(Museo Storico dell' Aeronautica Militare Italiana)
Vigna di Valle, Rome
2004, 2006, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2012 and 2013
|A museum with a history
It was back in 1913 when Italy's first aeronautical museum was founded, at the Castel San Angelo in the centre of Rome. From 1933 the collection moved to other locations within Rome, but following the Second World War, all the exhibits were lost. From the 1950s ideas for a new aeronautical museum began to develop. Finally in 1961 a museum in Turin was founded. Unfortunately by 1974, the costs of running a large museum in Turin became prohibitive.
As the Italian Air Force (Aeronautica Militare Italiana - AMI) had buildings available at Vigna di Valle, the search for a cost effective solution was over. This site, situated on the shores of Lake Bracciano and just 25 km north of Rome, has an aeronautical history dating back to 1907. Italy's first airships and later its seaplanes were test flown from here.
On May 24, 1977 the Italian Air Force Museum, was opened by the Head of State at Vigna di Valle. The museum was open with two hangars or halls with a new connecting hall.
|Hall 1 Troster
The first hall called, Troster is of Austrian construction, built as reparation resulting from the First World War. Two hangars were originally built with wooden panels, these were replaced with metal sheets in 1925. The second of these two hangars was demolished in 1970. The remaining one is the oldest aeronautical building in Italy. 'Troster' hall houses the oldest aircraft in the collection, covering the period up to the end of the First World War. One of the most interesting in here is the Ansaldo SVA-5 which actually took part in the raid on Vienna in 1918.
Hall 2 Velo
In 1976 work started on a building to connect two original hangars, Troster and Velo to form both a modern entrance and an additional small hall. By May 1977 and just 200 days later the hall was completed in time for the grand opening. Velo hall houses a collection of Italian seaplanes built for the Schneider Cup along with some pre Second World War fighters and the Caproni Campini CC.1 which was one of the World's first jet aircraft.
|Panoramic image of Hall 3 Badoni which was built in 1930. July 2012
|Hall 3 Badoni
Badoni hall was originally constructed in 1930 by the Badoni company, for the maintenance of Italy's largest seaplanes. It was used by 84º Gruppo who were flying the CRDA Cant Z.506 three engine seaplane, until 1959. 84º Gruppo converted to the Grumman HU-16 Albatross at Rome Ciampino. By 2004, the wonderful historic Badoni hangar, which had been closed for some time for roof repairs and modification, was reopened.
During my previous visit the museum Director Lt Col Massimo Mondini, invited me to see the progress being made in here. The impressive Fiat G.212 'Flying Classroom', sat there lonely and forlorn in the dark, with dust and debris all around. Lt Col Mondini who takes great pride in the work done here, wanted to emphasise that the museum's valued exhibits were safe, and not in decay, as had been reported in the press earlier that year. Following extensive construction work, the original hangar doors have had large full height glass windows inserted. This made it much brighter and better for natural light photography. New elevated walkways give a better perspective, and now connect this hall to the Skema hall next door. A large red and white static crane, used to lower the seaplanes into the water, is still in place outside this hangar with a HU-16 beside it.
|Hall 4 Skema
In 1978 a plan was put forward to construct a fourth hall to house the expanding collection of aircraft. Finally in 1986 work started on the massive concrete slab construction, known as Skema Hall. By 1993 the hall was ready to house around 25 aircraft on two levels, from Italy's first jets to the more modern. Whilst this hall is very large and essential, if the collection is to be protected from the elements, pretty it is not. Sadly it is not in keeping with its surrounding historic buildings. By 2004 all four halls were connected and having a combined floor area of over 39,300 Square Feet (12,000 Sq m). The exhibits are displayed in chronological order from the oldest aircraft in the historic Troster hall, through to the more modern jet aircraft in Skema hall.
By March 2008 full length windows had been added to the front of the hall, providing considerably more natural light in and is a welcome improvement, click before and after. An annex or pavilion to the front of the hall was partly constructed in 2008 and formally opened on June 18, 2009.
|The Aircraft Collection
Most years since the opening of the museum in 1977, I have made a pilgrimage to Italy's finest aircraft museum. So what has happened to the collection on display over the years?
In the 1980s a grass area by the lower car park, was used to display numerous aircraft. Unfortunately with Italy's scorching sun, paint work quickly faded and these exhibits started to look a little shabby. Since then, much of the collection has been rationalised. By the early 1990s the aircraft on display in the three halls then available, had risen to around 70 airframes. In the 1990s various construction works principally on Skema hall, meant that all or part of the collection was not available for viewing.
These days less than 70 aircraft can be seen in four halls. Duplicate or similar variants of aircraft have been put into store at Guidonia, Pratica de Mare and perhaps other places. Prior to 1991, there was a Fiat G-80 with two of the later G-82s on display outside, all in a sorry looking state. Now just the more recently restored G-80 remains and is displayed upstairs in Skema hall. The G-82s have gone back to Pratica di Mare from where they were originally test flown. There is now more space between the exhibits, which is better for photography, since the jets were moved from hall 3 to new Skema hall in the mid 1990s. By March 2008 there were just two aircraft on display outside, an HU-16 Albatross and a PD-808.
It is noticeable that all the jets here currently on show, flew with the Italian Air Force, most were assembled in Italy, if not designed and built in the country. The collection once displayed a SAAB J-29F Tunnan which had been abandoned by the Swedish Air Force, following mechanical failure during an exercise. As this aircraft has no connection to the Italian Air Force, the Museum to their credit, put it in store at Guidonia air base.
This is now the beauty of the Museo Storico, it presents Italian aviation heritage. Famous Italian aircraft manufacturers such as; Agusta, Caproni, Fiat, IMAM, Macchi, Piaggio and Savoia-Marchetti have numerous types represented here. Too many museums succumb to the temptation, to swap or buy Eastern European MiGs or whatever, which have in recent years flooded the museum 'market', thinking that they enhance the collection's appeal, in my opinion they do not.
Well, what does the museum have on offer to the aviation photographer, enthusiast and historian? Something for everyone is my answer. I will now detail most if not all of the museum's interesting exhibits.
|The beginning of flight
The oldest aircraft here are some of the most interesting, especially when you look into their past.
|Blériot-SIT XI-2 (BL246). Designed by the French aviator Louis Blériot in 1909. The French, British and Italian air forces took delivery of 132 Blériot XI's from 1910. The Blériot was the first aircraft to be used during war when it was flown by the Italian Air Force in 1911 during the Italy-Turkey war of 1911 and later in the Libyan war of 1912. The aircraft on display is inscribed 'XIII Squadriglia BL 246'.
