The Piaggio P.166C is a light, twelve-thirteen seat transport aircraft with a gull wing, and retractable landing gear;
powered by two rearward-facing (pusher propellers) engines mounted atop its high wing. The basic P.166 was a
development of the P.136 amphibian designed by the Italian aircraft manufacturer Industrie Aeronautiche e
Meccaniche Rinaldo Piaggio S.p.A., Genoa, Italy. The P.166 had a new fuselage and tail unit but retained the wing and engines
from the P.136. The prototype Piaggio P.166 (I-RAIF s/n 341) flew first at Villanova d`Abenga on 26 November 1957 and
ENAC Certification was received 28 October 1958. The initial P.166 was a six to eight-seat aircraft powered by two 340 hp Lycoming
GSO-480-B1C6 engines. The production version was known as P.166A and built by Societa per Azioni Piaggio at Finale Ligure: several
were purchased for use as executive transports or as feeder and taxi aircraft. Some 85 were built, including 21 as P.166M for the
Italian Air Force / AMI. The Piaggio P.166B Portofino was a further development of the P.166 that differs in having more powerful
380 hp Lycoming IGSO-540-A1A six-cylinder air-cooled engines; new engine nacelles; a longer nose and restyled cabin with up to eight
seats. The prototype P.166B Portofino (I-PIAS s/n 411) flew for the first time on 27 March 1962 and ENAC Certification was received
8 January 1963. A further version, the P.166C, with structural modifications as an improved undercarriage and landing gear; a modified cabin
layout with a Maximum Passenger Seating Capacity of 13 and powered by two Lycoming IGSO-540-A1C engines first flew on 2 October
1964 and ENAC Certification was received 8 June 1965. A special coastal patrol, search and rescue version for the South African
Air Force the P.166S Albatros with the longer P.166B-type nose and larger tip tanks and a Maximum Passenger Seating Capacity of six
was flown first in October 1968 and received ENAC Certification on 27 February 1969. After the last P.166S Albatros was delivered to
the South African Air Force, the production of the P.166 came to an end with 110 built airframes.
In 1975, Piaggio developed a turboprop-powered variant, the P.166D that was powered by two Lycoming LTP-101 engines and was flown
first flew on 3 July 1976. Basic variants of this P.166D model were the P.166DL3 and the P.166DP1. The P.166DL3, a twin-turboprop utility
aircraft with a maximum seating capability of eleven-seats including crew, received ENAC Certification on 21 July 1978. The P.166DP1 differs
from the DL3 model in the following: new engines P&WC PT6A-121 engines; improved landing gear structure to cope with new take-off and landing weights; structural
improvements and new ventral fins; a new 3-axis electrical trim system; new Collins Pro-Line II Avionics; changes in fuel system;
a new heating system; a new pitot/static system; improvements in interiors and cabin systems; changes in electrical generation
and distribution system and a Maximum Passenger Seating Capacity of five, flight crew (two-seats) excluded. The P.166DP1 received ENAC
Certification on 23 December 2002. The 1966, Industrie Aeronautiche e Meccaniche Rinaldo Piaggio S.p.A. was split into two separate
entities, one was Vespa motor scooter and the other Piaggio Aero, in 1998 renamed Piaggio Aero Industries. Over 150 Piaggio P.166
aircraft in all variants were built. The ICAO Aircraft Type Designator for the piston-engine variants of the Piaggio P.166 is P66P;
the ICAO Aircraft Type Designator for the turbo-engine variants of the Piaggio P.166 is P66T.
Piaggio P.166 versions:
P.166 : one prototype powered by 340 hp Lycoming GSO-480-B1C6 engines and two subsequent pre-production models built;
P.166AL1 : production model with non-slanted cockpit side windows. Accommodation for two pilots and six–eight passengers. 29 built;
P.166B : revised model with longer nose and a restyled cabin with up to eight seats, powered by two 380 hp Lycoming IGSO-540-A1C engines. Five built;
P.166BL2 / APH : photo survey aircraft for Italian Air Force / AMI. Two built;
P.166C-1 : projected development of the basic P.166B design with a fixed nosewheel undercarriage;
P.166C-2 : projected development of the basic P.166B design with the main undercarriage members retracting into lateral housings proud of the fuselage sides;
P.166C-3 : projected development of the basic P.166B design with another fixed undercarriage arrangement;
P.166CL-2 : feederliner version of P.166B with external landing gear pods to allow a revised cabin giving room for up to thirteen passengers. Two built;
P.166DL3 : light utility transport version, powered by two 600 hp Lycoming LTP 101-600 turboprop engines. 38 built including the sub-variants.
