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With a few more than 225 produced, the Piaggio Avanti P180 and Piaggio Avanti II, with its one-of-a-kind design, has evolved into one of the best buys in today’s entry-level aircraft market, notes Marj Rose…
Speed, agility, efficiency and cabin comfort make the distinctive Piaggio P180 a perfect fit for many, but it hasn’t been an easy road for the current aftermarket fleet. The largest single operator of the Avanti fleet was the now dissolved Avantair, operating with 57 Avanti aircraft at its peak.
The fractional provider was launched in 2003 and operated the Piaggio Avanti exclusively. Avantair monopolized the Piaggio Avanti deliveries for several years as the company grew by leaps and bounds and went public in 2007. But by 2012, Avantair voluntarily grounded its fleet because of an elevator issue and in 2013, with serious maintenance issues that most of us will have read about, Avantair ceased operations and declared bankruptcy. In January 2014, there was an auction to sell off all the assets, while many lawsuits were filed.
So that brings us to the aircraft’s aftermarket landscape of today.
With all the negative publicity, John Koltes, Founder and President, Jet Trader Group and Piaggio Avanti pilot, feels the aircraft is misunderstood by many in the industry, and that sometimes prospective buyers don’t give it fair consideration.
“The Avanti owners I have spoken to and flown with over the years love the aircraft,” Koltes notes. “But soon after it was introduced, the fast growing Avantair took the majority of the aircraft off the production line for its fractional business. They were flying many more hours than the aircraft was designed for, so replacement parts and keeping up with maintenance became a huge challenge for them.
“It wasn’t that the aircraft required more maintenance than any typical turboprop aircraft, it was the way the majority of the fleet was being operated that created a parts shortage and additional challenges for Piaggio Aerospace, the manufacturer. And that is where I think this aircraft may have received an unjustified reputation in the industry as a maintenance monstrosity.”
As the water passes under the bridge on this chapter for Piaggio Aerospace the future looks brighter with new majority owners, Mubadala, and a new third generation Avanti named EVO.
The service and support concerns from the Avantair era has been replaced with an enhanced commitment to customer service and a worldwide network of authorized MRO facilities. There is no doubt that the loyal Piaggio Avanti customers will be taking a hard look at the additional amenities that the new EVO aircraft offers, including greater range and more speed.
By the end of this year, approximately 30 of the Piaggio Avanti aircraft from Avantair should be recertified and flying again, and all of this happened within a relatively short period of time. This was no easy accomplishment, and it demonstrates the dedication Piaggio Aerospace has for the aircraft’s future and to the customers who own and operate them, Koltes claims.
Many Avanti fractional owners went through lengthy processes, after the Avantair bankruptcy to become whole owners because of their positive experience operating this aircraft. “The Piaggio Avanti following is loyal, and they have a thorough understanding of the aircraft’s potential that I hope will translate across our industry,” Koltes summarizes.
“A pre-owned Piaggio Avanti should be given great consideration by so many buyers right now. Owner’s get to experience great manufacturer support; a cabin size similar to a Learjet 60; the speed of a Citation CJ2; and the efficiency of a King Air 300 – all for a fraction of the cost of a new aircraft. The Piaggio Avanti is a heck of an airplane!”