Torino 1896. The Moriondo and Gariglio company of Via Artisti 36 employed some 250 workers in the production of chocolate
The early years of the 20th Century were characterised by the enormous zest for “modernity”, for scientific discoveries and for technological innovations, and these were the years in which Turin became the centre of industrial revolution where a new enthusiastic desire for novelty was perceptible in the air.
Turin’s traditional industries - cloth and confectionery - were gradually giving way to the new mechanical opportunities, in particular the automobile industry, and this new direction provided fertility and cultural preparation for aviation-linked initiatives. Thuse, in those earliest years of Italian aviation, Turin already possessed the skill to strike the spark which initiated the “heavier than air” aircraft industry, destined to spread rapidly to other parts of Italy.
In the wake of Faccioli’s experiments in Venaria, a number of small workshops were opened, and between 1909 and 1910, on the initiative of young, enthusisatic but mostly inexperienced designers, adventured into the world of aeronautics with mixed success.
Bruno Foco with his biplane
Bruno Foco from Turin, the son of a postman, and without having attended an adequate course of studies, at the age of 18 years became interested in the problems of aeronautics, and intrigued by Faccioli’s experiments at Venaria, between 1908 and 1909 built an experimental biplane.
This aircraft had a wingspan of 10 meters and a wing area of 60 m2; its canard type control surfaces had a total area of 20 m2.
Given the materials used for the construction, the aircraft turned out to be heavier than expected, which kept him from having success.
Foco began the construction of a second biplane very similar to the first, for which he employed much lighter materials. There is no record that this was completed.
Biplane “quadriplane” Martino
Giving it the designation of “quadricell biplane”, Luigi Martino (a mechanic in the state railways) designed an aircraft made up of two biplane cells in tandem. The wing area was 62 m2 with a total weight of 460 kg. The project included two rear vertical rudders having symmetrical and parallel action, actuated by means of a steering wheel, which was also used to steer the wheels of the undercarriage.
The design and then the construction began in 1905 in Scalenghe, in the Azzario workshop with the collaboration of three willing friends, Roncuzzi, Negro and Varalle. The engine used for the first ground tests was a 45/50 HP Anzani, later replaced by an engine designed and built by Martino himself in Turin, in the workshop of the night school in Via Ormea.
After four years of study and modifications, the flight tests of the “quadricellular” took place at Venaria towards the end of 1909, but with little success
The prototype of Bruno & Geninatti in Via Roma
(via Roma 30) built a monoplane in 1910; much care was lavished on this – it had a complicated undercarriage built from nickel-plated tubes and wooden skids. Each wing was in two parts sustained by 12 metal cables while the tail consisted of two semi-circular units acting as tailplane and rudder. This excessively heavy aircraft was another one that never got off the ground.
The last 4 of factories these exhibited at the Turin Aeronautical Exposition held from the 8th to the 24th of April 1910.
1913. The Robiola multiplane
Since 1909, the Turin physician Dr Attilio Robiola had begun to study and to design means of aerial locomotion based on the observation of the flight of birds at the end of which he devised “an airplane that cannot overturn”, that is, an “autostable aircraft”.
Robiola patented his system in Germany (1909) and in the uk (February 29, 1912, Patent no. 1910/27876) with the title “Improved control system for aircraft and submarine boats”.
As a practical application of his studies, between 1912 and 1913 he built an interesting aircraft, which he called a "Hydromultiplane", which was so described by the British newspaper Independent in 1914: “A new kind of flying machine, the Robiola multiplane, is built on this principle (auto-stability) and is entirely of metal, with six wing planes, one above the other”.
He was able to obtain the cooperation of the Aviators Battalion, which gave him two 80 HP Gnôme engines, and attempted test flights at Mirafiori in November 1913, but without success because of its excessive weight (about 1 ton) due to which his project foundered without appeal.
After the attempt with this aircraft, Robiola gave up aeronautics, although during the 1920’s he obtained patents for several engine designs.
Robiola described his theories in a 30 page booklet entitled “The Robiola hydroaeroplane – Edison’s Theory in harmony with the principles devised and applied by Dr Robiola” published in Pavia by the Tipografia Succ. Bizzoni in 1912.
However, alongside these basic and experimental activities, a number of industrial concerns were also emerging.
The one and only example of the Miller-Fuseri ortho-copter. Despite the modest quality of the photo, the curiously absurd complexity of the machine designed by the chemist from Fossano can be clearly seen
The Sicilian-born engineer Franz Miller is credited with the distinction of heavier-than-air Flying Machines. The enterprise was set up in the early months of 1909, and had its premises at Number 9, Via Legnano, Turin.
The factory consisted of two large workshops used for mechanical operations, while assembly took place in the courtyard. Some 30 staff, both clerical and manual, were employed.