Macchi Hanriot HD.1 (unknown serial, coded '76'). This is a French designed World War I single seat fighter which was supplied to the Belgian and Italian air forces, the French chose the Spad S.7 instead. Around 1,200 were delivered of which 831 were built in Italy by Nieuport-Macchi of Varese under license between 1917 and 1919. By November 1918 16 of the 18 Italian fighter squadrons were equipped with the aircraft. After the war a number of these aircraft were passed to the Swiss Air Force.
The example on display was flown fighter ace Lieutenant Flavio Torello Baracchini who was credited with 21 confirmed and nine unconfirmed aerial victories, ranking fourth of all World War I Italian aces.
Spad S.VII which was was piloted by 'ace' Ernesto Caburna it still shows where numerous bullet holes were stitched up after encounters with the enemy.
Many Spad S.VIIs were built during World War I for the Italian, British, French, Belgian, Russian and US air forces.
|Spad S.VII (S.153) was presented to 'ace' Fulco Ruffo di Calabria after he had scored 20 victories in 1919. Ruffo later presented the aircraft to the Air Force Academy in the 1930s. Ruffo succeeded Francesco Baracca as Commander of the 91st Squadron. During restoration in 2001 by GAVS in Rome it was discovered that this aircraft was built in September 1916, making it the oldest in existence. It has Ruffo's 'skull and cross bones' insignia on the side. A replica Spad S.VIII ('S.1420') was on display from 1980 till 2004.
The Caproni Ca.3 (23174) for example, is yet another three-engine bomber, unusually having two engines pulling and one pushing. The Ca.3 was derived from the Ca.1 which first flew in 1914 and had three Fiat A10, 100 hp engines. In 1917, 270 Ca.3s were built and delivered with more powerful 150 hp engines. Many bombing raids were carried out by these aircraft during World War I, notably at Assling, Chapavano and at the naval base at Cattaro. Interestingly the example on display was flown in World War I by Lt. Casimiro Buttini, when he got the Gold Medal of Valor. After the War he bought his aircraft for 30,000 lire and stored it in a barn in the Piedmont mountains. It was kept safe till 1959, when it was bought back by the Italian Air Force for the museum.
By March 2008 the example on display had received some additional paint work.
|The Ansaldo SVA-5 was designed by Savoia and Verduzio and built by Ansaldo (SVA), with over 2,000 being delivered from 1917. It was Italy's first all Italian aircraft, and the fastest of World War I. Used mostly for reconnaissance, its most memorable sortie was made by aircraft from 87th Squadron over Vienna on August 9, 1918, when they dropped leaflets inviting Austria to surrender. It is one of these actual aircraft (11721) which is on display in Hall 1. After the War two SVAs flew an amazing 11,250 miles (18,000 km) to Tokyo. Another SVA flown by Antonio Locatelli, who was awarded the Gold Medal, was the first to fly solo over the Andes.
The Ansaldo AC.2 (MM1208 coded '94-6') first flew in 1924 and went into service as a fighter in the following year. It was license-built Dewoitine D.1 which first flew in 1922. A total of 112 were built in Italy. An Ansaldo AC.3, which is a license-built Dewoitine D.9 of which 150 were built, was flown by test pilot Donati to set the world altitude record of 38,914 feet (11,861m) in 1926.
As photographed in 2002.
Continuing the seaplane theme is the Lohner L-1, which was designed by Jacob Lohner & Co of Vienna. By 1917 93 had been built and put into service for reconnaissance and bombing. The example on display (L-127) was actually one of 24 built under license by Ungarische Flugzeugwerke A.G of Budapest. It was delivered to the Imperial Royal Navy in June 1916, and took part in bombing raids against Italian positions. On June 3, 1918, while based at Lussino and used for reconnaissance over the Dalmatian coastline, it was taken by two defecting naval pilots of Italian decent, who flew it across the Adriatic to Fano, where it was captured. After considerable restoration this aircraft was transferred to the museum in 1988.
|Under the power of three engines
|Remembering back to 1980 the time of my first visit to this museum, my first impression of the Museo Storico was of wonderful three engine aircraft of which I knew very little.
The Savoia-Marchetti SM.79 Sparviero (1934), the CRDA Cant Z.506S 'Airone' (1936), the Savoia-Marchetti SM.82 'Canguru' (1939) and the Fiat G.212 'Flying Classroom' (1948) these very rare aircraft are now all to be found in the Badoni Hall 3.
|The Fiat G.212 'Flying Classroom' (MM61804 '142-5') The Fiat G.212 ‘Flying Classroom’ which entered service in 1948, as a cargo plane, with a range of 1,560 miles (2,500 km). It was designed in early 1940 by Gabrielli as the G.12, at the Fiat factory in Turin. The G.212 on display (MM61804 ‘142-5’) was built in 1949 and was used to train pilots. It was equipped for photo-reconnaissance and could seat 26 to 30. It is the only Fiat produced three engine aircraft in existence. Click for some older images.|
|Another of the tri-motors is the Savoia-Marchetti SM.79 Sparviero (Sparrow Hawk). It was designed to be both a conventional and torpedo bomber, and entered service in 1934. The example on display was recovered from the Lebanon, following retirement from the Lebanese Air Force, as L-112. It is restored in an Italian scheme from 1942 as 'MM24327' coded '278-2', however it is reported as really being MM45508. With a crew of 6 and a range of 2,200 miles (3,500 Km) it flew till the early 1950s as a transport, until its retirement. When photographed in 1996.
In 2004 it was to be found in Skema hall, however in August 2006 is was dismantled again for its return to the Badoni hall by March 2008.
There is one other SM.79 at the Caproni Museum in Trento.
|Savoia-Marchetti SM.82 Canguru (MM61187 'ZR-89')
Savoia-Marchetti SM.82 Canguru (Kangaroo) also has three engines, it was used as a transport and bomber. Having first flown in 1939 it remained in service till 1960. It was so named as it could carry dismantled fighters in its fuselage. Based on the civil version SM.75 Marsupiale, 875 were built during the war, providing transport between Germany and East Africa. As a bomber, it carried out missions as far a field as Gibraltar and on an oil refinery in the Persian Gulf. It had a range of 1875 miles (3,000 Km). Around 250 survived to the end of the war, and were used by the 36th Transport Wing based at Guidonia, till the types eventual withdrawal from service in 1960.
