Piaggio Aerospace
Piaggio Aerospace
Founded
1884
Headquarters
Villanova d'Albenga (Savona), Italy
Key People
Vincenzo Nicastro, extraordinary commissioner (appointed by Italian government)
Number of Employees
950
Phone Number
(561) 253-0104

Piaggio Aerospace

Founded in 1884 by Rinaldo Piaggio as a manufacturer of rolling stock for the railway infrastructure and for outfitting for ocean liners in Genoa, Italy, Piaggio began producing aircraft engines and airframes in 1915 and is one of the oldest airplane manufacturers still in existence. It rolled out its first aircraft of original design, the single-engine Piaggio P.1, in 1922 and developed several models through World War II, including the four-engine P.108 heavy bomber. Piaggio aircraft set 21 world speed records between 1937 and 1939.

After Rinaldo’s death in 1938, his sons Enrico and Armando managed the company, which also manufactured trucks, trams, trains, buses, nautical fittings.  Relocating and rebuilding after World War II, Piaggio dropped most of its product lines but diversified into motorcycles, introducing the prolific Vespa scooter in 1946. Piaggio also continued developing aircraft, launching the twin-engine P.136 seaplane in 1948, the P.166 light transport/utility aircraft in 1957, and its first jet, the PD-80, in 1964, after having secured a production license for the Rolls-Royce Viper turbojet engine in 1960.

In the mid-1960s, Piaggio split its aircraft and scooter divisions into two companies, Piaggio Aero and Vespa. Over the next several decades, several investors purchased stakes in Piaggio Aero as the company continued to produce aircraft and engines mainly for military customers in Europe, Australia, and Africa. 

Piaggio entered into a partnership with Gates Learjet in 1983 to begin development of the Avanti. The first 12 fuselages were built in Wichita, Kansas, despite Learjet pulling out of the project in early 1986. With first flight in September 1986, the aircraft received Italian certification in March 1990 and FAA certification the following October. As of December 2020, Piaggio has built approximately 250 aircraft; during that month, the worldwide Avanti fleet surpassed more than one million flight hours.  

The company spent 2020 recovering from its 2018 declared insolvency even while COVID-19 wreaked havoc on the aviation industry. Its sleek twin pusher turboprop P.180 Avanti—in production since 1986 and now in its third iteration as the Avanti EVO—is touted as the fastest turboprop on the market with a maximum speed of 402 kts at 31,000 feet or Mach .70. A $220 million contract with the Italian Ministry of Defense signed in January 2020 for nine new Avanti EVOs and upgrades to 19 existing Avantis over the next four years brought stability to the company even while it remains in extraordinary receivership status and continues to seek a buyer.