Simprop Electronic Piaggio Avanti P-180

There have been a lot of semi scale sports planes hitting the market in recent months and one of the nicest looking is the Piaggio Avanti imported by Hobby-Lobby. This plane is made by Simprop and like its namesake the Avanti is a twin pusher with a canard wing plus it has two other lifting surfaces.

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 Ready for the maiden.
Ready for the maiden.
Specifications
Wingspan:55.12 inches or 1400mm
Wing area:319 inches squared or 20.58 dm squared
Weight:3.48 lbs or 1580 gr
Battery:2400 mai. Sub C 8 cell pack
Wing Loading:18.54 oz/ft squared or 56.7 g/dm squared
Motor:5 Turn Mega Brushless 400 (2 each)
ESC:Jeti 18-3P Brushless Motor Control (2 each)
Radio:Tracker II by Polks Hobby
Servos:Hitec economy sub micro (2 each)
Available From:Hobby-Lobby
Suppliers URL:http://www.hobby-lobby.com/piaggio.htm

Introduction

There have been a lot of semi scale sports planes hitting the market in recent months and one of the nicest looking is the Piaggio Avanti imported by Hobby-Lobby. This plane is made by Simprop and like its namesake the Avanti is a twin pusher with a canard wing, plus it has two other lifting surfaces. The plane uses only two servos for the control surfaces and is a great flyer when trimmed out properly. The Simprop version of the plane is based on the turboprop powered corporate aircraft designed and built in Italy. http://www.piaggioaero.com/1/cover1.htm is the link to one of the most comprehensive sites about the Avanti P-180 that I found on the net. A brief history of the Piaggio company can be found at Tushav.com.

Kit Contents

The Avanti comes in a huge box, but Simprop does an excellent job packing the plane well and mine had no damage to any of the parts. The box is so large that it barely fit in the rear seat of a full size pickup truck. Once built, the main wing is detachable so you can easily fit the plane in the trunk of a mid sized car.

All the basics are in the kit, the wing is pre-sheeted, the fiberglass fuselage is one piece, and hardware separated for easy access. There is a blueprint to help with construction and Simprop has included a twelve page instruction booklet in English to help with the build. It took me a week of four hour evenings to put the plane together and then another evening of rearranging and tweaking after the maiden flights. Once the center of gravity and control linkages are correct, you have one nice flying, fine looking plane.

Construction

If you are a first time builder, the instructions are going to be difficult to follow but you should be able to muddle through. Luckily one of the guys that I fly with is a master builder and was able to help me through a couple of places where I got stuck and he also gave me an idea to improve the canards linkage which I'll discuss as we progress through the review. The first thing that you assemble is the fuselage, there really aren't many parts to it but you do have to trim out places for the control rods to exit and for the tail assembly as well as the fore plane. There is a wooden platform to hold one of the two servos that the Avanti uses. The platform has rounded sides which provide extra support for the fuselage. I liked how Simprop had reinforcing carbon fiber strips inside of the fuselage where stress points are located at the tail junction. The fuselage is exceptionally roomy so large hands can easily work inside of it, I was able to reach inside of the fuselage from the middle opening to the front canard on the inside of the fuselage with no problem. Simprop also has a wooden battery stop that you put inside the fuselage to help maintain correct center of gravity. You use a strip of Velco™ to secure your battery to the inside of the fuselage.

The wing airfoil is from E-222 to E-374 and is very thin. It comes as a foam wing that is presheeted and has some guides pre cut in it so you know the location of the ailerons. But don't make the mistake that I did and cut your ailerons too far from the ends. As I was cutting, I thought it might be too close to the fuselage and sure enough, it was. I had to redo it with five minute epoxy in order to repair the extra hole that I made in the wing. The wingtips are balsa that you shape and you run your wiring either through the wing or cut and reglue slots in the wing like I did. Your aileron servo mounts in the center of the wing. I covered the wing with white Ultra Coat but am not happy with the color match with the fuselage. The color is close but you can tell a difference when you are up close.