The example on display was painted as 'MM61850' and coded '14' (it is really MM61187) for many years and carries markings of the 'Sovereign Order of Malta' on the fuselage. These markings were applied to avoid the aircraft's destruction, as part of the armistice treaty. Some restoration work was carried out from 2004 on the wings in hall 3. It was painted as 'MM61850' and coded '14' (it is really MM61187). By August 2006 it was painted as MM61187 and carried the code 'ZR-89' and the restoration was underway with a change of markings applied (it is now coded 'ZR-89') and by March 2008 appeared complete. When photographed in 1996
|Sea planes, Competitions and World records
There is a wealth of Italian design ingenuity on display, many of the aircraft are rare if not unique.
|The CRDA Cant Z.506S Airone (MM45425 '84-4') is one of the most impressive aircraft on display. A very large seaplane of wooden construction, it made its first flight in August 1936 and immediately gained eight World speed records and two altitude records for a seaplane. It was originally designed for commercial transport and it could carry 12 passengers. It was later developed as the faster Z.506B to drop bombs and torpedoes. It also participated in the Spanish Civil War and in World War II. From 1937 to 1943 324 Z.506Bs were built. After the War a few Z.506Bs were converted to Z.506S standard, for its new role as a maritime search and rescue aircraft, with 84º Gruppo based at Vigna di Valle. It had a crew of five and a range of 1,690 miles (2,700 Km). The type was not withdrawn from service until 1960.|
|Savoia Marchetti S.56 (I-AEDA c/n 5611). This is one of the first amphibian aircraft, it was designed and built from 1926 by Savoia Marchetti. Additional examples were manufactured in the USA from 1928 by American Aeronautical Corp of Port Washington on Long Island until the early 1930s. Only two examples still exist of the 36 built, the other is on display on Long Island in the United States.|
|IMAM Ro.43 Maggiolino 'Cricket' (MM27050 'ORB-23'). It was built from 1934 to 1941 for the Regia Marina (Italian Navy) as a spotter plane and launched by catapult from their battleships. Although between 200 and 240 were built at the start of World War II only 105 were in service and by 1943 only 48 were still flying. The design was not very successful it has poor sea handling characteristics and its lightweight construction meant that it was difficult to recover at sea.
The aircraft on display was built in 1937 and is the world's only survivor. It ended its military operations with the Observatory School at Orbetello (ORB). In 1972 it was found at Centocelle, Rome and was refurbished for the Museum where it remained till at least 2000 when it was removed for further two years of restoration which commenced in 2009 returning in November 2011.
|Grumman HU-16A Albatross (MM50-179 coded '15-5'). They were used for Search and Rescue (SAR) operations by the Italian Air Force (Aeronautica Militare Italiana or AMI) from 1958. The aircraft on display operated with 85º Gruppo of 15º Stormo based at Rome Ciampino. It's last flight was in 1978 to the Museum when it landed on Lake Bracciano. By 2006 following years out in the open its paint had deteriorated, in March 2008 it had been repainted.
Click for more Images of the Albatross.
| The Schneider Cup
The museum proudly presents aircraft resulting from Italy's participation in the Schneider Cup. A competition devised by French industrialist Jaques Schneider back in 1912. He wanted to promote seaplane production, and offered a prize of £1,000 for the first team to win three of five races. The first competition in 1913, at Monte Carlo, was won by a French pilot in a Depurdussin monoplane, at an average speed of 47.5 mph (76 Km/h) over the 31 mile (50 Km) triangular course. The Schneider Cup was then run each year, with a break for the First World War, till the final race in 1931.
|On display is the 1926 Schneider Cup winning aircraft, the Macchi M.39 (MM76 'II') in which Major Mario De Bernardi flew at an average speed of 247.5 mph (396 Km/h) over the course in Norfolk,
U.S.A. This was the last race an American team took part in, and was the final Italian victory.
Also the Macchi M.67 (MM105) carrying Schneider Cup entrant number '10', can be seen. It was third M.67 type constructed, and was derived from the M.52. It participated in the now bi-annual Schneider Cup in 1929. It achieved a speed of 351 mph (561 Km/h), but was beaten by the British Supermarine S.6, at a speed of 359 mph (575 Km/h). This aircraft was returned to Vigna di Valle, in early 2004 following a 5 month period of restoration, its first in 80 years, by 3º RTA (10º RMV) at Lecce and the Associazione Aeronautical Restoration of Varese. This exhibit had gone by December 2010.
Also participating in the 1929 Schneider Cup was the second prototype Fiat C.29 (MM130 '130') and flew at a maximum speed of 350 mph (560 Km/h). It forms part of the Museum collection, and is the oldest Fiat in existence today. It was also restored by by 3º RTA (10º RMV) at Lecce.
In what turned out to be the final race in 1931, the British on the back of two previous wins entered the improved Supermarine S.6 and the S.6B which won at an average speed of 342 mph (547 km/h). Italy had entered the Savoia-Marchetti S.65 and Macchi Castoldi MC.72 but unfortunately lost two pilots, Tomaso Dal Molin and Giovanni Monti, in tragic accidents. The French who had technical problems dropped out of the increasingly dangerous event never to return. Development still continued in Italy and in 1934 Agello, in a Macchi Castoldi MC.72 (MM181) also on display (see below), achieved the World speed record for a seaplane, which still stands to this day, of 443 mph (709 Km/h). It unusually employed counter rotating propellers, which were designed to reduce torque.
|Macchi Castoldi MC.72 (MM181)|
|Macchi M.39 (MM76 'II')|
|Macchi M.67 (MM105 '10')|
|Fiat C.29 (MM130 '130')|
|SAI-Ambrosini (Super) S.7 Supersette (MM558) Also built for speed and competition is the SAI-Ambrosini S.7 Supersette designed by Sergio Stefanutti. It first flew in July 1939 just in time to participate in the ‘Avio Radunno del Littorio’ competition against similarly fast German aircraft. Unfortunately it was not fully tested and failed to win by just a few seconds with a speed of 251 mph (402 km/h). After the War the S.7 and later the Super S.7 were developed for pilot training for the AMI. The Super S.7 on display (MM558) is the second prototype used by the Reparto Sperimentale Volo (RSV) test unit at Pratica di Mare.|
|Fighting the Second World War and Post War|
|IMAM Ro.37bis Production of the Ro.37 two-seat biplane for the fighter/reconnaissance role began in 1934. Eventually 160 Ro.37 and 475 Ro.37bis were built a number of which were exported. AMI Ro.37s were all retired from service by the time of the armistice in August 1943.