Miller’s experience in the aeronautical field went back to 1906, a period in which he constructed scale flying models of an aircraft with a curved dihedral wing.
In March-April of 1908 he built a 4 cylinder 40/50 HP engine which was soon followed by another of 100 HP.
The publicity for his newly-created factory read: “We will build any kind of flying machine, even from a simple sketch”. This affirmation incited the curiosity of a chemist from Fossano, initiating a most interesting story.
To quote from the book “Come nacque l’aviazione in Italia” by Pietro Gasco:
“Dr Fuseri, a chemist from Fossano, near Cuneo, designed and supervised the building of a type of ornithopter which was subsequently test-flown in the Parade Square. On its first attempt, it rose almost one metre”.
but was unable to repeat the performance in later attempts [A/N].
“Fuseri had heard that Miller intended to open a ‘Flying Machine Factory’ in Turin, so set off for Turin with his drawings and enthusiastically outlined his project to Miller, who agreed to become one of four partners in the venture to build the aircraft and its engine. I myself also participated, buying four of the Company’s shares at 100 lire each.”
The first aircraft to be constructed was Fuseri’s ornithopter. This flapping, multi-wing machine was powered by Miller’s 100 HP engine driving a propeller through a vertical shaft. However, the aircraft never managed to fly.
Ponzelli-Miller’s “Aerocurvo” at Mirafiori
Despite the apparent insignificance of this event, it is none-the-less the earliest known instance of anyone actually commissioning the building of an aircraft in Italy. In other words, it embrionically represents the beginning of the Italian aircraft industry for the construction of heavier than air flying machines.
Putting all thoughts of Fuseri’s curious aircraft behind him, Miller successfully constructed another, more traditional type of craft (a helicoplane) and its engine on behalf of Mario Cobianchi from Bologna, who was both its designer and its draftsman.
Miller’s Monoplane at Mirafiori
In September, the “Cobianchi-Miller” took part in the Brescia Air Race Circuit, but only managed to taxi, without being able to take off. In October it was thus sent to Bologna for modifications which Cobianchi himself undertook.
Also in 1909 he went on to build the “Aerocurvo” designed by Engineer Ponzelli. This aircraft, the first Italian monoplane to fly, was entered in the air race in Brescia in 1909, piloted by that pioneer and benefactor of aviation, Baron Leonino Da Zara at Bovolenta but due to an accident during the preparations, he could not participate in the race.
In 1910, Miller built a monoplane designed by Engineer Lucchesi, powered by a Miller 35 HP engine. This flew for the first time from the Parade Square of Turin.
His advertising also asserted that he was building dirigibles, the first of which was to a design by Engineers Celestino Usuelli and Mario Borsalino.
Some 51 metres long and 9,5 metres in diameter, the prototype of the Usuelli dirigible (built in a large shed at Lombardore) saw its maiden flight on the 16th of August 1910. Usuelli later moved to Milan where he continued to design dirigibles.
Miller’s activities as an aircraft constructor slowly decreased due to the economic difficulties induced by his lack of commercial success.
1910. Miller Monoplane
Between 1909 and 1914 in addition to Miller’s enterprise, a number of new aircraft construction companies sprang up. Among those we find:
Antonio Chiribiri, a mechanical engineer from Venice, transferred to Turin in search of fortune in the starting automobile industry. After employment in various workshops, he was hired by the Miller enterprise where he became chief mechanic, with responsibility for the construction of a number of prototypes of engines, into which he introduced mechanical details of his own invention.
Antonio Chiribiri, Miller’s chief mechanic, with a Miller 4 cylinder radial engine of 35 HP. The propeller is attached directly to the crankshaft
In 1910 he set up his own business, opening a workshop at 68 Via Don Bosco to oversee the production of a 40 HP engine of his own design, derived from a similar automobile type. This was definitively bench tested in February of 1911, running for over 11 hours without any malfunction. During this same period he produced a monoplane known as “Chiribiri 1”, derived from the French “Blériot”, into which he installed the new engine.
Chiribiri himself attempted to take it aloft for its maiden flight, but lacking he even the most rudimentary knowledge of piloting, the flight ended with a disastrous crash from which he miraculously emerged unscathed. Having learned his lesson, he sought and found in the person of Maurizio Ramassotto a collaborator to whom he entrusted the flight testing.
1911. Chiribiri 2. Ramassotto and Chiribiri
In July 1911 came the “Chiribiri 2” piloted by Ramassotto, which flew without any problems over the city. It is curious to note that on October 14, 1911, Ramassotto, in the “Chiribiri 2”, received the first pilot’s license issued at Mirafiori airfield.
