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  • Writer's pictureJon

The Ferrari of the Skies - Piaggio Avanti

Updated: May 20, 2020

Several years ago, my day job was flying corporate jets around. For a few years I sat in the left hand seat of a Learjet 45. It was a glorious aircraft to look at and fly. At the time I remember thinking there were not many aircraft out there to challenge it for looks... With one notable exception.

The Piaggio Avanti is unlike anything you will see on the ramp today. It was born at a time when designs like these seemed to be the future, with the likes of the Beech Starship and other Rutan designs coming to the fore. Alas, that future didn't quite materialise, today the executive terminal ramps are full of conventional style aircraft.

The most striking feature of the Avanti is of course the 3 wings. The aircraft was designed so that each wing provides lift. On a conventional plane the tail usually pushes down to balance the plane in flight. This downforce come at a cost as it adds to the effective weight of the aircraft, the main wing has more to do, therefore create more drag. By having 3 lifting surfaces the the main wing can be smaller and lighter.

There are other good reason for this wing layout. The forward wing (apparently it is not a canard, as canard refers only to moveable surfaces) is set in a way that it will stall before the main wing, having the effect of lowering the nose. As such it is supposedly impossible to stall the main wing.

The other striking feature are to two pusher props. One of the problems with turbo prop aircraft like the King Air is that they are noisy. Much of the noise comes from turbulent air from the propeller blade tips. The pusher props negate this as they are behind the passenger cabin.

The streamlined shape of the fuselage is no accident either. The shape is said to generate 30% of the aircrafts lift, whilst of course providing a large passenger cabin.

The initial Avanti design was developed under the Gates Learjet company which is visible in the steeply swept back windshields and the aft ventral fins. (I haven't added these to this model.)

From a modelling perspective this aircraft provided so many challenges. From how to set the incidence of each wing, to how to print the cavernous cabin without it taking for ever. For the prototype I built I got to test out some interesting methods. I printed a long 300mm fuselage middle section in vase mode, it took 4 hours as opposed to 14 and weighed very little, It was also flimsy until attached either side to the rest of the fuselage which toughened it up considerably.

I don't have a huge amount of confidence in the ability to hand launch this aircraft so I think it may well need a landing gear or catapult launch.

The final files I have settled on have been sectioned for a 20x20x20 print bed.

I have put the Avanti in the store before it is ready, like I did with the Cessna 337. I simply don't have the resources or ability to get out and test these planes at present so I hope that this way others can join in and get these models flying.

These 'experimental' models are in the store for £1, it is the minimum price I can set in the store. The fee is really only to acknowledge the time and effort that goes into making the assembly instructions and sorting to files for download. Buy doing it this way, as opposed to free downloads (which I can't track), I can better gauge the interest in the planes and see where to spend my time. I hope that if you join in testing these aircraft you will share your journey, either by email or in instagram @rc3dprint.

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