Seen on the tarmac, what stands out immediately are its twin, rear-mounted, pusher turboprops and elegant, futuristic lines. Then there is a front wing that sits beneath the cockpit that, to those of a fanciful mindset, slightly resembles a dashing moustache.
Its dramatic appearance stands as testament to how advanced the Avanti was in its initial incarnation – this is an aircraft whose forerunners first flew in the 1980s – and to the vision of the initial design team.
The Avanti Evo represents the aircraft’s most recent guise. The fastest twin turboprop in production, it can reach speeds of 462mph and, thanks to the addition of winglets and five-blade Hartzell scimitar propellers, it has a maximum range of 1,980 miles.
Gabriella Somerville, managing director of ConnectJets, is the sole sales agent for the Avanti Evo in the British Isles and Channel Islands. She believes any potential buyers who fly in the aircraft will be impressed with what it provides. ‘It’s a very comfortable aircraft,’ she points out. ‘The additional front wing gives extra stability and it’s roomy inside compared to something like a Learjet.’
That feeling of internal space is provided by a passenger cabin that’s 5ft 9 inches high and 6ft wide, while the element of luxury is boosted by individual air conditioning and seats that have been finished by luxury outfitter Poltrona Frau.
There remains, however, a perception that turboprops are possibly a bit old fashioned and certainly can be rather noisy. In its previous versions, that was true of the Piaggio – you could definitely hear it coming – but the manufacturer has addressed this in the Avanti Evo version. In fact, the manufacturer claims noise emissions have been reduced by around 68 per cent – partly as a consequence of those new propellers. Somerville also points out that the aircraft is now somewhat quieter than one of its best-known competitors, the Beechcraft King Air 350i.
Then there are the subjects of ease of use and adaptability. ‘The aircraft can land in limited spaces which means it can get into very small, tight airfields such as Lugano and London City,’ points out Somerville.
Those qualities may well appeal to corporate customers and directors with shareholders who may see an appeal in the efficiency and green aspects of the aircraft. According to its manufacturer, the Avanti Evo can use up to 40 per cent less fuel than some of its jet-propelled equivalents and is only just behind them in terms of speed.
Another reassuring factor for some potential buyers could be that the aircraft has for many years seen service in the Italian air force and navy (among other government services). ‘If the military use them then they’ve got to be tough old birds,’ suggests Somerville.
All of which seems to beg the question why the aircraft remains a relatively rare sight in UK skies.
Somerville says: ‘I think it’s partly because Piaggio hasn’t been one of the major players in the past and the brand hasn’t been particularly pushed in the UK. Then there is the fact that the plane is made to order – so it’s very different to an aircraft from a manufacturer such as Bombardier, for example.’
This may all be about to change, she adds: ‘At the moment we’re seeing an increase of the use of turboprops in Europe and London is a very important market for aviation. I think the Avanti Evo will become a household name in the UK.’
The brand is already making some headway on the other side of the Atlantic. In November 2016, Piaggio announced it would be selling five Avanti Evo aircraft to West Coast Aviation Services – its first sale in the US.
Somerville is confident plenty more business will emerge from this market. ‘In the US they see less difference between a turboprop and a jet. People are also realising large organisations are using this type of aircraft and that instills a sense of confidence.’