Maurizio Ramassotto aboard a Chiribiri 2, in which he obtained the first licence issued at Mirafiori aerodrome
A few months later he opened a flying school with Ramassotto himself as the instructor and whose first students were Count Muzio Gallo and De Croce.
At the end of 1911 the “Chiribiri 3” with an 80 HP engine, and designed for military use, began flight tests, but its development was soon abandoned due to difficulties with the engine.
In May of 1912, for promotional and propaganda purposes, two Chiribiri piloted by Ramassotto and Paolucci gave performances first in Cagliari, then in Genoa, where they used the Lido di Albaro as an airfield.
In July, the “Chiribiri 5” was tested. This was also designed for military use and was submitted for the Military Competition of 1913, but without success. After this failure, the Chiribiri aeronautics activities continued until the end of the Great War. This, however, was limited only to the series production of “Le Rhône” engines.
After the war, the Chiribiri factory was converted for the production of cars, becoming a commercial success, but that’s another story.
Starting the Asteria by swinging the propeller
At the end of 1909, stimulated by Faccioli’s exploits, he began building the prototype of “Asteria 1”, a design inspired by the French Farman, improved by some of his own innovations.In 1910, at the request of the Ministry of War, the “Asteria 1” was sent to the Roman aerodrome of Centocelle, where in the early days of October it underwent test flights piloted alternately by the company’s mechanic, Emilio Pensuti and Lt. Gavotti.
On March 6, 1911 the pusher biplane “Asteria No. 2” was rolled out and tested on the new aerodrome of Salussola (Biella), piloted first by Pietro Cavaglià and then by Raimondo Marra. Among the changes made as a result of the Centocelle testing were an increased wing area and greater fuel capacity while the tailplane was changed from single to twin.
But the most significant achievement for Asteria was the sale to the Italian Government of the “Asteria 2” which was sent to Benghazi, one of the Italian air bases during the Italo-Turkish conflict.
This was the first nationally-designed aircraft to be purchased by the Italian Army.
Meanwhile, Engineer Darbesio also produced an experimental 7-cylinder, 70 HP rotary engine which was presented at the International Exhibition of Turin.
On September 8, 2011, at the new Mirafiori aerodrome, the “Asteria Aviation School” was inaugurated. The instructor was Giuseppe Rossi and among the first students was the well-known journalist and successful writer Adone Nosari.
The “Asteria 3”, equipped with the now customary “Gnôme 50 HP” engine designed to satisfy even the needs of military use, was tested at Mirafiori in September 1911. The main variation concerned the construction of a nacelle to shelter the pilot and passenger.
On the afternoon of September 20 the pilot Rossi, with a passenger on board, established a significant Italian record, remaining aloft for 2h 2’29”.
The new biplane “Asteria 4”, which retained some of the architecture of the No. 2, saw the abolition of the forward control plane. The tailplane was also modified from biplane to monoplane and a new 70 HP engine made by the luct company of Turin was fitted.
Piloted by Giuseppe Rossi, testing took place in the spring of 1912 at Mirafiori.
In autumn, the “type mb” was rolled out. This was a monoplane with a 50 HP Gnôme engine which was later replaced by one of 80 HP, making the aircraft more suitable for military use. At the beginning of 1913, Darbesio had decided to enter the Military Competition to select the aircraft which would be supplied to the army.
Asteria’s new chief pilot was Giuseppe Nosari, who had left the Air Force and had replaced Rossi. Unfortunately, on February 3, 1913, Giuseppe Nosari crashed and lost his life at the Mirafiori aerodrome.
This tragic event caused Darbesio not only to withdraw from the Military Competition, but to completely abandon the construction of aircraft.
During the course of the 1st World War he recovered his interest in aviation and began collaboration with the aviation section of the Officine Savigliano.
In 1916 he completed the development of the design for an interesting twin-engined aircraft whose construction was begun by the sit company, but was never completed.
He later took up the post of Secretary of the Torinese Section of the Italian Aerotechnical Association, a position he held until 1944, the year of his death.
It was with a Blériot 80 that the Frenchman Perreyon, one of the sit pilots, achieved the first Turin-Rome-Turin flight in the same day (see p. 93) which generated a wave of enthusiasm.
In 1912 the Ministry of War launched a program for the acquisition of 150 aircraft to be delivered by 1913.
Sit was awarded the contract for the construction of 80 aircraft, mostly Blériots and Farmans, and was the first company to develop the series production of aircraft.
1912. Blériot XI seaplane, built under licence by SIT. Geo Chávez used a similar land-based model to make the first flight across the Alps (Briga,
Switzerland to Domodossola, Italy) on the 23rd of September 1910
In 1914 in a sit-Blériot with a 50 HP Gnôme engine, Romolo Manissero gave the first performance in Italy, over the Mirafiori aerodrome, of a series of loops and other aerobatic maneuvers. In the same year, on the Po, Manissero tested a Blériot seaplane with a 90 HP Le Rhône engine with full satisfaction, but this did not generate much commercial interest.
