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This month, we will provide comparative information on several current twin engine business turboprops and the most prominent Very Light Jets (VLJs) for the purpose of valuing a pre-owned Piaggio P-180 Avanti II.

AvBuyer   |   8th January 2008
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Piaggio P-180 Avanti II

Comparative analysis with other twin turbos and the first-to-market VLJs.

Following on from World Aircraft Sales Magazine’s  popular Asset Evaluation series is a new series, Aircraft Comparative Analysis. It is hoped that as in the Asset Evaluation series, information is presented in such a way that readers can grasp meaningful, but easy to understand information on an aircraft and its market value history.

This month, we will provide comparative information on several current twin engine business turboprops and the most prominent Very Light Jets (VLJs) for the purpose of valuing a pre-owned Piaggio P-180 Avanti II business turboprops for sale. Can a $6.5 million turboprop business aircraft be competitive against other equivalent-sized1 turboprops and the VLJs that average $2.7 million less in purchase price? We’ll consider the productivity parameters - payload/range, speed, cabin size and cover current and future market values. The field compared to the P-180 in this study includes the Beechcraft King Air B200,  King Air 350, plus the Eclipse 500 and Cessna Citation Mustang for sale. The Socata TBM 850, an excellent performer, is omitted here as the focus is on the larger cabin multi-engine turboprops and the new VLJs. Interestingly, Piaggio’s marketing department considers the Citation CJ3 corporate aircraft for sale as the most direct competitor, but we’ll cover this contest in a later article.

Brief History of the Piaggio Avanti
Concerned by the increasing cost of fuel in the mid-1970s Piaggio’s chief designer, Alessandro Mazzoni, proposed a twin turboprop business aircraft to compete with the mid-sized jets and turboprops available at the time. His concept was approved by Rinaldo Piaggio and a partnership with Learjet was formed to complete the development.

When Learjet was forced to dissolve the partnership in 1986, Piaggio continued the work and was awarded a Type Certificate for the P-180 in 1990. Production was sparse with gaps in 1995, 1996, and 1999, but over this period, Piaggio received a financial boost from the di Mase and Ferrari families which resulted in continued production.

In 2003, beginning with s/n 1105, Piaggio introduced the Avanti II. While the basic aircraft remains unchanged the Avanti II introduced some significant improvements including upgraded engines (PT-6-66A to the PT6-66B), increased maximum gross take-off weight (11,550 lb to 12,100 lb) and upgraded avionics (Collins Pro Line 21). The upgraded engines give the Avanti II a maximum cruise speed 402kts making it the first business turboprop to surpass a cruise speed of 400kts.

The P-180 appearance is sleek, but different when compared to other aircraft. The three lifting surfaces and curved fuselage design is completely functional and not done for the sake of appearance. The lift provided by the forward wing allows for aft engines and the main wing to pass through the fuselage behind the passenger space. Unlike the usual constant radius fuselage design seen in other transport aircraft the P-180 fuselage shape is a compound curve from the tip of the radome to the tip of the tail cone. The constantly changing cross section of the fuselage also contributes about 20% to the total lift.2 The concept of laminar flow is designed into all lifting surfaces as well as the fuselage contributing to the operating efficiency of the aircraft.

Payload and Ranges
The data contained in Table A (top right) is published in the B&CA, May 2007 issue, except for the P-180 Maximum Payload and Available Fuel Maximum Payload Range. The B&CA P-180 range with 1,800 lb payload has been bumped from 960nm to 1,070nm3 in Table A.

Tables of numbers are often referred to as “eye charts” but a potential operator should focus on payload capability. The P-180’s “Available Payload with max fuel” is 1,348 lb4 and at 200 lb per passenger this payload allows for six executives on a 1,410nm trip. The King Air 350 carries 256 lb more, but Piaggio, according to B&CA, is working to reduce the empty weight by another 150 – 200 pounds which would go directly to payload to nearly match the KA 350 capability.

Currently the P-180 available fuel load with a seven passenger payload is only 52 pounds shy of its maximum fuel load of 2,802 lb. The typical mission for the business jet ranges from 350 and 500 nautical miles. The Avanti II can make an out-and-back trip to a destination 500 nautical miles away without having to refuel.

Cabin Volumes The cabin volume of the P-180 is 375 cubic feet. Compared to the competition the Avanti II cabin size exceeds the average available space by 115 cubic feet, and the competitor aircraft closest in cabin size is the King Air 350 at 351 cubic feet. The “Cabin Volumes” illustrated in Chart A (above) are found in Conklin & de Decker’s Aircraft Cost Evaluator.

Space is good but quiet space is really good, and the Avanti engine configuration and fuselage design offer a cabin decibel level equivalent to a jet aircraft. The Avanti II offers seating for 6-8 passengers including club and divan seating configurations, and allows room for a refreshment center and lavatory with running water and flushing toilet.

Avanti II Engine
The Avanti II’s two P&WC PT6A-66B engines are rated at 850 shaft horsepower each. In addition to providing exceptional take-off, climb and cruise performance, the available bleed is used for wing de-ice and cabin pressurization to a differential of 9.0 p.s.i. At this differential the cabin remains at sea level until the aircraft climbs through 24,000 feet.

