Thursday, March 15, 2012

Piaggio's P180 Avanti II Turboprop Challenges Executive Jets

By Jason Fogelson, Forbes

Piaggio Aero Industries S.p.A. was founded in 1998, when a consortium led by Piero Ferrari (of the famous automotive family and current Vice President of Ferrari S.p.A.) acquired the aeronautical and mechanical assets of Rinaldo Piaggio’s company, which had been producing airplane engines since 1915 and airplanes since 1925. Today’s Piaggio is headquartered in Genoa, Italy, producing a twin-engine turboprop plane, the P180 Avanti II.

The company is jointly owned by three groups: The Di Mase and Ferrari families out of Italy; Tata Limited, a British division of the Tata Group of India; and Mubadala Aerospace, a business unit of Abu Dhabi-based Mubadala Development Company.

John Bingham is President and Chief Executive Officer of Piaggio Aero America, and Chief Marketing Officer for Piaggio Aero Industries. A charming Londoner with a sophisticated accent, Mr. Bingham spoke with me via telephone from his United States home in Florida.

FOGELSON: First of all, the Avanti II is a very cool looking little plane.

BINGHAM: Yes, it is very cool. It’s a plane that draws a huge amount of attention whenever it pulls onto a ramp. It is different. Once people get inside it they understand why people are so enamored with the aircraft because the cabin is huge. We have been making the Avanti II since around 2006. It is an aircraft that we make to order. In that way, with the peaks and troughs of the market, we are able to ride them easier than some of our other aviation competition. We have the ability to make up to thirty aircraft. We have just recently embarked on building a new factory in addition to the one that we have in Genoa. With our new factory, we will be able to build between forty and forty-five aircraft a year. In 2010, we only produced eleven and in 2011, we produced fourteen. In 2012, we think we will comfortably surpass fourteen.

FOGELSON: Looking at the configurator on line it looks like the seating capacity of the P180 is about six plus cockpit?

BINGHAM: It is actually seven, laid out as club seating. The other thing about the P180 is certified for a single pilot. You can also put someone else in to the right pilot seat, and the washroom is certified for take-off and landing.

FOGELSON: So you could have a flight attendant who started off in the washroom for instance?

BINGHAM: Yes, absolutely.

FOGELSON: Do you sell any of these to airlines or are they all strictly private aircraft?

BINGHAM: They are basically used in a variety of circumstances. Those circumstances range from private owners to companies to air taxi companies and charter and through to fractional ownership.

Our biggest owner is actually in the United States and they have 57 of our aircraft and they operate those on a fractional program. They are operating all over the United States.

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