In the summer of 1917, sit was acquired by Ansaldo and was renamed as “s.a.i. Gio. Ansaldo C. – Aeronautical Factory No. 3”.
SIT factory in Corso Peschiera. Assembly line of Blériot aircraft
Sia was founded in 1914 by fiat for the exclusive production of aircraft, and began manufacturing under license the Farman “5b” biplane fitted with the fiat a.10 100 HP engine, initially in the premises at Via Madama Cristina and then in those of Via Nizza.
In the summer of 1915, Engineer Torretta, the sia-fiat head of the design office, in collaboration with the d.t.a.m. (Military Aviation Technical Directorate), began producing sp.2 models (designed by Savoia-Pomilio) equipped with fiat a.12 engines of 250 HP (much faster than the Farmans) that were tested and developed by Lt. Brach Papa at Mirafiori, produced in about 100 examples. The sp.2’s were equipped with a machine gun in a specially-designed turret.
A line of SIA-SP.3.
Farman 5B. This was the first aircraft built by FIAT-SIA under licence from Farman in 1914
The SIA factory at Mirafiori with a line of SIA 7B’S. The aircraft at far left is a SIA 14B
Meanwhile, production was moved to the sheds built on the Mirafiori aerodrome from which came the sp.3 and then, from 1916, the sia “7b1”, famous for having been used for both D’Annunzio’s “Bakar mockery” (see p. 112) and for Giulio Laureati’s historic feat (see p. 102), followed in 1917 by the “7b2” with the 300 HP fiat a12 bis engine.
The evolution of the models continued unabated and even led to the production of a bomber (the 9 b) and a twin-engined version (the 14 b).
As of 1918, sia adopted the name of Fiat Aviation. Later, following the acquisition by fiat in 1926 of Ansaldo’s aeronautical facilities at Corso Francia 266, all aeronautical activities were channeled into the company renamed as “Aeronautica d’Italia”.
1916-17. The SIA hangars with a group of Fiat managers. In the background, 2 Fiat SP.2’s can be seen
Between 1908 and the start of the First World War a number of engine manufacturers were active:
An SA 8⁄75 3-litre engine, the first aircraft
FIAT A.12 engine, the most widely-used
Spa also produced an 80 HP, 10-cylinder fixed star engine, and a water-cooled 8-cylinder 100 HP “v” and an in-line 6-cylinder 205 HP engine, both of which were water cooled.
spa’s engine-building activities also extended into the field of engines for airships, and in 1908 they produced a 35/40 HP 4-cylinder water-cooled engine mounted by Count Almerico da Schio on the airship “Italy”.
spa was therefore the Italian company which built, not only the first aircraft engine, but also the first airship engine, both of which were actually tested in flight.
In 1909-1910 a 35/40 HP engine was produced and installed on Nico Piccoli’s airship “Ausonia” followed by an 80/100 HP four-cylinder, which like its predecessors was water-cooled. This was installed on the Usuelli-Borsalino airship built by the Miller Workshops.
In 1916, spa produced the engine that became one of the most famous in the aviation italian world of the time, the spa 6a of 220/230 HP, initially installed on the sva built by Engineers Savoy and Verduzio and then, during the war, produced on a large scale in over 3,000 units.
The spa 6a engines, installed in the famous sva biplanes (Savoia Verduzio Ansaldo), were protagonists of D’Annunzio’s flight over Vienna in 1918 and the Rome-Tokyo flight by Arturo Ferrarin in 1920, as well as countless aerospace exploits worldwide in the postwar period.
At the end of the war, spa almost completely stopped production of engines for aviation and was later taken over by fiat.
Itala 65 HP engine
LUCT 80 HP rotary engine 9 cylindres
was set up in 1911 in Turin in Via Cavalli by its partners Ladetto, Ubertalli and Cavalchini (of Turin), and began the manufacture of a 50/70 bhp, 7-cylinder rotary engine designed by Engineer Cavalchini. Testing was completed in 1912.
It would be the only Italian rotary engine capable of competing with the well-known “Gnôme”.
This engine, installed on a Farman, allowed the pilot, Mario Cobianchi, to set an Italian record with a flight lasting 2h 18’ 40” on August 16, 1912 at Mirafiori.
Luct then went on to produce a series of 80/100 HP 9-cylinder rotary engines.
The curious pecularities of luct engines were that although they had two valves for each cylinder, these were operated by a single cam and the operating cycle was 6-stroke, since two strokes were used as cleaning strokes to improve internal engine cooling.
The engine was later installed on an Asteria 4 and officially presented to the technicians of the Aviation Battalion of Turin hoping to get an order from the military, but without success.
