In Australia there is intense competition for owner-pilot sales, especially to cashed-up baby boomers. It’s hot in the training market too, with manufacturers courting flying training organisations who need to replace their old legacy fleets and meet the massive demand for “glass capable” airline pilots.
One increasingly active manufacturer is the privately-owned Italian company Tecnam. To date, Tecnam has mostly made a name for itself in the light sports aircraft (LSA) market. In June 2018 the company announced that its new 215hp four-seat, high wing tourer, the P2010 (pronounced “Twenty-Ten”) had been CASA certified and would be heading down under.
Being the world’s second largest producer of general aviation and light sport aircraft, Tecnam’s entry into the four-seat single market is significant. AOPA PILOT AUSTRALIA was keen to find out what the P2010 is all about, how well it flies compared to competitors, and if it is suited to Australian conditions.
The origin of Tecnam was two young Italian brothers, Gino and (later Professor) Luigi Pascale drawing, building and flying model aeroplanes in the early 1930s. The brothers dreamed of one day designing and manufacturing a series of aircraft. In 1951, despite so many post-WWII factors against them, the brothers achieved their goal, with the launch of the P48 Astore, named after a bird of prey that soars high in the mountains near their home.
From its design and manufacture facility in Capua (near Naples), Italy, Tecnam delivers at least one new aircraft every working day. The company has a global fleet of over 7,000, including 350 in Australasia, and 100 Tecnam Support Centres. It produces 33 variants of aircraft, with representation in over 65 countries, including an office in Brisbane run by Bruce Stark. Demonstrating the international reach, on the shuttle back to Naples, the author met Mohamed, a flying instructor and flight school owner from Sudan who had been at Tecnam for advanced training.
Tecnam has a close association with key industry partners including Garmin, Dynon, Rotax, Lycoming, and Bose. A Garmin representative was on-site during the author’s visit.
With the P2012 Traveller, an 11-seat, unpressurised, high wing, Garmin NXi equipped, twin 375 hp engine aircraft, Tecnam recently entered the airliner market. The company already has more than 100 orders for the P2012, many from the launch customer Cape Air in the US, that is looking to replace its ageing fleet of Cessna twins, with something more modern. The P2012 aircraft seems suitable for Australia too and AOPA PILOT AUSTRALIA will test it on the next trip to Europe.
The recent sale of eight two-seat P2008s to Soar Aviation at Moorabbin – and many more Tecnam aircraft no doubt on their way to Australia, has really made the local market sit up and take notice of this classy Italian company.
The P2010 is the first new, single engine, high wing, four-seat aircraft from Tecnam. It offers pilots advanced technology, with a claimed optimal combination of an all carbon fibre fuselage, and a metal wing and stabilator. It is available with a Lycoming IO-360-M1A of 180 hp, or an IO-390-C3B6 of 215 hp. Tecnam say the metal wing gives better flexibility in turbulence. Company executives say the carbon fibre to metal marriage, is a match made in heaven.
The P2010’s maximum cruise is at 146 kts on 75% power, with its 215 hp engine turning at 2,700 rpm, coupled to a 3-blade variable-pitch propeller.
The wing is based on the well-proven NACA63A aerofoil with partial tapering. The all movable type “stabilator” horizontal tail, a trademark of Tecnam aeroplanes, provides controllability and “hands-off” longitudinal stability.
The P2010 has a fuel capacity of 63.40 US gallons with the carbon fibre structure making it lighter and more fuel efficient. Tecnam dealers are quick to point out that the P2010 can carry four 200 lb adults, plus their golf clubs, on a two-hour flight, with reserves. These are impressive numbers.
There are three doors on the P2010. The large, luxury motor-vehicle-like cabin provides lots of room and comfort, especially on long cross-country flights. Customers can fit different avionics packages to the P2010, with high-speed Garmin NXi avionics the choice of most buyers.
In the Tecnam aircraft descriptions, the “P” stands for the founders’ surnames, and the number is the year the aircraft first hit the drawing board. There is no relationship between the number and the aircraft’s size.
The flyaway ex Gold Coast price (excl GST) for the 215hp Garmin NXI equipped P2010 is €337,800. An autopilot adds €33,800. That’s a total of about A$600k.
SPECIFICATIONS AND PERFORMANCE
Here is a table, suitably in metric, which compares the P2010 with its obvious tourer competitor, the Cirrus SR20.
The AOPA PILOT AUSTRALIA editor was invited to fly the Tecnam P2010 from the company’s head office and airfield in Capua, near Rome, Italy, in June 2018. During the same trip AOPA PILOT AUSTRALIA was test flying the Vulcanair V1.0, another new Italian four seat, high wing aircraft.
It was going to be interesting to compare the two types, as well as assess them against the hitherto market leading Cessna 172 and 182, in which the author has hundreds of hours flight time, and the Cirrus SR20 and SR22, which the author has been flying for the last four years. The P2010 was to be aircraft type 41 in the author’s logbook and hold many a pleasant surprise.
The editor was given a personal tour of the impressive Tecnam museum, which is part of the new administration block, and the on-site factories, by Stefano Mavilio, from Tecnam’s marketing and communications department. Mavilio designed the museum, was a close confidant of Professor Pascale in his later years, was trusted to write the detailed history of Tecnam, and is a passionate advocate for his employer.
