The P.180 Avanti Evo has a “wow” factor that is not present with many other twin turboprops of a similar size. Yes, it does have three lifting surfaces, a T-tail and two pusher propellers but it’s how they are put together that is the important thing. The forward wing (not to be called a canard, as it has no moving flight controls other than forward flaps) is positioned on the underside of a gracefully sweeping nose and is home to two pitot tubes underneath and, unusually in Western types, has a significant anhedral.
The windshield is deep and sharply raked back, which along with the ventral delta fins, perhaps alludes to the shared Learjet origin from the 1980s. The upper fuselage curves to a peak height just in front of and above the main wing leading edge and then slopes downwards to join the lower fuselage upward curve at a point below the trailing edge of the T-tail that stands with its sharply swept back horizontal tailplane some 13.06 feet above the ramp.
On the Avanti, each unique characteristic of the aircraft is firmly rooted in function. The anhedral of the forward wing ensures there is no aerodynamic interference with the engine intakes and assists in stall handling. The continuous curve of the fuselage generates approximately one-third of the overall lift, reducing the required size of the wings and thus minimizing drag. The sharp sweepback of the horizontal stabilizer ensures the elevators cannot be aerodynamically blanked by the main wing during a stall and thus remain effective throughout, and the main wing, with its high aspect ratio, is positioned behind the rear pressure bulkhead so that the spar does not pass through the passenger cabin, giving an uninterrupted length of 14.93 ft.
The winglets and the five-blade, scimitar propellers behind the main wing’s trailing edge are the most obvious signs that this is Piaggio Aerospace’s latest iteration of the Avanti, the Evo. This airframe, T7-ASG, SN3007 was the first Avanti to be produced at the new manufacturing facility in Villanova D’Albenga, one year after production was moved from Genoa.
Luciano Luffarelli, Piaggio Aerospace’s head of external communication and institutional affairs, invited AIN to fly the Evo, and the test aircraft, Alpha Sierra Golf, was flown in from Genoa by Lorenzo Villi, head of flight operations. Villi led a thorough guided tour of the outside of the airplane and explained all of its many unique features.
GENERAL HANDLING NOTES
Access to the cabin is straightforward, the upper two-thirds of the door on the port side, just behind the flight deck, opens toward the nose of the aircraft, and a gust lock keeps it flush to the side of the fuselage. The lower section, containing two integral carpeted steps, is released by a handle on the left and lowered into position.
On first glimpse, the cabin interior is impressive, with a two-place bench seat opposite the door, a single sideways-facing seat on the same side as the door and four club-arranged seats leading to a full privacy toilet. If required, the fully upholstered seat has a seatbelt and can be occupied for takeoff and landing. The seats are finished in black leather with the owner’s initials embossed into the headrest and with a cabin height of 5.74 ft, it is comfortable to move around the full length. Stylish use of mirrors, six good-size windows on either side, and use of light colors ensure the cabin has a roomy feel.
Now, to the flight deck and our seats. Villi led the way, providing an excellent demonstration. Reaching ahead between the forward cabin bulkhead, he lifted the left-side pilot’s seat to provide a clear floor area on which to stand. He placed his left foot at the base of the carpet behind the central instrument panel and stepped forward with his right, placing his foot inboard of the control column and gracefully followed with his left. He then lowered the seat and sat down.
Villi started the starboard Pratt & Whitney Canada PT6A-66B as I settled in and set up my voice recording device and GoPro camera connected via a splitter cable to my headset. I followed the start procedure with one eye as I did this and observed Villi checking the power lever at idle, switching on the fuel pump, and setting the start switch to “start.” At 13 percent Ng, he moved the condition lever to ground idle with the starter switch shut off at 40 percent Ng and the power lever to flight idle. The second engine was started and after-start checks completed.
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