Plane & Pilot
Tuesday, October 20, 2009

New Light Twin From Italy

Tecnam introduces a twin-Rotax-powered four-seater in the tradition of the Partenavia P68C

Among the options for the P2006T is Garmin’s G1000 glass panel.
Making your first takeoff in a new model in tight formation with a photo ship is a challenge for any airplane, but I was surprised that the Tecnam twin seemed imminently manageable. As we climbed out together toward Lake Winnebago, the P2006T held position easily, making my job ridiculously simple.

Unlike the Partenavia/ Vulcanair, which flies above fixed gear, the Tecnam utilizes a standard electro-hydraulic retraction system. The trailing-link gear is mounted in pylons that extend horizontally outboard from the lower fuselage abeam the rear seats. The wheels fold into partially open wells in the bottom fuselage. Gear retraction is quick, about six seconds up and four seconds down. (If demand is strong enough, Tecnam hopes to offer a less expensive fixed-gear version sometime in the future.)

Cleaned up and accelerated to 90 knots, the P2006T scores a reasonable 1,000 fpm climb at gross, 1,200 fpm at lighter weight. Single-engine climb is listed at 230 fpm, but this was the only Tecnam twin in the States, and we weren’t allowed to do any unimotor flying. Service ceiling is 15,000 feet, so flight at altitudes as high as 11,500 shouldn’t require unreasonable climb times.

On the way uphill, you can’t help but notice this is a responsive little twin. (Of course—it’s Italian.) The Frise ailerons are quick and induce a fairly frisky roll rate, and the all-flying stabilator provides good pitch control in all attitudes from stall to cruise.

Tecnam lists the P2006T’s single-engine service ceiling at 7,000 feet, and coincidentally, that’s the optimum cruise altitude for the airplane with both engines running true. Cruise with everything against the stops works out to 140 knots or a bit more. Climb to 9,000 feet, where 65% is all there is, and you’ll still see 135 knots on perhaps 1.5 gph less fuel burn.

Perhaps because specific fuel consumption is fairly immutable, a pair of 100 hp Rotax mills burns about the same as a single 200 hp Lycoming at 74%, around 10 gph. Most piston aircraft engines consume fuel at 0.40 to 0.42 lbs./hp/hr. That’s 10 to 10.5 gph total in either mode. At the aforementioned 65% setting, burn drops to 4.4 gph/engine, 8.8 gph total.

With a max fuel capacity just under 53 gallons, endurance at high cruise should be about four hours plus reserve, enough for 550 nm cross-countries. That’s Albuquerque to Los Angeles, Salt Lake to Tucson, or Atlanta to Philadelphia. Like its big brother, the Partenavia, Tecnam’s P2006T sports good short-field characteristics. It can lift off in less than 1,000 feet of smooth, dry runway and grind to a halt in the same distance. Though the gear is retractable, the airplane sits tall on the ground, and grass strips shouldn’t present a problem.

In truth, there’s no pure head-to-head competition for the P2006T in the trainer market, as both its price and operating cost will be dramatically less than the next nearest multi-engine aircraft, the Piper Seminole and Diamond DA42. The P2006T sells for $407,000 in basic trim (add about $13,000 for delivery to the United States)—$100,000 less than the Seminole and almost $200,000 less than the Lycoming-powered DA42.

Tecnam plans to build 40 P2006Ts in the first year of production, and most of those airplanes are presold. The Italian manufacturer hopes its new twin will catch on with flight schools around the world, and with acquisition and operating costs only about two-thirds those of its nearest competition, that’s probably a safe bet.

Labels: Piston TwinsSpecs


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