I liked the high quality fiberglass used for the motor nacelles and most of the provided hardware in the Avanti. The only exception was the Bowden cables for the control surfaces which kept breaking and splitting after flight one. Based on my friend Donnie's advice, I also changed the location of the fore-plane servo to have more of a centered pull-push with the servo since the plane requires only two servos. There is more than enough room for your motors and speed controls in the nacelles, plus there is plenty of cooling airflow running through them. To date, I've had no thermal shutdowns because my speed controls have overheated. After completion of the nacelles, you screw them into the top of the wing with nylon bolts.

The last step to building the wing is to add the covering plate so it blends in with the fuselage when you attach the wing. Be careful when cutting the hole for the nylon screw that is used to attach the wing. I didn't cut mine in the correct place and have about a one inch hole there instead of a small hole for turning the screw. I also added some Elmers brand glue along the side of the plate to help seat it onto the wing and to help improve the side view. A bit of caulking would have accomplished the same thing if you are worried about cosmetics. The plate was a great fit and required little trimming to attach it.

The canard and tail-plane are fairly straight forward to assemble. You do have to form the balsa pieces and do some shaping to get them to fit. The tail is a part of the fiberglass fuselage and you cut slots in the fiberglass to slide the balsa tail plane in. Then you put some CA around the balsa to secure it in place. There is a downward slant or anhedral built into both the tail plane and the canard. To put the canard together you put brass tubes into it so the elevator part of it moves. Wooden dowel pins help hold it in it's correct place. Seriously consider changing the stock Bowden cable out for a better quality one. Mine bound a lot and broke after the first flight. Also look at having the rudder servo centered on the plane instead of being off to one side, that way you can have an even pull/pull on both surfaces of the rudder. Having the servo in the middle of the plane does make it a little inconvenient to put the battery in and pull it out but it is not much of a hassle. One more detail, remember when the elevator is on the front of your plane the direction of movement is opposite of that on the tail of a plane! To make the plane go down in altitude, the control surface moves UP, to go up in altitude, the surface goes DOWN. The canard is slanted so the Avanti has some up built in so I would recommend that you have about 2mm to3mm more up movement than down. Other than a needing a bit more up elevator, the other control movements work well following the directions.

Simprop provides a sheet of decals that are easy to trim with scissors and stick to the fiberglass fuselage well. It took less than an hour to apply the decals and they are a nice finishing touch. If you like, you can add a pin stripe down both sides of the Avanti or roughen up and paint the plane. I decided not to paint the plane because most of the full scales are white plus I didn't want to add any extra weight by painting the plane. After I finished the Avanti P-180, I took it outside the barn for some photos. Now it was flying time at last!

Flying

Flight one was an experience that I really wouldn't want to repeat. Since I like building a plane stock for a review I went with the original Bowden cables even though the one controlling the elevator was binding at times. For the maiden flight I checked the CG at home and drove to the field with a fully charged battery already installed in the plane but didn't recheck the center of gravity when I got ready to fly. Once I got my nerve up to fly the plane I had one of my flying buddies launch it for me. He did an excellent job and the plane was off but it kept going up and up and up. It went up faster the more throttle I applied so I decided to slow it way down and reduced throttle. I used all of my elevator trim to try to level off the flight but didn't have enough and had to hold down the elevator during the entire flight. As I was making my first turn at low throttle, the plane tip stalled and headed back to mother earth. Luckily at the time, I was about 16 mistakes high and recovered well. I told the guys there was something wrong and the guy who threw the plane said that he felt something shifting inside the plane when he threw it. The only thing that could shift was the battery and that was not good news to hear at all so now it was "think time" or lose several hundred dollars worth of plane the first flight.

I increased throttle to about 1/2 and found that the plane made turns with a lot of control input without making a tip stall but it would gain altitude when running straight even with full down elevator. So I made long straight runs at low throttle to lose altitude and increased speed on the turns so the Avanti wouldn't stall out. After 10 minutes of doing this I was worried about the batteries lasting much longer and had chickened out on several landing attempts. After 12 minutes of flying I was really-really worried and decided it was now or never to land the plane. I slowed the throttle to zero and made my final approach hoping for the best. It hit the ground fairly hard and bounced a couple of times but stopped mostly in one piece. There was a bit of damage to the fuselage and I had knocked the rudder pieces lose. I checked my pants for a wet spot, did a quick repair, made sure the center of gravity was right, the battery secure, had a Mountain Dew, and got ready for flight two after I stopped shaking.

