Operation M.C.72 – Recreating a World Speed Record Holding Seaplane

Aircorps Art Dec 2019


Over the last few years, Vintage Aviation News has covered the impressive efforts underway in Italy to build a replica of the majestic Savoia-Marchetti S.55X flying boat for eventual static display at the Volandia Museum, just northwest of Milan. We now have news regarding the recreation of another classic, interwar Italian flying machine, this being a magnificent Macchi-Castoldi M.C.72 seaplane racer, which is taking shape in Desenzano del Garda on the shores of Lake Garda.

The construction of this full-scale, static replica is due to a partnership between the Comitato Idroscalo Desenzano del Garda (Desenza del Garda Seaplane Base Committee), the Desenzano Air Force Association, and the Desenzano Town Council. The M.C.72 looks fast even standing still, and the aircraft still holds the world speed record for a piston-engined seaplane, a record which High-Speed Squadron pilot Francesco Agello set in M.C.72 #181 on October 23rd, 1934, achieving an average speed of 709.209kmh (440.681 mph). Agello performed this feat while flying from Desenzano military seaplane base, heading first to Sirmione and then to Mount Pizzocolo, passing the speed control stations at the Sasso Cliff (in Manerba) and San Sivino four times. An international panel of judges confirmed that this flight established an absolute world speed record for all aircraft types, a record which stood until March 30th, 1939, when Hans Dieterle flew a prototype Heinkel He 100 fighter at 746.606 kmh (463.919 mph).

The Maresciallo Francesco Agello sitting on the M.C. 72’s port float.

Thanks to Macchi (now part of the Leonardo Aerospace’s aircraft division), the Comitato Idroscalo Desenzano del Garda gained access to original engineering plans and drawings, allowing the group to fulfill their ambition to build, as faithfully as possible, a replica of M.C.72 #181 – the aircraft which Angello flew into the history books. (The original airframe still survives, and belongs to the Italian Air Force Museum in Vigna di Valle.) While the team is building paneling for the replica from resin, they are constructing the wood and canvas sections using the same materials and techniques applied to the original. While an accurate representation, at least externally, the replica M.C.72 will not feature the all-but impossible to source FIAT AS.6 supercharged V24 engine which powered the original, nor will it fly. To get an idea of the processes which the replica construction team followed in recreating the M.C.72, readers can see details of their plans, CAD designs, and parts manufacturing via an Adobe Acrobat file at the following link  Operazione_MC72_ANNO_2023-01.

By building this replica, the Comitato Idroscalo Desenzano del Garda intends to promote the achievements which helped place Italy at the forefront of early aviation and, in particular, the contributions which the R.A.V. Reparto Alta Velocità (High-Speed Squadron) made at Desenzano military Seaplane base. The town of Desenzano also hopes that their replica M.C.72 will contribute to the Italian Air Force’s centenary celebrations taking place across the country this year.

Pending permission from the Italian Air Force, the Comitato Idroscalo Desenzano del Gard expects to place the replica M.C.72 on permanent display in a hangar at Desenzano Military Seaplane Base, where the design’s story all began. Whatever the outcome, this replica (and many other exhibits) will be on display in Desenzano for the enjoyment of residents and visitors alike.

For more information about this project, please visit the organization’s website, (www.aaadesenzano.altervista.org) or Facebook page (www.facebook.com/idroscalo)

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