The Macchi M.C. 72 was an experimental seaplane designed and built by the Italian aircraft company Macchi Aeronautica.
The M.C. 72 held the world speed record for all aircraft for five years. In 1933 and 1934, it set a world speed record•for internal combustion-powered seaplanes which still stands.
The M.C. 72 was built in 1931 with the idea of competing for what turned out to be the final Schneider Trophy race, but due to engine problems, the M.C. 72 was unable to compete. Instead of halting development, Macchi continued work on the M.C. 72. Benito Mussolini personally took an interest in seeing development of the M.C. 72 continue and directed state funds to the company.
For two years, the M.C. 72 suffered from many mechanical defects, as well as the loss of two test pilots who died trying to coax world class speed out of the M.C. 72 (first Monti and then Bellini). The final design of M.C. 72 used contra-rotating propellers powered by a modified FIAT AS.6 supercharged V24 engine generating some 1,900-2,300 kW (2,500-3,100 hp). After 35 flights, the engines were overhauled in preparation for a record attempt. The aircraft finally lived up to expectations when it set a new world speed record (over water) on 10 April 1933, with a speed of 682 km/h (424 mph). It was piloted by Warrant Officer Francesco Agello (the last qualified test pilot). Not satisfied, development continued as the aircraft’s designers thought they could break 700 km/h (430 mph) with the M.C. 72. This feat was in fact achieved on 23 October 1934, when Agello piloted the M.C. 72 for an average speed of 709 km/h (440 mph) over three passes. This record remains (as of 2012) the fastest speed ever attained by a piston-engine seaplane. After this success, the M.C.72 was never flown again.
The M.C. 72 held the world speed record for all aircraft for five years. For comparison, the record holder for a land-based aircraft was held (for a time) by the Hughes H-1 Racer with a top speed of only 566 km/h (352 mph). Then in 1939, two German racing aircraft passed the M.C. 72. The first was a Heinkel He 100 which reached the speed of 746 km/h (463 mph). The second was a Messerschmitt Me 209 which set a new world speed record of 756 km/h (469 mph) in August – just days before the start of World War II. The current world speed record for a piston-engine aircraft is 528.33 mph (850.26 km/h) set by a heavily modified Grumman F8F Bearcat named Rare Bear over three km in 1989. However, the M.C. 72 record still stands today as the world’s fastest propeller-driven seaplane.
The M.C. 72, aircraft that took the world record, survives. It is on display at the Italian Air Force Museum, near Rome.
Knights Of The Skies
Max Immelmann (21 September 1890 – 18 June 1916) was the first German World War I flying ace. He was a pioneer in fighter aviation and is often mistakenly credited with the first aerial victory using a synchronized gun. He was the first aviator to win the Pour le Mérite, and was awarded it at the same time as Oswald Boelcke. His name has become attached to a common flying tactic, the Immelmann turn, and remains a byword in aviation. He is credited with 15 aerial victories.
Immelmann became one of the first German fighter pilots, quickly building an impressive score of air victories. During September, three more victories followed, and then in October he became solely responsible for the air defense of the city of Lille. Immelmann became known as The Eagle of Lille (Der Adler von Lille). He gained two further victories during September, to become the first German ace.
Immelmann flirted with the position of Germany’s leading ace, trading that spot off with another pioneer ace, Oswald Boelcke. Having come second to Boelcke for his sixth victory, he was second to be awarded the Royal House Order of Hohenzollern for this feat. On 15 December, Immelmann shot down his seventh British plane and moved into an unchallenged lead in the competition to be Germany’s leading ace.
Immelmann was the first pilot to be awarded the Pour le Mérite, Germany’s highest military honour, receiving it on the day of his eighth win, 12 January 1916. The medal became unofficially known as the “Blue Max” in the German Air Service in honor of Immelmann. His medal was presented by Kaiser Wilhelm II on 12 January 1916. Oswald Boelcke received his medal at the same time
Many Germans believed Immelmann was invincible, and his death was a huge shock. It is believed that his aircraft’s gun synchronisation (designed to enable his machine gun to fire between the whirling propeller blades without damaging them) had malfunctioned with catastrophic results.
Damage to the propeller resulting in the loss of one blade could have been the primary cause of the structural failure evident in accounts of the crash of his aircraft. The resultant vibration of an engine at full throttle spinning half a propeller could have shaken the fragile craft to pieces
As with most pilots, Max was devoted to his pet dog, Tyras, who often slept within or on his bed. He didn’t smoke or drink and wrote daily to his mother.
Knights Of The Skies – WWI
Please note this will be the last of the French Wounded for a while.