likely appearance.

He said Piaggio’s P.180 production is down 12 percent year-to-date and that the company plans to deliver 28 or 29 aircraft this year, down from 30 last year. The business aircraft community needs to act to stabilize prices, he said. “We need to convince customers that if they wait until next month the price of the airplane will not necessarily be cheaper. There is a limit to the falling down, to the erosion of prices, and it will end sooner than later.” Piaggio Aero has a backlog of 73 of the $7.195 million aircraft, worth an estimated $500 million. Despite the backlog and an anticipated move into a new factory, Galassi said Piaggio has no plans to increase production. “If the market stays like this, absolutely not.”

Galassi said Piaggio plans to move into its new Italian factory within 18 months of starting construction, now estimated to begin early next year.

The company is actively considering product improvements to the P.180, including range and external noise reduction, but there are no immediate plans for uprated engines beyond those currently on the Avanti II.  Galassi said he did not know if Tata would play a role in providing components for the P.180 in the future. “We haven’t explored that yet,” he said. 

In the U.S., fractional-provider Avantair, growing at an annual rate of 18 percent, continues to be the leading customer for the aircraft and is to take delivery of three more here at NBAA, bringing its total fleet size to 55. Currently, 196 P.180s are in service worldwide and the 200th is scheduled to be delivered in November.

Piaggio also announced the addition of new independent service centers in Canada and the U.S., including SkyServ in Montreal and Toronto, Banyan Air Service in Fort Lauderdale and West Star Aviation in St. Louis. The company also has appointed new sales representatives covering Canada and the U.S.

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