The Afghan Air Force took delivery of 18 examples in 1938 and amazingly the Italian Army as part of 'ItalFor-12', and part of the ISAF security force in 2006, discovered six Ro.37bis fuselages in a scrap yard on the outskirts of Kabul. It was believed at the time that there no surviving examples of the Ro.37 anywhere in the World. With all the aircraft recovered to Italy it was hoped that two aircraft could be rebuilt and restored to their former glory.
Left to right: IMAM Ro.37bis (MM11341 '110-12') now fully restored having returned to the museum from a short display in Milan.
|IMAM Ro.37bis The composite and bare fuselage on display in the museum in March 2008 possibly comprises MM11328 and/or MM11322. MM11335 was a another example recovered from Afghanistan. At least two examples from Afghanistan were in store at Guidonia when visited in December 2010 and the above example was no longer on display at the museum, as it had been transferred to Venegono Superiore at Varese for restoration, with help of personnel from the 1° RMV of Cameri and the 10° RMV of Lecce who were working on the engine and the wings.
IMAM Ro.41. Over 700 of this single-seat biplane fighter were built by Industrie Meccaniche e Aeronautiche Meridionale (IMAM) in Italy. The Ro.41 was flown from 1937 to 1950. This example is going through reconstruction by GAVS in Rome. The engine and most of the frame are original, with a new set of wings are currently being built.
Photographed in August 2006 it had since moved to the Badoni hall by March 2008.
|The Fiat CR.32 was developed as a fighter aircraft from the CR.30, first flew in 1933. Its impressive manoeuvrability made it the plane of choice for aerobatics teams in the 1930s. The Spanish imported Italian technology, building the Hispano HA 132L which was based on the Fiat CR.32. The example on display was donated by the Spanish Air Force in 1955, has been recently painted in Spanish civil wars colours, as C.1-328 '3-6'. It was previously painted as MM4666 'VIII-92', prior to restoration by GAVS of Turin using 40% of its original parts. It is one of only two examples still in existence, of the 1000 aircraft built and exported around the World to such countries as, Austria, China, Hungary, Paraguay, Spain and Venezuela.|
|The Fiat CR.42 Falco (painted as 'MM5643/162-6' formally it was Fv 2539 / SE-AOP see also Linköping example) on display is the product of a 11 year restoration using parts from a number of aircraft recovered in Sweden and France. Restored by the Associazione Restauro Aeronautico (AReA) of Venegono it was put on display in May, 2005. It is painted in the colours of 162 Squadron as flown by Sandro Ferracuti when based on Rhodes in 1940-41. The Italian Air Force originally ordered 200 examples as primary fighters. They were later used as night fighters and trainers. The CR.42 was also flown by the Belgian (30), Hungarian (72) and Swedish (72) air forces. It was superceded by the MC.200 in the Italian Air Force.|
Aer Macchi are well represented with ten aircraft on display, including the MC.200 Saetta and later derivatives, the MC.202 Folgore and MC.205 Veltro. These were used as fighters during World War II.
The Macchi Castoldi MC.200 Saetta (MM5311 coded '369-1' is on display) employing a radial engine, was built in large numbers, but suffered from a very poor wing design, making very difficult to fly.
|The Macchi Castoldi MC.202 was developed from the MC.200 and was capable of 375 mph (600 Km/h). It also had two 12.7mm guns and flew in Russia and Africa.
Left to right: The MC.202T-AS (MM9667 coded '73-7') exhibited, is one of only two that remain, the other is at the National Air and Space Museum in Washington, U.S.A. The MC.202 Folgore and MC.205 'Veltro' adopted a new and improved wing design with superior Daimler-Benz engines. It was flown in support of operations on the Russian front from 1941-42 and also in Africa. It was armed with two 12.7mm guns and could carry two light bombs. After the War they were used as trainers until their withdrawal from service in 1947.
|Also on display is a Macchi Castoldi MC.205V Veltro (MM9546 coded '97-2' it was also painted as MM9345 '155-6' previously). The MC.205 of which 262 were built, were developed from the MC.202 first flew in 1942. The aircraft on display was converted from a MC.202 and was built at Breda in 1942. When photographed in 1996.|
|Another famous Italian fighter represented, is the Fiat G.55
Centauro which was designed by Gabrielli as a single seat fighter and produced in the Fiat factory in Turin from 1942. They were in operation by the Italian Air Force, till the armistice of September 8, 1943. After that date they were flown against the allies by the National Republic Air Force (ANR) until they were all completely destroyed.
As no G.55s survived the War, the aircraft exhibited is based on a modified Fiat G.59 (MM53265), following recovery in the 1980s from a Park of Remembrance in Novara. Restoration was started by GAVS of Turin in 1995 and was later transferred to 3º RTA (10º RMV) at Lecce. It is painted as '5' of the A.N.R of the 'Montefusco-Bonet' Squadron.
|Fiat G-59-4B (MM53276) and also when photographed in 1996. The G.59 was developed from the G.55 and produced from 1950 onwards, it was the last piston engine fighter to be produced in the world. A single-seat and two-seat version was built, they served with the fighter school until 1965.|
|From 1944, Supermarine Spitfire Mk.5s and Mk.9s flew with the 20º Gruppo, 51º Stormo of the AMI. Later in 1946 additional Mk.9s were flown by the 5º and 51º Stormo. The Spitfire on display (painted as RAF MK805, it was previously MM4084) is a Mk.9 and was restored by GAVS in 1989. It had flown with a Polish squadron during the D-Day landings. Later handed over to the AMI it flew from Bergamo with 8º Gruppo of 5º Stormo before being withdrawn from service in 1950.|
To replace the ageing Spitfires, the North American P-51D Mustang entered service with the AMI in 1948. The Mustang on display (MM4323 coded 'RR-11') carries the personal insignia of General Ranieri Cupini who piloted it till 1953. By July 2012 it had been removed from display for restoration.