At the Air Force Exposition of May 1913, held in Turin, luct presented three types of engines, of 50, 80, and 100 HP with good results. Among others, they succeeded in obtaining several orders for 80 HP engines which were exported to Brazil for installation in the aircraft “Enea Bossi” and “Wolsit Jacchia”. Despite this, however, the company was wound up and ceased production in 1915.
The SIMGER - Società Italiana Motori Gnôme e Rhône factory
Lancia Type 4 engine
Caproni CA.38 with 250 HP Lancia Type 4 engine during tests at
Turin was not the only Piedmontese site for aeronautical activities; the following are also worthy of note:
Poster celebrating Cevasco’s flight between
He returned to Italy in 1912, and with the financial support of the cousins Angiolina and Guido Carbone began the construction of a factory to produce his monoplane (called “Gabarda”) both in a land-based and in a seaplane version under the name of “Gabardini Aircraft Construction and flying school - Cameri Aerodrome”.
In March 1913 the “Gabarda” was successfully tested for the first time at Milan-Taliedo, piloted by Paolucci.
The start of production coincided (thanks to financial support from the Carbone cousins) with the acquisition of land between Cameri and Bellinzago for the expansion of the existing aerodrome, intended for the testing of the aircraft. The aerodrome, having obtained the necessary permissions from the DTAM, was opened in September 1913.
Filippo Cevasco, the company’s official test pilot, oversaw the development and was the author of some exceptional exploits that provided confirmation of the quality of the aircraft.
Roma 1914. The pilot Cevasco landed on the Tiber in his "Idro-Gabarda" Gabardini seaplane
Chief pilot Zanibelli (left) with taxying simulator Gabardini “Tartaruga”
On July 13, 1913 Cevasco performed a Milan-Turin flight with three passengers on board and a few days later he repeated the feat, going from Milan to Venice, again with 3 passengers.
In October of that year Gabardini transformed his personal aircraft into a seaplane by installing a pair of floats. In December, Cevasco made a flight in the “Gabardini-idro” from Sesto Calende to Rome with stops at Genoa and Livorno. The entire Italian press gave great prominence to the happy outcome of the event.
In 1913 a flying school was again opened at Cameri aerodrome, and its first brevet was awarded on December 2 of that year.
The tuition activity was consolidated and enlarged to allow for the training of a large number of students.
According to official numbers made available by Gabardini, from its inception up until 1922 the school qualified about 1,500 students, including Natale Palli, who took part in the historic flight over Vienna with D’Annunzio, Renato Donati, Gianni Ancillotto, Arturo Ferrarin, the Genoese Ciro Cirri, Achille Landini, Giuseppe Lampugnani, employing over 200 aircraft, enabling them to set a record of 131 pilots qualified in a single month.
1914. The 2-seater “Alpi” with 80 HP Le Rhône engine
The Gabardini Biplane
Cameri Airport (Novara). The biggest flying school in the world – 200 aircraft, 1,500 pilots qualified during the war
Gabardini was somewhat prone to exaggerate, and declared that Cameri was the largest flying school in the world, supporting his statement with images, which today appear to have been artfully retouched, showing a greater number of aircraft than that genuinely available.
Meanwhile, the production of aircraft continued to grow and some examples were exported to Argentina.
On 24 July 1914, one of his aircraft (Landini pilot, passenger Professor Lampugnani) starting from Cameri, flew over Monte Rosa at an altitude of 4,300 meters, landing at Viege in Switzerland.
Unfortunately, this exploit received little consequence since it occurred on the day immediately before Austria declared war on Serbia, with all that which followed.
Postcard dedicated to the air-crossing of the Alps performed by Landini and Lampugnani in a Gabardini monoplane
With the outbreak of the 1st World War on July 25, 1914 with the declaration of war on Serbia by the Austro-Hungarian Empire, Gabardini turned his attention to military affairs and devoted all his efforts to the production of trainer aircrafts for military pilots. He experimented with various types of engines, starting with the 80 HP Gnôme followed by the Anzani 30 HP and then to the 50 HP Gnôme before finally adopting the luct 70 HP.
During the wartime period, Gabardini came to employ more than 1,100 people.
After the war Gabardini turned into cansa (Costruzioni Aeronautiche Novaresi sa) which was later purchased by fiat, becoming fiat-cansa.
Giuseppe Gabardini died on January 9, 1936 in Galliate (Novara) following a car accident on the Turin-Milan highway.
23 aircraft, including two Bobba monoplanes, one with an 80 HP and one with a 160 HP engine, passed the preliminary tests at Mirafiori aerodrome and went on to the final test, a 300 km Turin-Milan-Casale-Turin crosscountry.
