Summer 1998. I was almost 10 years old, and my parents bought me an issue of Rivista Aeronautica, the official Italian Air Force Magazine, because I suddenly became interested in airplanes when my father brought me to an airshow the year before. Enclosed with the magazine there was a VHS about Giornata dell’Ala (“Day of the Wing”), the big airshow organized in Pratica di Mare airbase, near Rome, for the 75th Anniversary of the Italian Air Show. I watched that VHS so many times that it became worn out.
“How could would have been to see that!” I thought.
Move 25 years in the future. Here I am, queuing for the eagerly-awaited 100th Anniversary airshow.
I have to say I found the initial rumours about the participants quite unbelievable. However, as the airshow drew closer, it became clear that most of the rumours were true!
Here are my photos from the friday spotter day, and the saturday morning.
The show was opened by the flying replicas built by Fondazione Jonathan Collection. I think they were part of the most metal story of the airshow: a multi-leg 500 km flight across the Italian Appennines to take part in the airshow!
Replica of the SPAD XIII flown by Francesco Baracca, top scoring WW1 Italian Ace with 34 victories.
Replica of a Caproni Ca.3 bomber, the only airworthy replica of a multi-engined WW1 bomber in the world.
Canadair CT-133 Silver Star 3, Canadian license-built version of the Lockheed T-33 Shooting Star trainer (itself a two-seater variant of the P-80 Shooting Star fighter, the first jet flown by the US armed services). The Italian Air Force flew the T-33 as trainer, liaison plane and target tug (and as a reconnaisance plane in the RT-33 version) from 1952 to 1982.
Red Bull Douglas DC-6. The Italian Air Force flew it from 1962 to 1981.
Red Bull Lockheed P-38 Lightning. The P-38 was one of the first post-war Italian Air Force fighters, flown from 1946 to 1956 in both the fighter and reconnaisance version. One plane seems also to have been captured and flown by the Royal Italian Air Force during the war.
Fiat G.46 trainers formation, operational from 1949 to 1959:
North American T-6 Texan trainer, operational from 1949 to 1979:
Probably the most eagerly-awaited moment of the airshow: the Lockheed TF-104G Starfighter operated by Starfighters Aerospace, flown in Italy from Florida on board a C-130.
I was 16 when the Italian Air Force retired the Spillone (“Big Pin”, as it was nicknamed due to its shape). I saw it flying only once, when a two-ship formation flew above the beach where I was on vacation, few years before its retirement. I feared I would not have had another chance to see a flying Spillone!
The first 4 photos were actually taken in Grosseto airbase on Monday 12th June, during a spotter day organized by 4th Stormo for its first test flight.
Back to Pratica di Mare!
In formation with a Typhoon, and F-35 and a F-86 Sabre. Unfortunately, the sun had already started to be in front of the photographers.
Another plane I feared I would not have ever seen is the Fiat G.91R, retired when I was only 4! At first I was not very fond of the Frecce Tricolori livery, as I thought they flew only the sharp-nosed A version. However, I discovered that in the years before its replacement with the MB.339, few R-version G.91 were flown by them to replace lost planes.
In formation with a Tornado and an AMX:
Frecce Tricolori display before going to Verona:
For the 100th Anniversary, the tails were repainted with the symbols of the 4 squadrons shown in the Air Force crest:
- 10a Squadriglia Farman (10th Farman Wing)
- 91a Squadriglia da Caccia (91st Fighter Wing), also known as Squadriglia degli Assi (Aces Wing)
- 10a Squadriglia da Bombardamento Caproni (10th Caproni Bomber Wing)
- 87a Squadriglia Aeroplani La Serenissima (87th Wing La Serenissima, nickname of the city of Venice)
Some Frecce Tricolori planes only wore the Anniversary logo on the tail.
HH-139 taking aerial shots:
Other aerial shots, but by an Ecureuil wearing The Horsemen Flight Team logo:
The Horsemen Flight Team flew with 3 P-51 Mustang, operational from 1947 to 1958. Unfortunately the display line was already fully backlit.
Republic P-47 Thunderbolt, operational from 1950 to 1954:
Due to the backlit display, I moved to the static display. I thought it was not possible to go outside the base on the other side of the runway, but it looks like there were no issue in doing so (obviously without any support from the organizers).
Just some backlit shots of the air parade:
HH-139 and HH-212
C-130J Hercules and C-27J Spartan
King Air 350ER SPYDR and P-72
VC-319 and Falcon 900 and 50
Tornado and AMX
KC-767 simulating air-to-air refueling of Typhoons, and E-550
Some pics of the planes parked on the flight line:
AMX wearing a special livery for the 103th Group 80th Anniversary
T-346 with 100th Anniversary special tail
MQ-1 Predator drone
SIAI U-208 with 100th Anniversary special livery
Focke-Wulf FW.149, German license-built version of the Piaggio P.149
2 Fokker S-11, , which were license-built by Macchi as M.416
Grob Twin Astir glider
One of Pratica di Mare gate guardians, a C-47 used for calibration of radio-navigation facilites
Front cockpit of a twin-seater AMX-T
Front cockpit of a “beheaded” Tornado
The best part of the static display was Camp 100, a chronological path shaped like the 100th Anniversary logo.
F-35 right at the entrance
Flying replica (work-in-progress, of course) of the Hanriot HD.1 fighter flown by Ace Flavio Torello Baracchini
Mock-up of the MC.72 hydroracer. You can read about its unveling here.
Blériot XI replica. The Royal Italian Army Air Corp was the first to use airplanes for warfare, when some Blériot XI were used during the Italo-Turkish War in 1911-1912.
Ansaldo SVA 9
Macchi MC.202 of the Italian Co-Belligerent Air Force, which flew for the Allies after the 8th September 1943 armistice
Macchi MC.205 of the Aeronautica Nazionale Repubblicana (National Republican Air Force), which flew for the Axis after the 8th September 1943 armistice
Agusta-Sikorsky HH-3F Pelican
Drone MQ-1 Predator
Still being assembled on Friday, but on display in Camp 100 on Saturday, F-104:
Picture actally taken in during the Grosseto air base spotter day on Monday 12th, another F-104 on static display