Photographed in 2006 and by 2008 you can see the additional code '89-ZR' has been applied to the SM.82 in the background.
|Trainers, Italian Style
Last but not least a number of military training aircraft are on display, which following retirement often went to civilian aero clubs.
|Caproni Ca.100 Caproncino (I-GTAB coded 'FIR-9') registered in 1951 it had been operated by Aero Club Torino. The Ca.100 was based on the DH.60 Moth and over 700 were built between 1928 and 1937 they were used extensively by flying schools basic pilot training. The aircraft on display returned to the museum on May 24, 2007 and is painted in markings representing a Ca.100 with the Florence basic flying school of the 1930s. It had previously been at the museum for a short period around May 1991.
A Caproni Ca.100 Caproncino idro (MM65156 coded 'COM-11' ex I-ABOU first registered in 1929 and cancelled in 1935) a version equipped with floats was on display for a short while in 2002. Normally based at Como Aero Club, it was on loan from Gavazzi Gerolamo.
|The Nardi FN.305 was designed by the four Nardi brothers in 1933 and made its first flight in 1935 from the Milan Bresso airfield. Originally it was powered by Fiat A70 190 hp radial engines. The later Italian Air Force machines were powered by Alfa Romeo 115-1 190 hp engines and included a enclosed cockpit. They were used as advanced trainers and for liaison duties during the War. Piaggio later made these aircraft under license. The example on display (MM52757 coded '3' and was previously I-DASM) is painted in colours dating from 1940-41 when based at Perugia. It was restored by GAVS in Rome from 1986 to 1988 and is the only example still in existance.|
|Fiat G.46-4A (MM53286 'Z.I-7' ex I-AELM c/n 192) The G.46 is of aluminum construction was designed by Giuseppe Gabrielli as a two seat trainer, sitting in tandem. There was also a single seat version. The G.46 first flew in 1948, before going into production in the following year. The Italian Air Force received 141 aircraft. 70 of these aircraft were passed on to Italian Flying Clubs by the end of the 1950s and remained in use till the 1970s. Today only five G.46s remain airworthy, apart from two in Italy (MM53491 / I-AEKT and MM53304 / I-AEKA at Montegaldella November 2004), there is G-BBII (ex MM52801 / I-AEHU) from the Aircraft Restoration Co, Duxford (since 1992), US based N46FM (MM53091 / I-AEHX) and OO-VOR (ex MM53293 / I-AEKI) of the Vormezeele Collection in Belgium.
This exhibit was first observed in 1980 and was on display until it was last seen in 1996 after which it went to Pratica di Mare where it performed taxi runs at air shows. It returned after restoration at Lecce/Galatina in October 2011.
|Stinson L-5 Sentinel (MM52848 coded 'S-1 2' and was previously I-AEEU registered in 1954) previously operated by Ministero della Difesa - Aeronautica it was recovered from the Aero Club at Turin and restored. Around 100 of these aircraft were used by the AMI for basic training from 1946.|
|Aermacchi MB.308 Macchino (MM53058 coded 'SG-8' and previously I-GORI registered in 1950) previously it was operated by Ministero della Difesa - Aeronautica. A side-by-side basic trainer of wooden construction with a tricycle landing gear, it first flew from Venegono in 1947. The AMI ordered 80 MB.308s and operated them until the 1950, when 40 aircraft were transferred to civilian flying clubs from whom they served well until the late 1960s.|
|Another Italian light aircraft on show, is the Macchi M.416 (MM53762 coded 'AA-48' it was previously I-AELY when registerd in 1962), and was supplied as a basic trainer for the Italian Air Force from 1951. Originally designed by Fokker as the S.11 'Instructor', as a side-by-side light trainer, it made its first flight in 1947. 178 M.416s were license built by Macchi, subsequently, following development of better performance aircraft, the AMI passed them on to aeroclubs throughout Italy.|
| Partenavia P.63 De Bernardi Aeroscooter MdB1 (I-REDI) this prototype was designed by Mario de Bernardi (1893-1959) and built by Partenavia in the 1950s. It is a low-wing monoplane with a fixed nose-wheel landing gear. The two-bladed rotor was designed to reduce the stalling speed should the Ambrosini P-25 piston engine fail. It is one of only three built ( this MdB1 single-seat and MdB2s I-SELI and I-FJOR which were two-seaters). The MdB1 first flew on April 2, 1951 and the MdB2 (I-FJOR) made its first flight in April 1959 at Rome Urbe. De Bernardi on April 8, 1959 was demonstrating his Aeroscooter when he appeared to land his aircraft without full control. Rushing to the aircraft beside the runway De Bernardi was found to have had a heart attack during flight and had just managed to land his aircraft and the famous aircraft designer had died. MdB2 (I-SELI) flew in 1961 and is on display at the Museo Aeronautico Caproni di Taledo in Milan.
The MdB1 'car' (I-REDI) was on display in 1980 and again in 1991 for a short while, it had not been seen until it had been restored by volunteers from the Associazione Nazionale Personale Aeronaviganti (ANPAN) and put on display once again on May 31, 2010.
|Aermacchi MB.323 (MM554 'RS-10'). This is the only prototype of all-metal trainer which was constructed in 1952. It was initially flight tested at Guidonia and evaluated against the Fiat G.49. The project was finally cancelled in favour of the T-6 Texan. In the 1970s it was on display at the Palazzo della Vela in Turin. It was first put of display at Vigna di Valle in 2009.|
|North American T-6G Texan (MM54097 'RR-67'). The AMI took delivery of the T-6 under the MDAP agreement to enable their pilot training to meet the new NATO standards. Deliveries ran from 1949 to 1958 (T-6C, AT-6D, T-6G and T-6H) and totalled over 200, most training units operated the aircraft. The T-6Cs and Ds were eventually converted to T-6G standard and they remained in service until the end 1970s. The example on display was transferred to the museum in 1974 following its retirement as a liaison aircraft with the 2º Reparto Volo Regionale at nearby Guidonia and in whose colours it is displayed. It was restored by GAVS Vicenza from 2001 to 2002.|
|SIAI Marchetti (Aermacchi) SF.260AM (MM54436 '70-36'). This military variant of pilot training aircraft was designed by Stelio Frati in the 1960s, it is fully aerobatic. In 1976 the AMI bought 45 examples for basic flying training duties. The final flight was made on September 19, 2009 by 70° Stormo at Latina the 'AM' version having logged 235,500 flight hours was superseded by the SF.260EA. The example on display was one of the last four to fly and arrived at the museum in Decmber 2011.|
|The Age of the Jet (home produced and foreign imports)|
|Italian aircraft designers Caproni, were amongst the first to move into the age of jet propulsion. The Caproni Campini CC.1 was one of the World's first jet aircraft, flying for the first time in August 1940. It is really a hybrid, using a traditional piston engine, combined with a compressor, combustion chambers and exhaust system, the power coming from an afterburner. On display is a CC.1 (MM488). Another example which was used for static testing only and is only a fuselage, can be found in the National Science and Technical Museum, in Milan.|
|de Havilland DH.113 Vampire NF.54 (MM6152). From 1950 the AMI took delivery of a number of Vampires, prior to a producing their own (150 in total) by Fiat and Macchi.