This took place on May 9, 1913 and was won by the Bobba monoplane with the 80 HP Gnôme engine, piloted by Giuseppe Rossi.
The victory was clear, and according to the competition rules, Bobba should have been awarded a contract for the construction of at least 10 examples, but the order never came.
Angered by this injustice, Bobba closed his business and returned to France.
The 160 HP Bobba piloted by Cesare Bobba during the Military Competition of 1913
In October 1909, once again in Cameri (Novara), two Engineers, the Frenchman Clovis Thouvenot and the Italian Gino Galli, with the technical collaboration of the Turinese car champion Alessandro Umberto Cagno, set up the Avis company to build Voisin aircraft under licence. Voisin had been producing aircraft since 1906.
This initiative by Engineer Thouvenot led to the development of the airfield of Cameri, inaugurated on 28 July, 1910.
Thouvenot Workshops at AVIS Voisin field (Cameri)
An AVIS-Voisin in construction at the AVIS-Cagno factory at Cameri
The approach of the universal exposition of 1911 gave rise to a myriad of evens in Turin including aeronautical initiatives that resulted in the establishment of new associations or aero clubs with the aim of promoting aeronautical activity.
These initiatives rarely lasted long because they were poorly supported by the availability of aircraft to encourage the activity of enthusiasts.
On January 1, 1910 the “Aero Club Italiano” was established (with headquarters in Turin via Tiepolo 5-7 at the corner of Corso Dante) with the aim of “… seeking to have schools, workshops, airfields in all cities and countries where there are members” (Article 2 of the statute).
The general director was C. Sylva, and the fee was 2,5 lire plus a one-off fee of 0,5 lire. By 1911 it had 118 members.
The Aereo Club Italiano then launched a cyclostyled publication called “L’Aria” which informed members about aeronautical events in Piedmont.
With analogous intent a Turin branch of the Società Aeronautica Italiana was opened in Corso Regina Margherita 52, while the Campo Aviazione of Salussola Society opened in Via Sacchi 28 bis.
Aero Club Italiano membership card
“L’Aria – Rivista Illustrata di Aeronautica”,
Leonino Da Zara’s accident which prevented
Leonino Da Zara in a Miller
The Brescia aircraft circuit. From top to bottom
The official baptism of European aviation is considered to be that of the “Rheims Aviation Pageant”, held from the 22nd to the 28th of August 1909 (see poster on p. 6).
Just a few days later, from the 8th to the 20th of September, the first international air races in Italy were held at Montichiari (Brescia). The best pilots of the time took part, but of the many Italian constructors and designers then operating (e.g. Frassinetti of Parma, Caproni of Milan, Gemma of Novara, Majoli of Naples, Radici of Milan, Antoni of Parma etc), only three ventured to bring their creations: Faccioli, with his Faccioli 2, (piloted by Mario Faccioli), Miller, with his “Aerocurvo” flown by Leonino Da Zara and the Cobianchi-Miller flown by Mario Cobianchi. For various reasons, none of them managed to get airborne.
Other Italians flying foreign-designed or foreign-built aircraft had more success. Worthy of mention are Alessandro Cagno and Alessandro Anzani with a Voisin-Avis and Mario Calderara who won two races with a Wright. The Press reported that amongst the celebrities there to watch the event were Gabriele d’Annunzio, Giacomo Puccini, Franz Kafka, Arturo Toscanini and Guglielmo Marconi.
May 17-24, 1914. 4th Turin Aerolocomotion Exposition, the Aviators Battalion stand
In the first Italian Aviation Exhibition, held in Milan in November 1909, in addition to the previously-mentioned sa 8/75 50/60 HP aircraft engines, fiat presented the s53a of 65/80 HP engine, which already powered the airship Forlanini and in an up-rated version also powered the Italian type “P” (piccolo) military airship used in the Great War.
The following year, from 27 March to 24 April 1910, in the presence of the Duke of Genoa and Princess Laetitia, and then later also visited by the Queen Mother, also accompanied by the Duke of Genoa and by the Duke of Abruzzi, the “vii Motor Show” (then called “Automobile Exposition”) was inaugurated in Turin.
On the initiative of the sat (i.e. the proto Aero Club Torino) in parallel with this, the second Aerolocomotion Exposition was organized, during which a number of aircraft arousing considerable interest were presented. Among them were the French Blériot, with a 26 HP Anzani engine, and Farman. There were also seven aircraft of Italian design: Ferrero & Tiboldo, Aluffi & C. the Demoiselle-type monoplane by Navone, Bruno & Geninatti, the Asteria by Darbesio and Origoni – all of Turin – and the monoplane with a 25 HP Anzani engine designed by the Marquis Balbi of Genoa and built by the Castagneto company of Voltri, various aircraft engines including a 50 HP Gnôme. and a 40 HP by the Rebus company (Enrico Restelli and Carlo Felice Buzio) of Milan.
