Tecnam: Behind the Scenes
Tecnam have a reputation for building beautiful aircraft that push boundaries, mixing power and precision with that unmistakable Italian flair.
The Astore, P2006T and P2010 are remarkable planes from a remarkable company, and the man behind the magic was recently recognised for his incredible contributions to the aviation industry.
Professor Luigi Pascale has been awarded the Seconda Università of Naples’ highest accolade, an Honorary Doctorate in Aerospace Engineering. At 92, Pascale still actively leads the Tecnam Research and Design Team and is currently working on the production and imminent rollout of his latest aircraft design, the next-generation 11 seat P2012 Traveller.
A native of Naples, Luigi and his brother Giovanni were obsessed with flying from a young age. Their passion burned brightly throughout their childhood, and during the 1930s they would spend most of their time designing paper planes, then entering them into competitions. It was a long way from the high-tech aircraft they would design in later years, but every story has to start somewhere.
“We were two kids animated by a great passion for the flying machines: the paper planes were the first expression of interest that would inevitably bring us to model aircraft construction,” Pascale remembers. “The opportunity arose one day during one of our high schools classes, where an aviation magazine named L’Aquilone circulated among the students, from where we found the address of Movo, a supplier of assembling boxes and equipment for model aircrafts based in Milano. We immediately wrote to Movo and in a few days we received a catalogue, from where we chose the elastic and tube M5 model.
“We spent our time preparing a little lab in a small room that we personally cleared and cleaned. We obviously did not have the proper tools, but we managed to find them a few days later. As a matter of fact, I decided to go with my father to his business trip in Benevento to convince him to take me to a hardware shop, where we bought all the needed tools. Finally we had our first small saw, our first lath, and our first drill.”
From humble beginnings, great things grew. The brothers moved on from paper and bits of wood, to designing full-sized aircraft. They built their first aircraft, the P48 Astore, which first graced the azure Italian skies back on that auspicious day, the 2nd of April 1951.
The construction work began in early 1949 with four students acting as assistants. The engine was built from the parts of four out-of-service Continental engines. It was constructed from bits and pieces and made on the cheap, but the incredible thing is, it worked. The great Mario De Bernardi flew it for the first time on April 2, 1951, and he was so impressed with the quality of the aircraft that he also took care of the certification.
The Astore came second in the 1952 Tour of Sicily, and the world started to take notice. “It remains one of my favourite planes, also because at that time it was one of the most advanced in its category”, Pascale recalls. An immediate success, it paved the way for a career of triumphs for the Pascale brothers.
They designed and built a number of competition-winning race planes including the P55 Tornado. A mid-wing cantilever monoplane with a retractable tricycle landing gear, the aircraft was powered by a nose-mounted Lycoming O-320 piston engine. It was fast, too, winning the Tour of Sicily in 1956. Too specialised to go into production, Luigi Pascale started looking at ways to build aircraft that could be enjoyed by everyone.
A COMPANY IS BORN
Professor Pascale founded Partenavia in 1957, with a view to producing planes on a larger scale, so that more people could share his brilliance. The P64 Oscar first flew in 1965 and went on sale two years later. Powered by a solid 180 hp Lycoming O-360-A1A piston engine, it was an immediate hit, with a large number being sold to the Italian Police Force. It was constantly improved and revised for more than a decade, laying a strong platform from which Pascale could launch his move into general aviation.
Partenavia’s trainer P66 was used by an entire generation of pilots while the P57 and P64 have been used intensively for work, tourism and sport
The P68, a six-seat, twin-engined, high-wing monoplane, was even more popular, with many still being flown today. Powered by two 200hp Lycoming IO-360 piston engines, more than 430 have been sold since it first showed up in 1970. It is still in production today and this twin prop was the machine that really introduced the Pascale aesthetic to Australia, being a high performance aircraft that could take some rough handling and diversified operations. It was yet another brilliant design by Luigi Pascale, but he was about to revolutionise the industry once more – by creating Tecnam.
THE PASCALE DESIGN PORTFOLIO
The Pascale brothers already had an illustrious and highly productive career leading up to the foundation of Tecnam. Their legacy and aircraft from their earlier years was a substantial achievement.
ASTORE P48 B
This is where it all started – the first aircraft made by the Pascale brothers. This tandem two seater was powered by a 65 hp Continental engine and had its maiden flight in April 1951.
The Tigrottto was a three-seat aircraft powered by a 100 hp Continental engine. It had a predominantly wooden structure with retractable tail-wheel type landing gear and, for the time, a rather respectable 130 kts maximum speed.
This 1950s all-wood monocoque constructed flyer certainly lived up to its name: it went like the clappers! Designed to be a high-performance competition and touring monoplane, the Tornado was powered by a nose-mounted 150hp Lycoming engine. The small mid-wing cantilever monoplane had a retractable tricycle type landing gear, a laminar airfoil exhaust gas ejector and a ferocious top speed of 190 kts.