Flight two went badly from the beginning. I had no elevator control at all from the start and the plane turned over on its back after a hard ground hit and crashed. Again the damage was minimal and after taking the wing off, I found that the elevator Bowden cable sleeve had broken in two places causing flex in the line on one side of the elevator. Upon reflection I felt this damage was caused by adding more down into the elevator causing too much pressure on the plastic. Time to call it quits for the day and head back to the house.

That evening, I relocated the servo to make it more of a center pull/push on the elevator with more equal pressure on both sides and replaced the Bowden sleeve for a better quality one that I had in my spare box. The control surface worked a whole lot smoother this time with no binding until the surfaces reached their limit of movement. The battery stop was also snapped out so I repaired that with some CA and fixed some other minor damage from crash two.

Flight three went great! The center of gravity was right on, I had made a line in the fuselage where the aft end of the battery should be just in case it got shifted. The control surfaces were free and ready but the pilot was apprehensive. Once again I had another pilot launch it for me and he made another great throw. This time the plane did exactly what it was supposed to do. It flew fairly straight and true without the tendency to gain excessive elevation. I did have to add a bit of down trim to the elevator but no aileron trim for straight and level flight. The plane is very fast at full throttle and forces you to fly a bit ahead of the plane. I was still gun shy over my mishaps and didn't want to try any aerobatics even from 20 mistakes high. (Maybe some day!!) After landing, I recharged the battery and tried hand launching the Avanti myself. Launching it one handed reminds me of making a pass with a slick fiberglass football, it's a thick fuselage and you grip it about where the servo tray support is on the inside of the fuselage. I have been able to launch it a few times without crashing but it is much easier to have someone else launch it for you. With brushless motors the Avanti keeps up with 40 powered internal combustion planes and gives some 60's a run for their money. The sound of the twin motors running is awesome as it makes fast passes. It slows down well for landings and just mushes in a stall since I got my center of gravity correct. The plane tracks well when turning and can easily maintain altitude in turns. Overall the Avanti looks and sounds impressive when flying with the brushless motors. If you can't afford brushless, I feel it would fly just about as well with cobalt motors. Here are the numbers with twin brushless Mega 5 turns: 30.2 amps static, 11,500 RPM's static, and I'm using a 8 cell 2400 mai Sub C. Wonder what the Avanti would do on a 10 cell pack????

Conclusion

Ahhh yesss, I just love the sound of a twin brushless powered Avanti zipping by at the field in the afternoon! Besides being a great looking plane, the Avanti is a great flyer. As soon as I had the center of gravity correct and to the designers specifications, the planes performance was excellent. As of the writing of this review, I'm still getting a kick flying it around and have not attempted any aerobatics with the plane. The Avanti P-180 looks fantastic just doing flybys and high speed passes and my other excuse is that I'm getting used to the speed of the plane. Simprop has really put together an outstanding plane that looks a lot like its full scale counterpart. They have also made a canard three wing plane that flies quite well. The Avanti is definitely not a first plane but would make a great number three aircraft after you get some aileron experience. If you want to impress the Internal Combustion (IC) guys with a unusual looking electric that has better performance than they expect, the brushless Avanti is a great choice for an experienced pilot.

Hits

  • Appearance
  • Simplicity of parts.
  • Plane only needs two servos.
  • Quality of most components.
  • Fiberglass appearance and finish.
  • Flight characteristics when trimmed properly.
  • Misses

  • Directions are fair at best.
  • Bowden cable breaking.
  • Thread Tools
    Dec 15, 2003, 10:12 PM
    Electric Coolhunter
    Thomas B's Avatar
    Don, nice job on the Avanti review!

    Did you end up using the same props as HL suggests, the APC 7-5?

