Doesn’t it always happen… there I was bemoaning the fact that modern aircraft look so boring in Not so plain Planes – Part 1 and then fate plays its tricks! Graham Lacy, PDD’s Technical Director, and I were sitting having a drink with a business associate one evening after DSEI at London ExCeL recently. We were close to London City Airport and had become accustomed to the sound of aircraft regularly taking off and climbing overhead, but one aircraft stood out from the others with a higher-pitched, almost whining sound.
Looking skyward we spotted the distinctive ‘hammerhead’ shape of a Piaggio P.180 Avanti II, with a sharp hornet-like nose and a continuous curve in its fuselage. Twin ‘pusher’ engines with 5-bladed propellers caused the audible difference, but certainly this is a sleek and beautiful aircraft, as you would perhaps expect from an Italian manufacturer. I’ve certainly never seen one before, and with apparently only around 200 manufactured to date, this is not surprising! If you are interested in seeing the Avanti II in motion, click here.
The next thing everybody of course says is “I thought Piaggio made scooters, not aeroplanes!” Well, there’s another surprise, as it seems the company started making aeronautical engines as long ago as 1915, just 12 years after the Wright brothers’ first powered flight. Unlike the other aircraft I described in Not so plain Planes – Part 1 & Part 2, the fuselage and flight surfaces of the Avanti II are all sheet metal, rather than composite (it was certified 20 years ago), but it does cut a dash in the skies and if I had a spare $7M I’d certainly be tempted!