The Tornado aircraft was originally commissioned to win the Tour of Sicily which it did indeed win in 1956. However, even though it was obviously top of its class, it was deemed too specialised a design to enter mainstream production and only one aircraft (registered I-REGJ) was built.
The Fachiro is a four-seat high-wing touring monoplane fitted with a fixed tricycle undercarriage which first took to the skies on the 7th November, 1958. Powered by a 180hp Lycoming engine with a maximum speed of 135 kts, a later version, the Fachiro II launched in 1959 before being refined with a swept fin and rudder. A mixed steel tube-and-fabric construction was favoured although a one-off all-metal version, the P64 Fachiro III, soon appeared which later emerged as the P64 Oscar.
The Fachiro was successfully marketed for Aero Club and GA use and several models are still flying across Italian skies to this day.
The P59 Jolly was designed to meet a requirement for a standard trainer for the Italian national flying clubs. The prototype first flew on February 2nd 1960 and was a high-wing monoplane with a nose mounted 95 hp Continental engine. It had a fixed tailwheel landing gear and seated two occupants side-by-side in an enclosed cockpit. The aircraft was later re-engined with a 100 hp Continental engine and the wing span was increased.
The prototype (only one was ever built) won the 1960 Aero Club Italia competition for the country’s flying schools – unsurprisingly as it had a range of 800 kms and a top speed of 197 km/h.
Improvements were made to the design of the Fachiro III, mainly to the rear fuselage to fit a panoramic rear window, and moving from mixed materials to an all-metal airframe, the Fachiro was rebadged as the P64B Oscar B. It had its first flight in 1967, beetling along with a 150hp Lycoming engine with a speed of 125 kts. With an upgraded 200hp Lycoming powerplant, it was known as the Oscar-200 with 21 of them making their way to South Africa. In, January 1976 a new fully aerobatic version was developed for Italian aero clubs and dubbed the P66C Charlie – 96 were manufactured.
The P68 went into production in 1972, primarily intended for private or business use and originally named the Victor. The prototype six-seat, twin-engined, high-wing monoplane saw its maiden flight on 25th May 1970, powered by two 200 hp Lycoming piston engines.
14 were delivered in 1972, followed in 1974 by the P68B with the fuselage lengthened by 15cms to create more space in the cockpit. It was superseded in 1979 by the P68C which had a lengthened nose to accommodate weather radar. A turbocharged version (the P68C-TC) became available in 1980.
Designed by Luigi as a low wing, two seat light aerobatic trainer in the 1970s, the elegant aircraft unfortunately played second fiddle to the P68 in production at the time and only one Alpha ever took to the skies. Powered by a 100hp Rolls Royce Continental engine, the P70 has style and grace.
In 1986 the relentlessly busy and ambitious Pascale duo founded Tecnam, with Luigi Pascale going on to design the epic P92, which proved to be a smash hit, with more than 2500 currently in service. Popular with training schools, the P92 forged Tecnam’s reputation for excellence, which was built on with the subsequent release of the P2002, P2004, and other great planes.
With so many successful planes, Tecnam is now known as one of the most dependable aircraft manufacturers on the planet. They are constantly releasing new planes, or improving and upgrading old ones, and many innovations we currently take for granted can be attributed to them.
Professor Pascale has since received numerous accolades and awards including the ‘Paul Tissandier diploma’ from Federation Aeronautique Internationale, the ‘Aeroplano d’Argento’ and earlier this year the ‘Flieger Magazin’ Award.
Thanks to Luigi Pascale’s passion for flying, Tecnam is the world’s largest producer of both General Aviation and Light Sport Aircraft and delivers a new aircraft every working day.
THE BUSINESS OF FLYING
Tecnam’s interests are divided into two main activities, both equally important. The first pertains to the construction and assembly of structural components for commercial aviation; among these components are the tailplanes for the ATR 42/72, fuselage panels for Douglas and Boeing, parts of the G222, tailplanes and moving surfaces for the SF260, fuselage elements for the P68, helicopter components for Agusta, and other parts for LearJet, Falcon, Dornier and others.
In other words, some of the most important components from some of the most important aircraft in the world come directly from Tecnam, because they can be trusted to get the job done.
The other sector of activity pertains to the design and manufacture of prototypes and production units for light or ultralight aviation.
TECNAM – the AIRCRAFT
P92 Echo Super/Eaglet/Classic
Nobody knows freedom like an eagle on the wing, and the spirit of that has been encapsulated by this aircraft. The P92 Eaglet is a high wing, single engine airplane equipped with tricycle landing gear. The Eaglet is designed for flying with a style, using the proven P92 as a base. This is a class-leading high wing trainer and cross country tourer to in the light general aviation category.
