On Sunday under a humid central Florida sky, a Piaggio P.180 Avanti settled to the runway at Orlando Executive Airport, setting a speed record for Class C-1.E/2 aircraft (twin turboprops 6,614 lb to 13,228 lb).
Piaggio Aero is about to deliver the 150th P180 Avanti II to a customer and the Italian airframer at last seems to be coming to grips with an unacceptably slow production process that has badly stalled its output rate for the program.
Piaggio Aero Industries, which emerged from receivership in 1998, found a new lease on life for its sleek P.180 Avanti business turboprop with the establishment of Piaggio America two years ago. A visit to the U.S. by Piaggio Aero president Piero Ferrari earlier this year brought fresh enthusiasm and a promise of new things to come. Speaking with AIN, Ferrari expounded on his expectations for the Avanti.
The final day of the NBAA convention in Orlando, Fla., last month opened to gray clouds and gathering rain. But for the Piaggio Aero team, there was nothing but sunshine and broad smiles.
For the Italian aviation company, the three-day show was highlighted by a record-setting flight, orders for 11 new airplanes, entry into the fractional-ownership market and a 600-hr engine TBO extension.
Piaggio Aero, the Italian maker of the sleek P.180 Avanti, is engaged in “some very positive” discussions that would create a fractional-ownership fleet of P.180s.
Steve Hanvey, president and CEO of Piaggio America and a board member of parent company Piaggio Aero, told AIN the Genoa-based aircraft manufacturer has been approached by a number of fractional operators, “including some in Europe.”
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.
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).
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.