There is a separate smaller facility at busy Naples Airport where the composite shells are made and shipped up the road to Capua. As an aside, the fuselage shell for the P2010 weighs just 88kg. The main Capua factory is large and divided into many separate sections with high-quality staff, many sourced from local educational institutions specialising in aviation.
Except for the avionics and the engines, almost everything is made in-house by Tecnam, on Tecnam designed or purchased Italian machinery. It is an impressive operation. Most interesting of all was an underwater machine that cuts out metal parts, up to about 20cm thick, with an extremely high-pressure water jet. This is typical of the advanced technology in use at the factory and has the advantage of not heating or distorting the metal.
Seeing the P2010 up close for the first time the author found two things impossible. First, not to feel the presence of the Pascale brothers in the design; and second, not to compare the P2010 to the finest designed Italian sports car. Readers who have not seen a brand new P2010 may find these points hard to believe, but those who have had the experience will understand completely. The author was reminded of an “armchair pilot” who posted on Facebook saying he did not need to see or fly an aircraft to assess it – the numbers are enough. Nonsense!
Some observers say that the P2010 looks like a more modern version of the 182, and from a distance that might be so, to the less experienced eye. However, the P2010 is so much more technologically advanced, as to make that comparison both misleading and unfair. The far better comparison, in so many ways, is to the similarly powered, modern four/five seat American produced tourer, the Cirrus SR20.
Individual features of the P2010 that caught the author’s eye included: the handsome, perfectly smooth and symmetrical composite body; the three bladed prop – ideal for low noise environments in Europe and ground clearance; the vortex generators on the tail fin; the convenient third door for passenger entry; the Garmin NXi kit and central electronic back up instruments; the quality leather interior, with so many special nice little touches, like an overhead case for sunglasses, and multiple USB ports; and the massive room in the back after the author, who is if average height, had positioned the pilot’s seat perfectly for his frame.
LET’S GO FLYING
At Capua (LIAU) Tecnam has the cutest bumpy grass landing “area.” It is shared with a local flying club where Massimo De Stefano, the company’s production demonstration pilot, and our guide for the day, learned to fly. It’s an “area” not “airport” because the uncontrolled runway itself is loosely defined, part of a much larger grass field, and has the option of left or right circuits, as one prefers.
The left-hand front seat was easy to access with good visibility, except for the wingtips which are quite a way back and require a bend of the head and turn back. Start-up (and pre-takeoff) checks are pure Lycoming and the engine started immediately. In taxi the aircraft is stable and easy to control. With the differential brakes, pilots can turn on a sixpence.
Take-off acceleration felt brisk, much better than a 180 hp aircraft, and the author was quickly rotating at 58 knots and climbing out at 80. The P2010 feels strong in the climb and with 215 hp sounds much more like a six cylinder than a four. This is going to be a popular engine choice.
Climbing initially to 2,000 feet we levelled off and found a 25-25 cruise speed of approximately 130 knots. The author had no doubt 146 knots would be possible at 27 rpm. In a later climb to 3,000 feet 1,000 fpm was easily exceeded.
At 3,000 feet De Stefano demonstrated a no-flap and then a full-flap stall. The no-flap stall occurred at about 61 KIAS, and the full-flap one at about 52 KIAS. In both cases the stall was well telegraphed in multiple ways, and recovery was effected by lowering the nose and applying full power. The modest wing drop was like a 172. There are no vices here.
On our way to beautiful Gaeta there was plenty of time for the author to make steep turns in both directions to admire one of the most beautiful parts of Italy. With the wide view over the dash, and Garmin NXi artificial horizon with “ball” inside, it was easy to keep the turns balanced.
From the air Gaeta looked like one of the world’s best holiday destinations and beaches. No doubt as we wished we were down there for a swim (oh for an airfield sometimes), several of the beachgoers wished they were up flying with us. It was a spectacular, no wind, no cloud, perfectly clear Mediterranean day for flying. How privileged we all are as pilots!
Reluctantly, because pilots will just want to fly the P2010 forever, we headed directly back to Capua using the NXi moving map and magenta line. De Stefano set up an autopilot climb, level off and then the descent back to the airport. It was time to briefly enjoy the beach, the countryside, and vineyard views below.
On arrival at LIAU De Stefano flew the first touch and go so the author could film it for AOPA Australia’s Facebook page. The author then flew the next three, getting better each time until (near) perfection was reached on number three. Approach speed was initially high at 75 knots, with landing or full flap (there are just three flap settings – up, take-off and landing). Over the fence and in ground effect the speed could be bled off, for a comparatively slow and flat touch down, and quick stop. For anyone with some high wing time, or maybe even none, the P2010 is easily to land. That will make it popular.
It’s hard to describe the P2010 in a few words. It was, in the very best of ways, like the love child of a C182 and a SR22, in terms or design, luxuriousness and performance. It’s much more a tourer, club, and owner-pilot aircraft than a trainer, but may find some favour as the latter.
The P2010 is pure Italian-design-and-passion-beautiful, easy and safe to fly, has a great field, climb and cruise performance, with huge room and lots of nice touches. It’s backed by more than 80 years Tecnam history, experience, and expertise, from the second biggest player in general aviation.
Priced at just US$300k delivered to Australia, expect the P2010 to be a strong competitor in the touring market, one that owners will be exceptionally proud of, and an aircraft we will surely see a lot of down under.