|With the lack of success of Italian designed aircraft, the AMI looked further a field for its jet fighters. The F-84G Thunderjet first flew in 1946 and eventually 4,400 were built and used throughout NATO. From May 1952 the AMI took delivery of 254 F-84Gs, assigning them to 5º, 6º and 51º Stormo. Two display teams, the 'Getti Tonanti' in 1953 and the 'Tigre Bianche' in 1956, flew the type.
The F-84Gs were replaced by the 'F' and 'RF' versions from 1956. The F-84F Thunderstreak was an F-84G, but with a swept wing, and over 2,700 were built, mostly for NATO countries. The AMI took delivery of 194 Gs, from 1956. They were very popular aircraft, due to their impressive performance and handling. Six of these aircraft were also used by the 'Getti Tonanti' and 'Diavoli Rossi' display teams. They were finally replaced by the F-104S Starfighter as were the F-86s. A reconnaissance version the RF-84F Thunderflash was also used by the AMI.
|By August 2009 the 1950s jets had returned to Skema Hall 4 following restoration; North American F-86K Sabre (MM55-4868 coded '51-62'), North American F-86E Sabre Mk.4 (MM19792 coded '13-1'), F-84F Thunderstreak (MM53-6892 coded '36-38') and Republic F-84G Thunderjet (MM111049 coded '51-18').
The US built collection of 1950s jets operated by the AMI on display at various times included;
Republic F-84G Thunderjet (MM111049 coded '51-18') returned from a years restoration by 51º Stormo at Istrana in February 2009.
F-84F Thunderstreak (MM53-6892 coded '36-38') on display for a number of years but had gone by November 2005 and returned by August 2009.
Canadair CL.13 Mk.4 (F-86E) Sabre (MM19792 coded '13-1') was transferred to Vicenza in October 2004 for restoration and returned by August 2009.
North American F-86K Sabre (MM55-4868 coded '51-62') on display for a number of years but had gone by November 2005 and returned by August 2009.
|Republic RF-84F Thunderflash (MM27458 coded '3-05') on display for a number of years but had gone by March 2008 for restoration by 156º Gruppo, 36º Stormo at Gioia del Colle.
Lockheed RT-33A Shooting Star (MM53-5594 '9-35'). The T-33A was based on the single seat P-80, first flying in 1948. The AMI received 60 T-33As from 1952 and 14 single-seat RT-33As. The aircraft on display is a RT-33A and is painted in a high visibility scheme dating back to its days with 9º Stormo (9 Wing), 609º Gruppo (609 Squadron) when employed on target towing duties.
|F-84F Thunderstreak (MM53-6892 coded '36-38') on display for a number of years but had gone by November 2005 and returned in March 2009, following restoration by 936º GEA in the authentic colours of 156º Gruppo, 36º Stormo from Gioia del Colle.|
|Republic F-84G Thunderjet (MM111049 coded '51-18' now painted as MM116746 '51-29') This aircraft was originally stored at Capodichino airport, Naples for many years following a crash, before being restored by 51º Stormo. It was painted in the special colours applied for the 1956 Fiumicino Air Show and was on display as such till February 2008 before returning from restoration in February 2009 in a different special scheme and inscribed on the nose 'Tigri Bianche'.|
|Canadair CL.13 Mk.4 (F-86E) Sabre (MM19792 coded '13-1') The North American F-86 first flew in 1947. Over 1,800 were built by Canadair under licence as the CL.13. 179 surplus RCAF CL.13s were transferred to the AMI in 1955. The example at the museum was transferred to Vicenza in October 2004 for restoration and returned by August 2009.
|North American F-86K Sabre (MM55-4868 coded '51-62'). Derived from the F-86E the F-86K was built under licence by Fiat in Turin and first flew in May 1955. Eventually 221 were built in Italy. The F-86K on display was one of a batch received from France in 1962 to supplement the Italian built aircraft. It served with the 23º Gruppo, 51º Stormo at Istrana-Treviso before it passed to the museum in 1971.
Ambrosini Aerfer Sagittario II 'Ram' (MM561) An unsuccessful protoype fighter which returned to the museum after some years away (last seen April 2002) by August 2009.
|Ambrosini Aerfer Ariete (MM569) another prototype fighter, which was based on the Aerfer Sagittario II 'Ram'. Built in 1958 it first flew in March of that year. With less than expected results the project was cancelled and no further examples were built.
|Fiat G-80 (MM53882 coded 'RS-22') Fiat built, the G-80 which was designed by Gabrielli as an advanced two seat jet trainer. The first flight of one of the two initial prototypes, took place in December 1951. Later in May 1953 one of the two prototype G-82s, made its first flight. Another four G-82s were built and were transferred to the jet training school at Amendola. They eventually went on to the 'Reparto Sperimentale di Volo' (R.S.V.) in 1957. The AMI were not too impressed by the performance of the G-80 and G-82 consequently and losing out to the MB-326 no further orders were forthcoming.
