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3 Lifting Surface Configuration (P180): The Way Of The Future?

Piaggio P180 Avanti II at Oshkosh 2009

 I was raised on taildraggers and homebuilts (back in the day when a typical 'fast' homebuilt went 150mph), but my interest in flying machines is a whole lot more diverse than that.  In fact, I can still remember following the Piaggio P180 development in the early 80’s even before the airplane had flown… and if I remember correctly, they had a contest to come up with a name for the airplane.  I must admit I never really liked the winning Avanti name, but I’ve always been drawn to P180’s unusualness and performance.

 The pic shown here is one I took at Oshkosh this year of the Avanti II, which is mostly the old original P180 re-engined for more speed AND better fuel economy, along with a glass cockpit and other modernizations.  It was certified in 2005 and has been selling well ever since.

 The most obvious oddity of the Avanti is the 3 wing surfaces.  As a concept, it’s described as 3LSC or 3 Lifting Surface Configuration.  It’s kinda canard but kinda not.  The main wing is moved far aft, which frees up the cabin from having the main spar carry-thru in the way, and then the wing up front holds the nose up, to compensate for the main wing being so far aft.  The T tail in the rear is where pitch control comes from, but if I understand the concept correctly, the T tail is also a lifting surface.  Tho I’m getting the idea that it runs along up there typically with very little load on it.  Hopefully I’ll find a P180/3LSC expert to do a podcast with before long and we’ll get the straight scoop on this stuff!

 The bottom line here is that the Avanti doesn’t have very much wing on it, just 172.2 sq ft total.  But it doesn’t need as much wing as a conventional aircraft because it’s all lifting up, without the negative effect of the downforce of a traditional wing and tail configuration.  There must be something to all this cuz the Avanti winds up having a small, lightweight airframe with a large cabin and a strong useful load of 4,100 pounds… all while also being the fastest turboprop in the world.  As in about 400 kts fast! 

 If you only thought the Avanti was kinda weird looking, it might be time to look a little closer at it.  If you thought it was kinda weird looking, and fast, then I still think it might be time to take a closer look.  I’m thinking this 3LSC concept deserves more attention, and so I’m wondering if there’s a chance that it might be the way of the future.  It's pretty hard to argue with the performance the Avanti has put on display.

 We’ll talk more about the 3LSC before long.  Really soon actually cuz my entry in the Retro Airliner Design Contest is tapping into the 3LSC, coupling it with 4 massive 4,000hp radial engines!  Now that’s a combo!  You can see what that beast looks like sometime this Friday 4-9-10 when I post the entries in the contest.  Hopefully there’s more than just mine to look at, but if not, you can count on it being a bit on the wild side : )

 Lastly, here's a pretty sweet P180 video to check out.  It's no where near as luscious as the Starship video posted recently, but it's still a great vid.



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