Zenith Aviation, based at Biggin Hill, UK, has registered the first Piaggio Avanti Evo in the country for charter flights. “It is an interesting aircraft, and I think it does have the possibility of shaking things up a bit,” says md Stuart Mulholland. “There has been the possibility of fractional schemes being offered, but there has never been one in the UK, so it is a new type here.
"It is not a jet, and therefore it can't really sit in the jet category. But then again, it is beyond the capabilities of any other turboprop, so should it sit with the turboprops? Personally I think it will compete with anything up to Excel, XLS or Learjet size. It knocks spots off the light jets, and the same with the King Airs. It has got all the performance characteristics of a jet, and has blades that push it along.”
He anticipates that over the shorter distances for flights of between one hour 40 minutes and two hours, the Evo will be particularly effective. “We ran flight plans before we agreed to buy the aircraft, and it came out marginally slower than the Learjet. It will go to somewhere like Malaga no problem, but it is an extra 45 minutes of flight time over a Learjet. The aircraft has certainly got jet performance over the shorter ranges, but with turboprop economy.
“Added to this, the cabin is to die for. It is bigger than an XLS. We lose a lot of flights on our Learjets to XLS, because the brokers have sold the cabin as a stand-up. The Evo has got exactly that and it is stunning. It has the cabin amenities equivalent to the leader in its class.”
Price is still the decisive factor for Zenith clients it seems, and shorter legs on a Learjet work out very expensive, making the Piaggio a favourable alternative. “Things have certainly changed,” Mulholland continues. “Before, customers were saying 'get me a jet, I want a private jet to go from A to B'. But nowadays there is the supplementary question: 'how much is it?' I think that the chartering public are far more cost conscious. The appeal for this aircraft is the fact that it makes economic sense.”
Zenith also has an XLS in the pipeline, for which it is finalising legal arrangements, with delivery and acceptance on to the AOC imminent. A Challenger 604 is expected in August.