    I may not be able to resist adding the other pitch surface to the aft horizontal tail on mine, if I can save a few grams elsewhere to help offset the weight of ther servo. I have no desire to increase the wingloading much.
    Dec 16, 2003, 02:07 PM
    Registered User
    This is one radical looking plane. I have seen the real thing fly over. We used to see the Beech Starship buzzing around a lot a bunch of years back. These planes (the real ones) have a reall unique sound when they fly by. The props looked like scimitars, and have more than two blades I think. I will try to find links to the real thing. Piaggio made Vespas too
    Dec 16, 2003, 02:20 PM
    Registered User
    http://autohobbypage.com/cgi-bin/02/...nes/pln024.jpg

    The Starship has 6 blade props, looks like 5 on the Piaggio

    www.nextcraft.com/avanti.html
    Dec 16, 2003, 10:44 PM
    Electric Coolhunter
    Thomas B's Avatar
    The Avanti rather embarrised the Starship, by being about 50 MPH faster than the Beech product and more efficent, as well.

    Both are lovely aircraft, but the Avanti takes the honors, for me.
    Dec 17, 2003, 10:01 AM
    Thread OP
    Gents,
    Sorry for not replying sooner. My home PC is giving me fits!! I fully agree with Thomas over the Avanti taking top honors.

    Thomas, I use the 7x5's and they work very well with reasonable amperage draw. I have a set of rear wheels on the plane and am in the process of installing a steerable front wheel. The plane has plenty of power to spare and I thought the wheels would be a nice touch with a three oz weight penalty so far. If they don't work, I can always take them back off!!
    Don
    Jan 02, 2004, 08:56 PM
    Thread OP
    I've added some landing gear to the plane and thought I'd share some photos with you all. The front gear is steerable and is the tailgear from an IC plane. It's larger than I wanted but the smallest I could find at the LHS.
    Jan 02, 2004, 09:00 PM
    Thread OP
    You can see some results of some nasty landings in that photo. Remember to bring this plane in under power, not glide in Don!!!

    This shot is of the inside of the fuse showing how I put some ply in there to support the gear and the hookup for the servo. I could reach my arm up to the front canard installing this gear.
    Jan 02, 2004, 09:04 PM
    Thread OP
    This is a shot of the rear landing gear. I used some that I had taken off another plane that has met it's demise. Like the front gear, plywood that I formed to fit the fuse is on the inside supporting the gear.
    Last edited by Don Sims; Jan 02, 2004 at 09:12 PM.
    Jan 02, 2004, 09:10 PM
    Thread OP
    The weight with:
    8 2400 SC cells is 1824 grams or 4lbs 3/8oz.

    8 1700 AUP cells is 1623 grams or 3lbs 9 3/8oz.

    The plane still flies fairly well but as I mentioned in an earlier post, you have to fly it in for a landing. Takeoffs look nice with the gear. I've made some very nasty landings and the fuse is starting to show it as you can see from the photos.
    Don
    Jan 07, 2004, 05:29 PM
    Registered User
    Thank you all - I saw one of these fly over in Virginia during the holidays, had no(edited for language by moderator) idea what it was until I saw the model!

    Piaggio did indeed make Vespas. I once owned one. I hope this this is a whole lot more stable ! ! !
    Last edited by tim hooper; Feb 02, 2004 at 12:24 AM.
    Jan 20, 2004, 04:02 AM
    Registered User
    Fredrik W's Avatar
    Don, do you have any photo of the whole model with L/G attached?

    Great review, BTW!


    // Fredrik Wergeland
    Sweden
    www.flyingmodels.org
    The Great Electric Motor Test
    Jan 20, 2004, 06:05 AM
    Thread OP
    Not on my PC Fredrik. I can take a couple and post them though in the next day or so.

    Thank you for the compliment!
    Don
    Feb 01, 2004, 08:03 PM
    Thread OP
    Was out flying the Avanti with landing gear on it today and took some photos for your viewing pleasure:
    Feb 01, 2004, 08:08 PM
    Thread OP
    Sorry for the delay posting these!!

    On flight three today I bounced it at least four feet into the air and didn't damage the gear or the fuse. I really have got to stop flying this plane here at the house instead of the field where there is room to land. Between the trees, power line, barn, fences, roundpen, cars and house it's a bit tight to land a large plane.


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