Avantair, which operates a fractional ownership fleet of Piaggio Avanti twin turboprops, signed its 100th customer last month. Phil Satre, chairman of the board of Harrah’s Entertainment, purchased a one-eighth share. Avantair, established two years ago, has offices in Caldwell, N.J., Reno, Nev. and St. Petersburg, Fla.
The little company that almost didn’t has proved it can. Five years after Piaggio Aero Industries was only a week away from closing its doors forever, the Italian aircraft manufacturer has recorded its fourth consecutive profitable year with revenue last year of $142 million, an operating margin of $22.2 million and orders for 42 Avanti twin turboprops since last year’s NBAA Convention.
In its first-quarter FY2008 report issued late last week, Clearwater, Fla.-based fractional provider Avantair said revenues increased by 52.9 percent, to $25.7 million, year-over-year, but its quarterly net loss increased to $4.8 million from $3.8 million a year ago.
Piaggio Aero Industries is considering laying off 150 to 170 workers over the next few months. This reduction follows a three-year period of transition of ownership from the Italian government, where a “pre-purchase level of employees was to be retained,” said company officials.
Piaggio Aero Industries delivered 16 Avantis last year, up from 12 in 2001 and six in 2000. The production rate is set at 20 aircraft this year and 26 for next year. Revenues rose by 11 percent to $203 million last year.
Sviluppo Italia, the Italian government industrial investment agency, has bought more than 20 percent of Piaggio Aero Industries, parent company of Piaggio America, with an investment of E20 million ($21.8 million).
When Steven Santo announced the creation of a fractional ownership program with an aircraft fleet consisting solely of Italian-built Avanti turboprop twins, some reacted to the news with skepticism. The economy was entering a recession, they said, and the airplane itself had never sold well.
Now the skeptics are silent, and Santo typically shows up for work with the smile of a man well satisfied with his lot in life.
Piaggio Aero Industries, which emerged from bankruptcy five years ago and has gradually stopped bleeding red ink, last month received a record order valued at approximately $200 million for 29 Avanti turboprop twins, including the conversion of five options to firm orders from an earlier acquisition by the same buyer.
With the addition of new partners, the Italian aircraft manufacturer Piaggio Aero (Booth No. 3717) is increasing its U.S. presence, and in particular its commitment to customer support in the North American market.
Piaggio Aero and FlightSafety International have expanded their training services agreement, whereby they will place another Piaggio aircraft simulator at FlightSafety’s West Palm Beach, Fla. learning center in 2008. The new Avanti II simulator is being manufactured by FlightSafety and will receive level-D approval. It will be equipped with FlightSafety’s Vital visual system and electric-motion and control-loading technology.