Introduced in 1990, the P.180 Avanti has found its niche in both military and civilian markets.
Authored By: Staff Writer | Last Edited:
Credit: Image from official Piaggio marketing material.
The Italian-originated Piaggio P.180 "Avanti" serves global markets in the niche - though potentially lucrative - executive / VIP passenger transport role. It was designed by Alessandro Mazzoni and attempts to compete with jet-powered bizjets across the world relying instead on a twin turboprop engine configuration - these arranged as "pushers" facing the rear of the aircraft. A first-flight was recorded on September 23rd, 1986 and series introduction began on September 30th, 1990. It has remained in production since 1986 and has seen a modest total of 220 units completed for various customers in Bulgaria, Canada, Italy, Poland, Russia and the United Arab Emirates. It has also garnered some interest at the military level (the UAE uses two as part of its air force inventory) and has been developed into the crew-less P.1HH "Hammerhead" ISR (Intelligence, Surveillance, Reconnaissance) drone system.
A Brief Piaggio History
Piaggio Aerospace has a history dating back to its founding by Rinaldo Piaggio in 1884 and was a primary aero-industry player of the Kingdom of Italy throughout World War 2 (1939-1945). It managed to survive the gutting of the Italian war machine of the post-World War 2 world and lived on through the Cold War period to the modern age where, today, it focuses on civilian and business market products like the P.180.
The financial boom of the 1980s prompted aircraft manufactures to satisfy a growing market need for sleek and fast VIP transports. Piaggio engineers went to work as early as 1979 on design studies which would eventually lead to the Avanti. This work spanned into 1981 and a patent for the unique design was secured in 1982. Development then proceeded with physical construction of the various aircraft components resulting in a prototype being made ready in 1986. A first-flight then followed. Civil market certification was not reached until 1990 however. The program suffered delays when, in 1994, financial woes struck the Avanti Aviation Wichita branch in the United States at which point Ferrari came to the rescue in 1998. From then on, the Avanti line has more or less been secured.
The P-180 has a wholly unique appearance as VIP transports go: its nose cone is well-sloped ahead of the cockpit offering excellent vision for the flight crew. There is a small forward wing at the nose which creates a triple-plane configuration for the aircraft. The fuselage is relatively short, squat and tapered at both ends to promote a futuristic-like look for the compact business aircraft. The mid-mounted wing mainplanes are situated well-aft of midships and involve straight planes with clipped tips and engine nacelles running from ahead of the leading edges to well past the trailing edges. The nacelles are streamlined for aerodynamic efficiency and the engines arranged in a pusher configuration, driving multi-bladed propeller units. The tail consists of a T-style (Multhopp Tail) unit seating the horizontal planes at the very top of the single vertical fin. Delta-shaped near-ventral fins accompany the tail unit at the rear for additional stability. A tricycle landing gear is used for ground-running.
Inside the Avanti
The cockpit can hold two pilots side-by-side. The forward panel is dominated by three large multi-color display units offering pertinent mission statuses and performance figures. Each seat position is given a traditional yoke column with easy-to-reach thumb-accessible controls. The throttle quadrant is kept between the two positions so as to be shared by either crew member. To large windows are provided ahead of the cockpit which offer excellent vision. The downward sloping nature of the nosecone accentuates views, particularly for look-down. For the passengers, there is a single-aisle seating arrangement complete with lavatory and galley. Rounded windows provide viewing out of the fuselage and entry/exit is by way of a rectangular access door along the portside of the fuselage (just aft of the cockpit).
Avanti Series Variants
The initial production models were designated simply as P.180 "Avanti". A militarized form emerged as the P.180M and was given a fuselage which could be modified for passenger or light cargo usage. The P.180RM was developed for radio calibration and the P.180AMB is to serve in the air ambulance role. The P.180APH is another specialized Avanti platform, this one intended for aerial cartography. The P.180 "Avanti II" is an all-modern update of the original P.180 complete with better avionics and improved engine performance. This form secured its civil certification in 2005. The P.180MPA (detailed elsewhere on this site), based in the Avanti II, is a military market form intended for the maritime patrol role. Uprated PWC turboprops are used for improved performance and five-bladed propeller (Hartzell) complete its design. Saab provides the electronics fit and Rockwell Collins the avionics suite.