Completing the review of the aircraft was a large model by Engineer Agostino Rosa of Candelo (no) representing a self-controlling monoplane that had flown under test for 150 meters at a height of 3 meters.
In parallel from April 17 to 19, 1910 the first “National Congress of Aerial Locomotion” took place, chaired by Carlo Montù. This was a great success, seeing the participation of all the leading experts in the technical, legal and sports contexts.
This initiative was replicated at the Valentino park between May 17 to 24, 1914, and on that occasion the Aviators Battalion participated with Savoia-Farman, Nieuport-Macchi, Gabardini and Caproni aircraft, as did a number of engine manufacturers and suppliers of aeronautical material.
Turin, May 17-24, 1914. The civil aviation section of the 4th Aerolocomotion Exposition. In the foreground an Asteria MB
1910 was also the year in which the Peruvian Geo (Jorge) Chávez undertook the historic feat of the first trans-Alpine flight.
On September 23, 1910 (at the second attempt), he took off from Brig in a Blériot xi monoplane powered by a “Gnome Omega” 50 HP engine, and overflying the Simplon Pass, headed for Domodossola.
The exploit terminated tragically some 45 minutes later, when a structural failure of the wing caused the aircraft to dive into the ground from about 20 metres up as he tried to land.
Seriously injured, Chávez died four days later in the San Biagio hospital in Domodossola.
This daring trans-Alpine flight provoked amazement and enthusiasm, causing a wave of emotion to the point that Giovanni Pascoli dedicated an ode to him as a new hero of the air.
Chávez was buried in the Père-Lachaise cemetery in Paris.
Cover page of "La Domenica del Corriere" by Achille Beltrame dedicated to Jorge Chàvez’s trans-Alpine flight
September 23 1910. Chàvez’s aircraft after its crash in the Alps
The international exhibition of 1911 was assigned to Turin to celebrate the 50th Anniversary of Italian Unification.
On that occasion the Expo Committee of Turin, in cooperation with the celebrations committee in Rome, the Italian Touring Club, the Parioli Company and the Parisian “Petit Journal”, organized a Paris-Rome-Turin raid offering some half a million lire in prize money.
On the morning of May 28, 1911, at 05.43, 26 aviators began to take off from the Buc aerodrome in Paris. The Torinese pilot Manissero was the only Italian participant.
Stages were planned through Dijon, Lyon, Avignon, Nice, Genoa, Pisa, Rome, Florence, Bologna and Turin.
The only pilot to complete all stages in a regular manner as far as the Parioli aerodrome in Rome, where he arrived on May 31, was André Beaumont. Roland Garros, André Frey and Renato Vidart also reached Rome.
As previously mentioned, the only Italian in the race was Romolo Manissero who took off from Buc at 6.07, but had to land in Ballancourt since his Blériot had engine trouble. The following day he landed in Avallon for the same reason but after repairs had to land again at Coulmier, near Chatillon. From here he finally landed in Dijon at 18.27, still with engine trouble, where he decided to abandon the race.
Manissero during takeoff
Poster of the event
Commemorative postcard showing all 26 competitors
The race should have continued from Rome to Turin, where a large crowd, gathered for the International Aviation week, was waiting for them. Everything was prepared but due to bad weather, only Frey with his Morane attempted the enterprise on June 13. This failed with an accident near Viterbo caused by dense fog. Frey was severely injured in the accident, being stuck for thirteen hours in the wreckage of the aircraft, with a broken leg, a broken arm and a broken jaw. He was finally found by a rescue team and taken to the Ronciglione Hospital where he remained hospitalized for a considerable time. When he recovered his senses, he claimed to owe his salvation to his helmet and the ground made soft by the rain.
André Beaumont (pseudonym of Lt. Jean Conneau) was deemed the winner ahead of Roland Garros, Andrea Frey and Renato Vidart.
Beaumont’s triumphal welcome on his arrival in Rome
With the intention of killing three birds with one stone: celebrating the 50th anniversary of the unification of Italy, celebrating the inauguration of the Mirafiori airport and celebrating the arrival of the competitors of the Paris-Rome-Turin raid (which ended in Rome due to bad weather) an important “Aerial Week” was held in Turin from the 18th to the 25th of June 1911. The Italians Romolo Manissero, Germano Ruggerone, Mario Cobianchi, Mario Faccioli, Umberto Cagno, Giuseppe Neri and Giuseppe Rossi, the Frenchmen Gustave Weiss, René Labouchère, François Bonnier, Paul Van Gaver and Robert Martinet, and the Belgian Julius Fischer all took part.