P.166DL3 / APH : photo survey aircraft sub-variant of the P166DL3. Six built for Italian Air Force / Aeronautica Militare Italiana;
P.166DL3 MP : maritime patrol sub-variant of the P166DL3. Two built for Somalia;
P.166DL3 / SEM : SEM - Sorveglianza Ecologia e Marittima - Maritime and ecological surveillance sub-variant of the P166DL3. 12 built for Italian Coast Guard and ten for Guardia di Finanza;
P.166DP1 : re-engined version with 615 hp Pratt & Whitney PT6A-121 turboprops. Eight converted (two from -DL3 and six from -DL3/SEM) for Guardia di Finanza.
P.166M : military version of P.166 production model developed for the Italian Air Force / AMI. 51 built;
P.166S Albatross : coastal patrol, search and rescue version for the South African Air Force with longer P.166B-type nose and larger tip tanks. 20 built.
Piaggio P.166C s/n 411 I-FENI was original built in 1962 as the prototype P.166B Portofino and registered I-PIAS in Italy.
Soon after the first flights as Portofino, Piaggio used the airframe as testbed for the development of a feederline version
of the P166. The main undercarriage became a different kinematik mechanism which retracted the landing gear in two external
nacelles on the fuselage bottom sides. Two additional side windows were installed over the main gear to permit an unobstructed
view at the 5 more passengers that could find place in the bigger rear compartment of the aircraft. On this way, the aircraft
equipped with the powerful 380 hp Lycoming IGSO-540-A1C engines could easily transport one pilot and 12 passengers. The P.166C
I-PIAS became the demonstration aircraft of Piaggio and was showed at the main aeronautical events all over the world. At the
end of the seventies Piaggio sold the P.166C I-PIAS to the new formed Transavio, a small Italian commuter airline that mainly
used the aircraft for scheduled passenger services during the summer season, flying from Milan-Linate and Pisa to Marina di
Campo Airport on the Island of Elba. Excessive costs and company problems lead to the grounding of the aircraft. The Piaggio
P.166C I-PIAS flew his last flight of his first life in early summer of 1985 to Milano-Bresso airport (LIMB) for storage. The
aircraft was literally abandoned on Milano Bresso field for more than 18 years.
Early 2002, two Italian Air Force officers had the idea to restore an old Piaggio P.166 to flight condition. After several
months of research the I-PIAS was found and finally bought from Transavio for 50 euros. The aircraft was inside and outside
in realy bad condition. Before the restoration could be started, the aircraft was dismantled: propellers; engines and wings
were taken away. Two trucks were used to transfer the Piaggio and separeted parts to Rome-Guidonia airbase, a 600 km trip.
Until 2009, a hangar near the old military airport became the home of the Piaggio during the restoration. After 17500 working
hours and a big amount of money spent in nine years, the complete reconstruction the airframe and all the aircraft systems came
to an end. In November 2010, the reborn Piaggio P.166C, with new registration marks I-FENI (coming from the Italian word Fenicotteri
that means Flamingos and referring to two of these birds present on the insigna of the 303°squadron of the ITAF where both the
Italian Air Force officers had the honor to serve, was transferred again on trucks inside the military airport of Guidonia.
A hangar at Rome-Guidonia airbase was the home of I-FENI for the last year of the restoration. On 2 November 2011, Piaggio P.166C
I-FENI took off for the first flight of the second life of the aircraft. Today, the I-FENI is operated by I FENICOTTERI historical
restoration group and based at Terni "Alvaro Leonardi" airfield. On 25 April 2018, Piaggio P.166C I-FENI was seen at the static
of the ILA Berlin Air Show 2018 at a wet and windy Berlin-Brandenburg / Willy Brandt International Airport. the source of the story about the restoration of I-FENI gives more detailed information about the restoration.