Time between overhauls, (TBO), is 3,600 hr and periodic maintenance is scheduled at 150 hour intervals. The propellers are Hartzel, five-blade constant speed, full feathering, hydraulically controlled with a diameter of 85 inches, and they rotate in opposite directions resulting in no critical engine at minimum control speed. The Avanti II has an auto-feathering system installed, and the overhaul interval for the propeller is 3,000 hours or six years, whichever comes first.

Using data published in the May 2007 B&CA Planning and Purchasing Handbook and the August 2007 B&CA Operations Planning Guide we will compare our five aircraft. Jet-A fuel cost used in our source publications was $4.69 and at this writing it’s nearly the same, so for the sake of comparison we’ll chart the numbers as published.

Cost Per Mile Comparisons
The “Cost per Mile” chart (Chart B, left) compares the Avanti II to its turboprop competition and two VLJs using direct costs and all flying a 1,000nm mission with 800 pounds payload. The Avanti II, cruising at an average 50 knots5 faster than the competition shows well in cost per mile comparisons.

Total Variable Cost Comparisons
The “Total Variable costs” as illustrated in Chart C, (left) is defined as the cost of Fuel expense, Maintenance Labor expense, Scheduled Parts cost, and miscellaneous trip expense. The total variable cost is a high number for the Avanti II. Even with a low fuel fraction at $521.43 per hour, the variable cost suffers due to a higher parts cost and higher number of labor hours.

Productivity Comparisons
The points in Chart D (left) represent the same five aircraft referred to previously. Pricing used in the vertical axis is as published in the B&CA 2007 Purchase Planning Handbook. The productivity index requires further discussion in that the factors used can be somewhat arbitrary.
Productivity can be defined (and it is here) as the multiple of three factors.
1. Range with full payload and available fuel;

2. The average speed flown to achieve that range;

3. The cabin volume available for passengers and amenities.

The result is a very large number so for the purpose of charting each result is divided by one billion. The examples plotted are confined to the five aircraft in this study. A computed curve fit on this plot would not be very tight, but when all transport aircraft are considered the “r” factor would equal a number above 0.9. Others may choose different parameters, but serious business aircraft buyers are usually impressed with Price, Range, Speed and Cabin Size.

After consideration of the Price, Range, Speed and Cabin Size, we can conclude that the Avanti II turboprop can be very competitive against other equivalent-sized turboprops and the VLJ. In fact in each of the categories displayed in Table B (above), the Avanti II ranked first among the five competitors.

In the preceding paragraphs we have briefly covered several of the attributes that business aircraft operators value. There are other qualities such as airport performance, terminal area performance6, and time to climb performance. For example, the Avanti II offers great flexibility of being able to use runways well under 3,000 feet in length. This flexibility allows using more than 80% of the public-use airports in the United States.

The Avanti II as well as its predecessor, the original Avanti, fare well in each category, so to those operators in the market for the range and cabin size in these aircraft, the highest price in the category may be justified. It’s puzzling to us that over the 18 years since type certificate award less than 150 units have been delivered to operators. This equates to less than nine aircraft per year, but the delivery rate may not be entirely due to low demand. The fabrication of the compound curved fuselage requires processes in addition to those of the standard constant radius tube found in other aircraft, and the extra time required slows the production rate. The production rate will change now that the factory has worked its way down the learning curve and ramped up to 30 units per year. Just in time, too, since the backlog is up to 100 aircraft.

Using JETNET/AvData information reveals that over the life span of the Avanti, 29 retail to retail transactions have been completed in the pre-owned market involving 20 individual serial numbers. Since the end of 1991 the percentage of re-sales relative to the fleet has been minimal. In addition JETNET/AvData reveals there are currently only two aircraft and one quarter-share pre-owned Avanti, and no Avanti II models For Sale, (less than 2%). The fact that nearly 30 percent of the fleet reside in fractional operations adds stability to the re-sale market since the share operations tend to hold their fleets longer.

According to the Aircraft Blue Book Price Digest the current retail price average for the 1990 model aircraft is 28% below the new aircraft price. Over the 18-year period these aircraft have depreciated an average of 1.7% per year. Days-on-the market compare well with other brands with JETNET/AvData reporting an average for the current offerings at 111 days. Considering the  improvements over the original model and the improvements in the works, the Piaggio Avanti P-180 II for sale will enjoy success in the current market environment for business aircraft, and pre-owned prices will parallel the competition.

1 Cabin volume greater than 300 cubic feet
2 Fred George, Business & Commercial Aviation, September 2007, page 119
3 Avanti II Specification and Description Rev. 6.0
4 1,348 lb in Piaggio Aero Specification and Description, and 928 lb in Jan 2008 World Aircraft Sales
5 309 kts
6 Smaller aircraft can cause problems for departure and approach control unless capable of the speed and maneuverability to remain clear of the larger equipment in the area.

Read more about: Piaggio Avanti P-180 II | King Air Turboprops | Eclipse 500 | Piaggio | Beechcraft King Air B200 | Cessna Citation Mustang | Jets | Beechcraft King Air 350

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