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New Gabriél trainer makes US debut

Italian design stands out at AirVenture

Editor's note: This article was updated July 27 to adjust the price of the Blackshape Gabriel 160 Leisure and the Gabriel bk160TR.

A sleek new Italian airplane is catching the eye of the EAA AirVenture crowd. The Blackshape Gabriél 160 Leisure and its higher-end Gabriél bk160TR are being imported by Ameri Aircraft Sales, a Houston-based company experienced in the import business.

The Blackshape Gabriel all-carbon-fiber aircraft features tandem seats, retractable landing gear, and a Hartzell three-blade composite constant speed propeller driven by a 160-horsepower Lycoming IO-320. Photo courtesy of Blackshape.

Designed as a modern trainer, the all-carbon-fiber aircraft features tandem seats, retractable landing gear, and a Hartzell three-blade composite constant speed propeller driven by a 160-horsepower Lycoming IO-320. Kevin Applebee, a partner in Ameri Aircraft, reports the airplane checks in with a top speed of about 160 knots true airspeed and a cruise speed of 140 to 145 knots true airspeed; cruise fuel flow is about eight to nine gallons per hour. Stall speed is about 48 knots.

Ameri Aircraft has exclusive distribution rights in California, Florida, Washington, Texas, and Oregon, with Illinois being negotiated. However, because there are no other U.S. dealers, Ameri Aircraft is for now handling all of the U.S. activities.

 Gabriel bk160TR cockpit. Photo courtesy of Blackshape.

Luciano Belviso, CEO of Blackshape Aircraft, said the Gabriél was designed following the success of the Prime model, which debuted a decade ago in Italy as a light sport aircraft. From that experience, the company decided to begin work on a larger, certified airplane. The Gabriél was approved by the European Union Aviation Safety Agency. Three of them have been in use as trainers in the Air France and KLM ab initio pilot training programs. There are about a dozen flying worldwide.

Blackshape and Ameri Aircraft worked together to import the airplane and begin FAA approval. Belviso said all the FAA flight tests are complete and the documents are with the agency for review. Meanwhile, the company has also applied for IFR certification and approval for use in the aerobatic category.

The base Gabriél Leisure will list for about $585,000, according to Applebee. Meanwhile, the bk160TR will sell for about $735,000. Among the differences is that the base model includes just a control stick and Garmin G5 display in the aft cockpit in most instances. The bk160TR aft cockpit is a near duplicate of the Garmin G3X Touch and mode controller for the GFC 500 autopilot in the front cockpit and includes engine and gear controls, making it a full-fledged dual-control trainer.

Belviso said the company was inspired to design the tandem-seat airplane for the training market to replace the trainers designed 50 and 60 years ago. He reported that the designers focused on creating an airplane that is easy to fly, but more challenging to fly well—a way to challenge students.

The company reports the model will have a range of about 400 nautical miles, maximum takeoff weight of 1,874 pounds, and useful load of 485 pounds; an aft baggage compartment can handle 73 pounds of gear.

A sleek new Italian airplane, the Blackshape Gabriel 160 Leisure and its higher-end Gabriel bk160TR, debuted at EAA AirVenture in Oshkosh, Wisconsin, and targets the U.S. training market. Photo by Chris Rose.
Thomas B. Haines

Thomas B Haines

Editor in Chief
AOPA Editor in Chief Tom Haines joined AOPA in 1988. He owns and flies a Beechcraft A36 Bonanza. Since soloing at 16 and earning a private pilot certificate at 17, he has flown more than 100 models of general aviation airplanes.

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