|Partenavia AP.68TP-600 Viator in 2011|
The Partenavia P.68, now Vulcanair P68, is an Italian six-seat, twin-engined, high-wing monoplane built by Partenavia and later Vulcanair. Designed by Professor Luigi Pascale and originally put into production in 1972, it was intended for private or business use but has also seen use as both a training and a transport aircraft. It was originally named the Victor, although this name was not used for the production aircraft. The P.68 Observer, which was an Italian/German development, has a transparent nose for use in police work and observation duties.
First flown on 25 May 1970, the prototype P.68 was built at Arzano, Italy. It was powered by two 200 hp (149 kW) Lycoming IO-360 piston engines. Production of the P.68 began in 1972 with 14 pre-production aircraft at new facilities in Casoria, Italy. These were followed in 1974 by the P.68B with the fuselage lengthened by 6in (15.2 cm) to create more space in the cockpit. It was superseded in 1979 by the P.68C which had a lengthened nose to accommodate a weather radar. A turbocharged version (the P.68C-TC) was available in 1980. The type license was obtained by Vulcanair, which is still producing the P.68C.
With the help of Aeritalia, development began of a nine-seat turboprop version. The first aircraft, an AP.68TP, first flew in 1978 using Allison 250 turboprops. Although the prototype had a retractable undercarriage, the production aircraft, named the Spartacus, had a fixed undercarriage. Later, a retractable undercarriage version was built as the Viator.
The German company Sportavia-Putzer modified the P.68 by replacing the nose section with a transparent structure, marketing it as an observation aircraft for law enforcement. Initially, Observers were simply conversions of existing aircraft, but later, they were entirely new aircraft built by Partenavia.
- P.68 – Initial production version, 14 built.
- P.68B – P.68 with fuselage lengthened by 6-inches and six-seat interior, 190 built.
- P.68 Observer – Modified P.68B with fully glazed nose, over 21 built or modified.
- P.68C – P.68B with longer nose and integral wing fuel tanks, over 114 built.
- P.68C-TC – P.68C fitted with 200 hp Lycoming TI0-360-C1A6D turbocharged engines.
- P.68R – P.68B with retractable undercarriage, one built.
- P.68T – P.68R with lengthened fuselage, larger tail and Allison 250-B17B turboporops, four built.
- AP.68TP – First turboprop powered prototype. First flew on 11 September 1978. Original designation P.68 Turbo.
- AP.68TP-100 – Second turboprop powered prototype.
- AP.68TP-300 Spartacus – P.68T with fixed undercarriage, over 13 built.
- AP.68TP-600 Viator – Spartacus with retractable undercarriage, lengthened nose and stretched fuselage, over 6 built.
- AP.68TP-600 A-Viator as above, with airframe and avionics upgrades, demonstrator flying 2009.
- Spartacus RG – Fitted with a retractable undercarriage.
- Spartacus -10 – stretched version of the Spartacus RG.
Military and government operators
- Chilean Navy — 7 P.68 Observer 2s in service since September 2016, order completed in March 2017
- Sierra Leone
- United Kingdom
- National Police Air Service (on order)
- United States
- California Department of Fish and Game
- New Mexico Game and Fish
- New York State Police
- Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency
- Westpac Life Saver Rescue Helicopter Service (in use prior to late 2009)
- New Zealand
Incidents and accidents
On July 10, 1978, a P68B registered VH-PNW crashed shortly after take-off from Essendon Airport. Six people on the ground were killed, and one person injured. Three people on the aircraft were seriously injured.
On September 11, 1983, a sales representative was flying a P.68C at an airshow in Plainview, Texas, performing high-speed, high-G maneuvers in excess of the aircraft’s design parameters and, during one such maneuver, the wings separated from the rest of the aircraft just outboard of the engine nacelles. The fuselage also twisted longitudinally just before the empennage. The pilot was killed on impact with terrain.
Data from Jane's All The World's Aircraft 1982–83
- Crew: 1
- Capacity: 6 passengers
- Length: 9.55 m (31 ft 4 in)
- Wingspan: 12.00 m (39 ft 4½ in)
- Height: 3.40 m (11 ft 1¾ in)
- Wing area: 18.60 m2 (200.2 ft2)
- Empty weight: 1,230 kg (2,711 lb)
- Max. takeoff weight: 1,990 kg (4,387 lb)
- Powerplant: 2 × Lycoming IO-360-A1B6 fuel injected, air-cooled flat-four, 149 kw (200 hp) each
- Maximum speed: 322 km/h (174 knots, 200 mph) at sea level
- Cruise speed: 298 km/h (161 knots, 185 mph) at 3,350 m (11,000 ft) (65% power)
- Stall speed: 106 km/h (57.5 knots, 66 mph) flaps down
- Range: 2,112 km (1,140 nmi, 1,312 mi)
- Service ceiling: 5,850 m (19,200 ft)
- Rate of climb: 7.6 m/s (1,500 ft/min)
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