The Piaggio P.180 Avanti: A Ferrari of Airplanes
Among pusher configurated aircraft, the P.180 Avanti represents a unique design on its own. First taking the air in 26 September 1986, it was to become one of Piaggio Aero’s successful designs which spanned its long history of building airplanes, boasting of its foundation date as early as 1884, nine years before the successful flight of the first practical airplane by the Wright Brothers in 1903.
The aircraft design which became the basis for the P180 has undergone wind tunnel test in the early 80s. As could be noted, the aircraft propellers were based on a pusher configuration (the propellers were placed at the trailing edge of the wing) which historically has a significance considering the first practical airplane, The Wright Flyer was also based on a pusher configuration lay out. The P180 had actually beaten the ill-fated Beechcraft Starship in sales, another pusher configuration design (although the latter was 7 months ahead in making its first flight) which may have been a factor to the latter’s ill fated end of production and eventual withdrawal from service.
There had been a collaboration with Learjet to develop the aircraft at its early stages of inception the evidence by which could be seen in the P180’s 2 delta fins at the bottom of the tail as incorporated in most Learjets. The function of the delta fins is for generating aerodynamic recovery force in the event of an aerodynamic stall. An end of the collaboration with Learjet in 1986 caused Piaggio to take individual control of the design development on its own. Piero Ferrari’s involvement in the P180 came in 1998 4 years after Avanti Aviation ran out of funds which became a saving grace that enabled the P180 to thrive and prove its worth as a revolutionary aircraft design worthy to keep on flying amidst a battle of “novel aircraft designs” where the Beech Starship lost its claim. With Ferrari’s entry on the P180 as a major investor, one could compare this aircraft as a “supercar” of airplanes. Ferrari has been known for its line of high performance, cutting edge design of sleek and exquisite supercars blending both speed, safety and luxury. With the P180’s maximum speed of 732 km/h (455 mph) on a pressurized, 9 seat passenger lay out it performs at par and in some sense greater than most midsized turboprops in its class. Picture a Ferrari logo on the aircraft’s tail and the aircraft owner has a flying horse at his disposal. A Ferrari of airplanes and a Pegasus of horses, what do you think?
Unit Cost: US $7 million Crew: 1 or 2 pilots
No. of Passenger: 9
Payload: 907 kg (2000 lbs)
Useful Load: 1,860 kg (4,100 lbs)
Powerplant: 2 Pratt and Whitney Canada PT6A-66 Turboprops, 850 shp each
Maximum Speed: 732 km/h (455 mph)
Cruise Speed: 593 km/h (368 mph in econ cruise)
Range: 2,592 km (1,400 nmi, 1,612 mi) at 11,900 m (39,000 ft) with reserves
Service Ceiling: 12,500 m (41,000 ft)
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