Piaggio backlog reaches 70, with no white tails
John Bingham, president and CEO of Piaggio America, did not mince words when he kicked off Piaggio Aero's press conference Monday. "It's a horrible market," he said. Piaggio Aero Industries of Italy is the manufacturer of the P.180 Avanti twin turboprop pusher. But Bingham then presented an overview of the company's current and future developments, which provided some salve for the grim assessment. Piaggio currently has a backlog of 70 orders, he said, with the last of the deliveries scheduled for 2014. And while 2010 deliveries this year are expected to be only half of the 24 sold in 2009, "We have no white tails [unsold aircraft on the factory ramp]," said Bingham, "so we haven't had to distress the market for the aircraft," that is, sell at a discount. Piaggio also has put plans in place to speed up future production. "We used the [slowdown] to review manufacturing processes, and add a lot of lean manufacturing technology, to be able to produce more aircraft when we come out [of the slowdown]," Bingham said, estimating that the efforts would increase production to 40 to 50 aircraft per year from the current capacity of 30. Piaggio reported the fleet of some 203 Avantis has reached the 500,000-hour milestone. Avantair, the U.S. fractional company that has a fleet of 55 Avanti IIs, is logging an average of 120 hours per month on each of its Avantis. "That's a testament to the robustness of this aircraft," said Bingham. Piaggio also announced aggressive plans to expand into Brazil, having established a sales office in Recife this year, and is preparing to open five service centers there. Worldwide, the company has improved its customer service, expanded its service network and brought in a new parts team. The company now has 27 service centers, versus nine in 2009. Service centers in the U.S. have grown from five last year to 16 today. Going forward, in addition to expanding into new global markets, Piaggio will push into a new niche market. Air Ambulance Worldwide in Tampa is operating three Avantis, and Piaggio sees a growth opportunity for medevac use. "Because of the cabin size, care workers can work on a patient," Bingham said. "We will pursue this market aggressively." Bingham announced that Elgio Trombatta has been named the company's new general manager and Piaggio has inked a new marketing partnership with Benetti, the Italian luxury yacht manufacturer. Benetti has a presence at Piaggio's NBAA booth (No. 2643).