Piaggio P-180 Avanti
Private Jet Review
Piaggio P-180 Avanti
The Italian private jet manufacturer Piaggio Aero company, like all other private jet manufacturers, announced their goals for the Piaggio P-180 before they started building it. They wanted a light private jet that could cruise at 400 knots, fly at more than 40,000 feet, have a 2,000 mile range, as well as be fuel-efficient and have a comfortable cabin. Considering the fact that no other private jet manufacturer had been able to create a jet that met such specifications, Piaggio had to be truly innovative in making the P-180.
Usually the cabin comes at the end of the design process of a private jet (which explains the oddly-shaped, cramped cabins that are ubiquitous among light private jets). Piaggio instead started by building a comfortable, large cabin, and then building rest of the jet around it. The results were very good news for private jet travelers: a cabin that’s 6 feet wide and 5.8 feet tall. Compare those dimensions to the average light jet cabin: width, 4.9 feet, height, 4.8 feet, or the average midsized jet cabin: width, 5.6 feet, height, 5.7 feet. In other words, the cabin of the Piaggio is over a foot longer and wider than other jets in its class.
The spacious cabin seats seven passengers in full-sized seats. There is almost no vibration and the noise levels are low. There is baggage space available for about six suitcases and a few golf bags, a total of 44 cubic feet. And, true to Italian form, it is extremely stylish. The custom-design silk carpet complements the Lightweight Tapis Ultraleather used on parts of the interior. Spinneybeck Espana leather covers the seat cushions, and plenty of light streams in through the windows and from the subtle overhead LEDs to give the cabin an open feel. The color of the cabin is called “chablis” (in case you’re wondering, “chablis” is the name of a dry, sharp white wine from the town of Chablis in the Burgundy region of eastern France), which speaks for itself.
The most noticeable feature of the Piaggio is its wings – to be exact, it has three sets. These three sets effectively distribute flight loads and provide three lifting surfaces. The sets of smaller wings total a smaller amount of wing area than is usually distributed over a single wing, but manage to cut down on the Piaggio’s structure weight, drag, and increase lift. The engineers of Piaggio Aero designed the P180’s structure with the help of NASA software and perfected it with over 4,600 hours of wind tunnel testing.
The Piaggio’s exterior is so smooth that it is often mistaken for fiberglass. The upper and lower portions of the main wing were machined by a computer-controlled mill from a single piece of aluminum. Forty percent of the aircraft’s structure is made from composites (Kevlar, Nomex, or graphite epoxy), and the other sixty percent is made from pure aluminum. The exterior skin varies by no more than 1/100 th of an inch.
Not surprisingly, the Piaggio takes off quickly (in less than 3,000 feet) and climbs to its flight level of 41,000 feet. At the time of its release, it was the fastest turboprop on the market with a cruise speed of up to 400 knots. It can fly more than 2,000 miles (1,800 nautical miles) – San Francisco to New York or Seattle to Orlando – which far surpasses the average high-speed cruise distance of competing jets. Not only is the Piaggio high-performing, it is economical. It has high fuel efficiency, a low specific fuel consumption, and can be flown by a single pilot.
The Piaggio’s six-blade turboprops are powered by two Pratt & Whitney Canada PT6A-66 engines, flat rated to 850 shp for improved efficiency. The heavy wing loading of the Piaggio provides for smooth handling in turbulence and solid, high flight level handling. The cabin is rated to 9.0 psi, meaning it can maintain a sea-level cabin at up to 24,000 feet.
The P180 uses the Rockwell Collins Avionics suite in the cockpit. The system is designed to be highly intuitive – switches and controls are grouped by function, and five sleek screens display systems information. WXR-840 solid-state weather radar and Universal UNS-1kFMS systems come standard for enhance situational awareness. A Rockwell Collins TWR-850 Doppler turbulence detection radar can be included if requested.
As you can see, the Piaggio P180 is an exceptional example of effective innovation. Despite resembling Spaceship 1, it is an extremely comfortable, high-performing private jet that has no equal among jets of its class. From its Italian styling to its weight distribution over three wings, the Piaggio challenges tradition – and exceeds traditional standards.