The Fiat G-80 on display is one of three pre-production aircraft that were built and tested by the R.S.V. at Pratica di Mare, in who's markings it still carries. It was on display outside here for many years, but following the opening of Skema hall it was restored and moved inside. Two of the G-82s (MM53886 'RS-19' and MM53888 'RS-21') were also stored outside the museum from it's earliest days until the mid 1990s when they returned to Pratica di Mare where they are now held in open store.
|Aermacchi MB-326E (MM54389 '68'). Designed by Bazzocchi at Macchi, the first of two prototype (MM571 and MM572) MB-326s first flew on December 10, 1957. It eventually won the competition with the Fiat G.80 to be accepted by the AMI. An initial order of 15 pre-production aircraft was followed by an order for 100 more in 1960. It entered service on January 15, 1962, replacing T-6 Texan, for primary jet training with 214º Gruppo flying school at Lecce-Galatina which was renamed as "Scuola Volo Basico Iniziale Aviogetti" (see badge on tail) at the same time. It was powered by a Rolls-Royce Viper engine. An additional 12 MB-326Es were ordered later, which included the aircraft on display. In 1982, after 20 years and more than 400.000 flying hours with the MB-326 was replaced by the MB339A.|
Inspired by the F-86 the Fiat G-91 was designed from 1953 for a NATO competition which it eventually won. Built only in Germany and Italy, it first flew in 1956, entering service with the AMI in 1958. The G-91R was a reconnaissance version of the light fighter bomber, from which the G-91Y variant was developed, making its first flight on December 26,1966. Named 'Yankee' due to the shape of it's air intake, the G-91Y was the first G-91 to have an afterburner. Carrying a heavier payload and increased armament by means of two 30mm guns, it was less manoeuvrable than the G-91R. 65 'Yankee's were built under license by Aeritalia and delivered to 8º Stormo and 32º Stormo. They were eventually withdrawn from 1994 with the arrival of the AMX.
Above: G-91Y (MM6959 '8-66') is painted in 8º Stormo, 101º Gruppo markings from when it was based at Cervia.
| Two-seat G-91T (MM6344 'SA-47' previously '32-44')
|G-91PAN (MM6250 '9') painted in the display team 'Frecce Tricolori' '9' colours.
|Aermacchi MB-339A/PAN (MM54485 '0') painted in the display team 'Frecce Tricolori' '0' colours, it arrived at the Museum on December 4, 2012. Deliveries of the MB-339A began in 1979.
|G-91R (MM6280 '2-33') which has the panels cut away on the port side only.
Other G-91s have passed through the museum (including MM6405 '2-05' first seen August 1996 but had gone by March 2008) over the years. The G-91 collection had moved into its new home, an annex to Hall 4 'Skema' by August 2009. The G-91 is obviously a well loved aircraft at the museum.
Left to right: Lockheed F-104G Starfighter (MM6501 '3-11') The first F-104A Starfighter flew in 1954. Production of the multi-role, all-weather strike fighter was started in many of the countries which adopted this unique aircraft, apart from Fiat/Aeritalia, including Fokker in Holland, Messerschmitt in Germany and SABCA in Belgium.
The initial batch of 12 two-seat TF-104G Starfighter's were manufactured by Lockheed and assembled by FIAT from 1965. The F-104G had a maximum speed of 1,328 m.p.h. at 35,000 feet and could climb to 90,000 feet. The first F/RF/TF-104G Starfighters entered service with the AMI in 1963 to replace the F-86 and F-84s. FIAT eventually manufactured 164 F-104G, 119 RF-104G and 245 F-104S 40 of which were exported to Turkey. The S for 'Sparrow' variant was an improved F-104G capable of fulfilling the air-to-ground attacking role utilising the R21G/H ground mapping contour following radar, and deliveries were completed in 1979. Some aircraft were later upgraded to F-104S ASA standard to carry the Apside and AIM-9L air to air missile from 1988. The F-104Gs remained in service until 1983 and the last AMI Starfighter was not withdrawn until 2004.
|The Panavia Tornado F.3 ADV (MM7210 coded '36-12', formally with the Royal Air Force as ZE836) which replaced another Tornado (MM7001 'RS-01') which had been here for well over ten years when last noted in November 2005.|
|Communications and surveillance aircraft with the AMI|
|The Fieseler Fi-156 Storch 'Stork' (MM12822 coded '20' and previously G-FIST). This remarkable aircraft could take off in 50 meters and land in under 30 meters. 24 Fi-156s were operated by the AMI during World War II. The example on display was flown by Furlo Lauro who was awarded the Gold Medal for his exploits in rescuing downed pilots and carrying personnel across the Italian front during 1944 and 1945.
Piaggio P.166ML1 (MM61933 coded '53-34'). The P.166s design followed on from the P.136 amphibian of which several were to be seen at the museum until the mid 1990s when they were put into store at Guidonia. The first prototype P.166 took to the air in 1957. The P.166 was used for multi-engine aircraft pilot training at Latina with Scuola Volo Basica Avanzato Elica (SVBAE) and also for transport, liaison and Search and Rescue (SAR). 303º Gruppo at Guidonia utilised the P.166M/APH for aerial surveys until its retirement in 1997.
|Douglas C-47A (MM61776 coded '14-45'). On display at the museum by 2004 the C-47 was formally with 14º Stormo and subsequently been in open store at Guidonia for decades, along with some other less fortunate examples before it was rescued, repainted and put on display.
40 DC-3/C-47s were supplied to the Italian Air Force from the 1950. They were used for multi-engine training, VIP transports and numerous other duties.
Grumman S-2F Tracker (MM136556 coded '41-6'). The prototype Tracker (XS-2F-1) first flew in 1952 and entered service two years later. The aircraft was employed in Anti-Submarine Warfare (ASW) duties by a number of countries. Deliveries of the S-2F began in 1957 to the AMI under the United States Military Defense Aid Program (MDAP). The S-2F-1 was later designated the S-2A, although the AMI continued to use the original designation. The first six were delivered to Capodichino in 1957, followed by another 14 in 1959 and a further 10 in 1961 all to Brindisi. A final delivery of 15 aircraft followed in 1964. The aircraft were later operated by two squadrons (30º and 41º Stormo) based at Sigonella in Sicily remained in service until its gradual withdrawal in the 1970s when replaced by the Breguet Atlantic. The last AMI Tracker flew on August 31, 1978.
The Museo Storico also has on display the nose of another Tracker (MM148295 coded '41-35') which was part of a batch that did not have the wing-folding mechanism. It was first seen here in 2004 more than 20 years after the complete example was put on display, which was the first aircraft delivered to the AMI. As photographed in 1996
|The Piaggio Douglas PD-808GE (MM61961) The PD-808 first flew in August 1964 and only 27 were built. The example on display last flew on May 17, 2003, when with 71º Gruppo at Pratica di Mare and employed in the ECM role.
