Saturday, March 1, 2008
Fast-forward in the Piaggio P.180 Avanti II
With that in mind, the new engines in the Avanti make their rated 850 SHP to a higher altitude (FL240) than engines in the earlier model. As it is, the sweet spot for speed in Avantis, and most other turboprops, is between FL260 and FL310, where the P.180 will crack 402 knots true at its lightest weights with 95.4% torque, the power drain of ice protection off and props full-forward at 2,000 rpm, while burning 794 pounds of Jet A per hour. In a turboprop, that’s really moving, but it’s also a bit noisy. When I was down at FL280, in high gear and cruising to Denton, Texas, torque was set at 95%, propellers were turning at 1,995 rpm, true airspeed was stable at 380 knots or Mach .668, and fuel exited the tailpipes at 395 pounds per hour per side.
Back in the cabin, to get jet-like sound levels and smoothness, dial the props back to 1,800 rpm. At FL310 in standard ISA, setting 96.6% torque will get you down the road at 385 knots true burning 736 pounds total, which is still not too shabby. Up at FL410, the Avanti II will still true out to about 325 knots, but burn only 412 pounds per hour total. Contrast that with the King Air 350, which according to Beech, will true out at 310 knots burning 604 pounds per hour at FL310. Avanti pilots consider the P.180 similar in cost per hour to the King Air, but since leg times are shorter, cost per trip is rather less.
In addition to the jet-like speeds and sound levels that passengers enjoy back in the midsize cabin, the Avanti’s 9.0 psi pressurization system ensures passengers and crew a sea-level cabin up to FL240 and a 6,600-foot cabin at the Avanti’s max altitude of FL410.
Bringing the Avanti on home, the P.180’s high gear- and flap-extension speeds, 181 and 170 knots, respectively, facilitate slowing the speedy bird and setting up a stable approach profile. The weather in the Dallas area was clear and calm as the Texas sky transitioned from bright orange in the west to a cobalt dusk. Landings in the Avanti—I went up and did some airwork and a series of touch-and-gos the next afternoon—are a nonevent. The Avanti is as honest as they come in its handling and around the airport. Keeping your speed up at 140 knots on downwind and decelerating on final from 130 to 120 over the numbers will reward the Avanti pilot with sweet touchdowns—it worked for me. The biggest problem I found with the Avanti came after my flight. After about seven hours flying an exotic Italian speedster, there was no Ferrari waiting to whisk me away to dinner in Dallas. Maybe that’s an option Piaggio should consider.
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