It’s an awesome beast that needs to be experienced to be believed.
To design the two-seater, low wing P2002 Sierra, Tecnam used the most advanced systems in 3D design, fluid dynamics and structural analysis. A tapered laminar flow wing, slotted flaps, up-turned wing tips and a streamlined fuselage give to the P2002 superlative performance, as well as a very forgiving set of controls. Designed with the pilot in mind, the Sierra passes muster with the most critical and discerning plane lovers whilst still keeping the not so experienced pilot safe and comfortable.
The name ‘Bravo’ really suits this aircraft – after seeing it in action, that’s exactly what most people call out. The P2004 Bravo is a high-wing, similar to the P92 Echo Super, but it has a cantilevered wing rather than the P92′s strut-braced wing. It’s carved out a niche for itself and has a passionately dedicated fanbase.
The P2006T is a twin-engine four-seat aircraft with fully retractable landing gear. The high-wing configuration offers stability, great cabin visibility and easy access for passengers and luggage. The P2006T sports a robust yet very light aluminium airframe which allows an outstanding payload-to-total weight ratio. Wings are of traditional construction with integral fuel tanks located outboard of the engines, holding 100 litres each for a total of 200 litres.
The P2008 is a high wing, two place, single engine equipped with tricycle landing gear. This little beauty incorporates a level of comfort, quality and efficiency ideal for training and touring and, as with most Tecnam designs, she’s a bit of a looker! Constructed with a carbon-fibre fuselage, metal wings and a metal stabilator.
The P2010 brings together an advanced-technology, all-carbon fibre fuselage with a metal wing to deliver a superlative single engined, four seat aeroplane, designed by Italy’s most innovative aerospace design guru, Professor Luigi Pascale.
Powered by the proven and reliable Lycoming IO-360-M1A engine, this baby also has a high fuel capacity (240 litres). The fuel tanks are installed in the wing box, behind the main spar, to preserve their integrity for the maximum safety. Of course, carbon fibre equals a lighter and therefore more fuel efficient aeroplane, so you know you’ll have a ball while shooting through the sky.
Named after Luigi Pascale’s first-ever plane, the Astore was always going to be something special. It’s a low wing, two place, single engine airplane equipped with tricycle landing gear. The all-metal airframe structure is complemented by the selective use of an epoxy-reinforced matrix of carbon/glass fiber for the upper radome and fairings.
The main landing gear consists of two 7075T6 light alloy springs which are hinged inside the fuselage in order to maximise the wheel deflection and energy absorption efficiency. These springs are supported by robust machined components which spread the load directly onto the main bulkheads.
The nose gear is free-castering and is supported by an oleo-pneumatic shock absorber connected directly to the firewall. Differential toe brakes for steering are standard for both pilot and copilot with redundant brake master cylinders.
That’s enough about the stats, all you need to know is how it flies. Like a dream, is the answer to that.
The P2012 Traveller is powered by two Lycoming engines (350hp, turbocharged, six-cylinder – you know, all the good stuff) mounted on the wings. It’s characterised by a very comfortable fuselage cabin to accommodate up to nine passengers and two very happy pilots.
Tecnam funelled thousands of hours of research into the general aerodynamic analysis for this plane and conducted a thorough investigation into some particular affects (such as the wing-fuselage interference or the nacelle lift contribution and their effect on wing span loading). The aerodynamic analysis was also essential to have an accurate estimation of aircraft stability and control derivatives (both longitudinal and lateral- directional) and to lead to a correct sizing of tail surfaces. And it was all worth it as the P2012 is as solid as a rock and will be enjoying its maiden flight in the very near future.
It takes world class facilities to build world class aircraft, and Tecnam boasts an impressive infrastructure. The company’s main production facility is in the beautiful city of Capua which has recently been expanded with a third hangar now dedicated to the P2012 Traveller production line with the local airfield providing space for flight tests. A second factory is located in an area adjacent to Naples’ international airport and this is where all the composite production takes place. Between these two state-of-the -art facilities, Tecnam are able to meet the considerable demand for their aircraft, while continuing to innovate.
Tecnam opened its enormous North American facility at Sebring, Florida, in 2014. This large facility is not only a showroom and delivery centre for new Tecnam aircraft but is also an airframe maintenance and training centre, as well as the parts warehouse for all North American Tecnam owners.
Tecnam are always looking to improve their production and maintenance facilities, with a number of exciting proposals for the future. Check out our Jet Set feature this issue for a sneak peak into a possible extra dimension for Tecnam. When you climb aboard a shiny new Tecnam aircraft, you’re joining a large club: more than 4,500 Tecnam aircraft are currently flying worldwide in over 65 countries. There are 33 different models and variants tailored to all kinds of budgets and missions.
An astonishing achievement from a pair of astounding aircraft designers. The Pascale brothers.