The P.180 Avanti EVO is the currently-marketed form of the Avanti line. It has a crew of one or two with seating for seven to nine passengers. Empty weight is 8,375lb against an MTOW of 12,100lb. Power is from 2 x Pratt & Whitney Canada PT6A-66B turboprop engines developing 850 horsepower. Maximum speed is 460 miles per hour with a cruising speed of 365 miles per hour. Range is out to 1,530 miles (ferry) and its service ceiling is 41,000 feet. The P.180 is marketed as the fastest turbo-prop powered business aircraft with performance akin to some jet types. It is also said to run quieter and more efficiently than its jet-powered brethren - certainly putting it ahead of the pack. The Avanti managed a cost-to-coast American trip in under four hours (officially 3:51).
The Unmanned P.1HH Hammerhead
The P.1HH "Hammerhead" (detailed elsewhere on this site), as mentioned above, is an in-development drone form of the P.180 Avanti II airframe. It is being designed to carry munitions for attack missions but can also undertake scouting and intelligence/reconnaissance roles as well. Debuted publicly at Paris Air Show 2013, a first-flight of this system was had during December of 2013 and the launch customer appears to be the Italian Air Force which has contracted for three of the type. The UAE has ordered eight of its own. The program suffered a notable setback in May of 2016 when the sole prototype crashed during testing. The second prototype then followed it into the air in July of 2017.
December 2019 - A contract was signed with the Italian Ministry of Defense for nine Piaggio Avanti EVO aircraft.
Status Active, In-Service
[ 236 Units ] : Piaggio Aero - Italy
Bulgaria; Canada; Italy; Poland; Russia; United Arab Emirates; United Kingdom
- Electronic Warfare (EW)
- Commercial Market
- Business Jet
- VIP Transport
- Reconnaissance (RECCE)
47.24 ft (14.4 m)
45.93 ft (14 m)
12.96 ft (3.95 m)
(Showcased structural dimension values pertain to the Piaggio P.180 Avanti production model)
7,496 lb (3,400 kg)
11,552 lb (5,240 kg)
(Showcased weight values pertain to the Piaggio P.180 Avanti production model)
(Showcased powerplant information pertains to the Piaggio P.180 Avanti production model)
457 mph (735 kph; 397 kts)
41,010 feet (12,500 m; 7.77 miles)
1,740 miles (2,800 km; 1,512 nm)
2,955 ft/min (901 m/min)
(Showcased performance values pertain to the Piaggio P.180 Avanti production model; Compare this aircraft entry against any other in our database)
None. Military special-mission models may be stocked with mission-pertinent equipment for various overland and overwater roles.
(Showcased armament details pertain to the Piaggio P.180 Avanti production model)
P.180 "Avanti" - Base Series Name; initial production model.
P.180M - Militarized variant for VIP and light transport duties.
P.180RM - Radio calibration platform
P.180 "Aero Ambulance" - Air AMbulance platform
P.180APH - Specialized variant for use in aerial cartography
P.180EVO "Avanti EVO" - Third incarnation of Avanti series aircraft; model of 2015; increased useful load; 400 knot speeds.
P.180MPA - Maritime Patrol Aircraft platform; developed with Abu Dhabi Autonomous Systems Investments; Saab Albatros mission system; 50% greater wingspan with 50% increase fuel load; enlarged tailplane unit; increased-area foreplanes; uprated engine fit.
P.180 "Avanti II" - Improved engines and avionics fit.
P.1HH "Hammerhead" - Proposed unmanned vehicle based on the Avanti airframe.
(Cockpit image represents the Piaggio P.180 Avanti VIP production model)
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