It was first seen in August 2004 in Badoni hall, by August 2006 it had placed outside the hangar and by March 2008 it had been moved towards the car park to make room to the extension to Skema hall.
Left to right: Agusta Bell AB-47G (MM80113 coded '12') The first Agusta Bell AB-47G flew on May 22, 1954 and were employed in the training role initially with the Centro Elicotteri and later the Scuola Volo Elicotteri (SVE). The later J models remained in service until the 1970s.
Agusta Bell AB-47J (MM80187 coded 'SE-38') which was operated by the Scuola Volo Ellcotteri.
Agusta Bell AB-204B (MM80357 coded 'RM-112') Based on the Bell UH-1, it is a utility helicopter including Search and Rescue (SAR) and first appeared here in 2009.
|Agusta-Sikorsky SH-3D/TS (MM80973) It has been especially equipped for VIP transport with the 31° Stormo and was better known as 'the Pope's Helicopter' as it was in service as such for 35 years un to it's retirement following it's final flight from Ciampino to Vigna di Valle on October 17, 2012.
|Libratore Bonomi BS.17 'Allievo Cantù' glider was built from 1930 and designed for training students to fly, around 50 were delivered. It is made out of wooden battens and plywood with canvas lined wings.
Schempp-Hirth Ventus 2D (MM100058) On display in Hall 4 'Skema' it had been flying in Turin in 2006 in all white scheme. It is inscribed '24 September 1964 Primato Internazionale Di Quota'.
Some of the many attractive badges carried by some of the aircraft on display.
Left to right: Piaggio P.166ML1 (MM61933 coded '53-34'), Macchi MC.200 'Saetta' (MM5311 coded '369-1'), Fiat CR.42 'Falco' (as 'MM5643/162-6' and Fiat CR.32 (as C.1-328 '3-6' of the Spanish Air Force).
|Where have the aircraft gone, I can't see them anymore? (August 2009)
Over the last three decades I have seen many improvements to the museum I love, a new hall has been built and many aircraft that were deteriorating outside are now protected inside. The original hangars including the modern Hall 4 'Skema' were very dark, they now have glass frontages (See image on right), making them much lighter and better for photography. The floors have more recently been resurfaced.
This is a photography based website and so I must reluctantly say that not everything at the museum has improved and is as I would have wished. Many of the exhibits are now surrounded by all sorts of paraphernalia, from display cabinets of model aircraft and medals etc., to engines, information boards, full size manikins adorned with pilots uniforms and an enormous amount of paintings of varying quality. It is becoming impossible to see the aircraft anymore! (See image on left). This clutter as grown considerably in the last few years. I do appreciate that many people like to see these kinds of exhibits, for the photographer it has become virtually impossible to get clear shots of many of the aircraft.
I hope I have given you an idea of what you should expect to see. Over the many years of visiting the museum I have personally seen well over 100 different airframes here, but never more than 70 at any one time. Currently there are around 60 aircraft on show. The collection is constantly changing as airframes are moved away for restoration and others are taken out of store. When I next get the chance to visit, I will be hoping to see some of my old 'friends', that are not currently displayed, having returned to the museum after a period of restoration. Restoration is important here but it is very time consuming and comes with a cost.
A number of airframes were put on display as they were recovered. However, with help from volunteer groups, some aircraft have 'disappeared' only to return spruced up, following extensive restoration. 'Gruppo Amici Velivoli Storici' (GAVS). GAVS are a non-profit making aircraft restoration society first established in 1983 in Turin. They have centres for restoration in Turin, Vicenza, Rome, Genoa and Lombardy. They have spent 6,000 voluntary hours over the last three years, restoring aircraft for various museums. GAVS publish for it's members, a magazine 'Ali Antiche', which is dedicated to aircraft restoration and preservation. They have done much of the valuable and painstaking restoration for the museum, notably over the years, the Ansaldo SVA-5 in 1988 and the G-55 'Centauro' in 1995. The Rome section of GAVS recently restored the Spanish built Fiat CR.32, the Hispano HA 132L in Spanish civil war colours. F-86E Sabre (MM19792 code '13-1') had moved to GAVS at Vicenza by October 2004 for restoration returning by August 2009. The 3º RTA (10º RMV) at Lecce, have also done valuable work for the museum, including completing the modification of the Fiat G-59 to a G-55 in 1997. The more recent restoration of the Macchi M.67 was done in part by Associazione Aeronautical Restoration of Varese.
I have been visiting this museum most years for the last 30 years, since marrying my long suffering Italian wife in 1979. Right from the outset in the late seventies, construction work has been carried out on the site, but at a very slow pace. I have seen many changes to the buildings and to the aircraft themselves. Originally you had to gain entrance through main gate of the adjoining military camp. Then you had to leave your passport with them and were requested to make a 'donation' to the soldiers on guard. In those early days a number of aircraft were 'stored' outside by workshops on the military camp. As the museum grew, more and more aircraft were left outside, at the mercy of the elements, either just outside the main buildings or further towards the new car park. Following the construction of Skema hall nearly all the exhibits are undercover and protected from the elements.
There were prolonged periods in the nineties, when Hall 4 was housing the 1950s jets, but was not open to the public. In 1998 the Italian Air Force held their 75th Anniversary air show at Pratica di Mare. For this event a number of museum aircraft were taken from Vigna di Valle for static display. These included the; Fiat C.29, G.5bis, G.55, G.80, Macchi C.200, C.202, C.205, SM.79 and the Fi-156. This was a rare opportunity to see these aircraft out in the sun.
The museum was completely closed to the public at the end of the nineties, until it was reopened on August 5, 1999. Later Hall 3 'Badoni' was closed throughout 2001 and into 2002 while it was being refurbished. Today all four halls are fully open and connected by way of adjoining doors and more recently walkways. It all looks very impressive, with around 60 aircraft on display, beside the clear waters of Lake Bracciano. So why not make plans to visit?
How do you get to the Museo Storico?
Cheap flights to Rome mean that it is now a great long weekend vacation. Why not treat the wife to some ancient Roman architecture and Italian restaurants, but more importantly visit this wonderful museum, you won't be disappointed? Don't forget that the museum, which is free, is closed on Mondays, otherwise it is open all year round.
(1st June 30th September) 09:30 17:30
(1st October 31st May) 09:30 16:30.
CLOSED on New Year’s Day, Easter, Christmas and on Mondays.
Please check out the museum's website to confirm opening times.