The event was held with great success despite the bad weather on Monday and Tuesday, with the following results:
International aircraft circuit
Turin, June 1911. Biplane speed race
Turin Aircraft Week. The Zodiac in flight over Mirafiori airfield
Alessandro Umberto Cagno
Torino 1883 – Torino 1971
It is impossible to complete the panorama of the early days of aviation in Turin without mentioning one of its more intrepid sons - Alessandro Umberto CAGNO – even if he demonstrated his aeronautical talents far from his native city.
He had become a racing driver of considerable fame, winning races in Italy, USA, France, Germany, Austria, Holland and Russia, to name but a few. He was part of the famous trio CAGNO, LANCIA and NAZZARO who drove for FIAT, winning almost every race, year after year all over the world.
In 1906 he also took up motorboat racing, winning the famous Seine Grand Prix in Paris and the Marine Championship at Montecarlo.
In 1909, he enthusiastically took up flying (Italian pilot’s licence No. 10), soon becoming instructor at Cameri and then moving on to Pordenone. Along with Engineer Clovis THOUVENOT, he took part in the construction and test flying of the first aircraft built at Cameri by the AVIS-Voisin company under licence from Voisin, subsequently taking it to participate in the racing Circuit at Brescia-Montechiari.
In 1910, at Pordenone, he was the first pilot in the world to take 3 passengers into the air (a record which remained unbeaten until 1913) and in 1911 was a member of the famous “Battalion of Volunteer Civilian Aviators” which left Mirafiori to fight in Cirenaica under the command of Captain Carlo MONTÙ.
He committed suicide December 23, 1971 overcome with grief following the death of his beloved wife three days earlier.
In the early years of the 20th Century, Italy, and in particular Turin, had taken the lead in the study of the physiology of flight and the related aptitude tests for the selection of future pilots. Towards the end of the 19th century, Jacob Moleschott established an important and internationally recognised Institute of Physiology.
This was successively developed by Angelo Mosso and Amedeo Herlitzka.
Jacob Moleschott was born in ’s-Hertogenbosch, Holland, on the 9th of August 1822. He began his studies in Holland before transferring to the Medical Faculty of Heidelberg University in Germany.
In 1856 he was teaching Physiology at the University of Zurich, and it was here that he met Francesco De Sanctis, who was a professor in Turin, and also held a class in Italian Literature at the Zurich Polytechnic. In 1861, when De Sanctis became Minister of Education, Moleschott was nominated Professor of Physiology at Turin.
His circle comprised many co-workers, amongst whom was Angelo Mosso. In 1878 he was appointed as Professor of Physiology at the University of Rome, leaving his position as Professor of Physiology in Turin to Angelo Mosso.
He was a member of the Senior Board of Education and Senator of the Kingdom of Italy. He died in Rome on the 20th of May 1893.
The physiologist Angelo Mosso, (Turin 1846-1910) is undoubtedly the father of aviation medicine in Italy. He graduated from the University of Turin on the 25th of July 1870 and took up the study of physiology. He won a place for a specialization course in Florence, then joined the laboratory run by Carl Ludwig, the illustrious physiologist from Lypsia. Here he became familiar with the method of recording movement using rotating cylinders and introduced it in Italy, making ample use of the technique. In the meantime, he began to publish details of his more significant work, and began to work together with Moleschott.
He began to study hypobaric effects in a depressurising chamber and built a laboratory on Monte Rosa, conducting texts and experiments at the “Margherita” Refuge – later perfected in the large Col d’Olen Institute in 1907.
Mosso demonstrated his worth with a notable quantity of important studies into brain movement, respiration, movements of veins and the heart, on muscular contraction, the exchange of gases during respiration and on the regulatory function of co2 respiration on the body.
In 1878, when Moleschott was transferred to Rome, Mosso was appointed to the Chair of Physiology in Turin. Very soon, it became the centre of attention, gaining the esteem of physiologists all over the world.
Mosso is universally recognised as being the precursor of aeronautical and aerospace medicine.
Amedeo Herlitzka – Italian physiologist (Trieste 1872 – Turin 1949); Professor of Physiological Chemistry in 1909, succeeded Angelo Mosso as Head of the Physological department in 1910.
During the First World War, he set up an Institute for the physiological testing of aviators, and directed this until 1924. He also became the Director of the Mosso Institute on Monte Rosa.
A number of important works on aeronautical and industrial physiology are attributed to him.
In Italy, Herlitzka, in collaboration with Father Agostino Gemelli, Director of the Institute of Physiology of Milan, set the foundations of Applied Physiology for the aptitude testing of pilots - foundations which became accepted internationally. Herlitzka’s activity, together with that of Gemelli, contributed significantly to Italy being recognized, during the First World War and for the decades which followed, as the undiscussed leader in the study of aviation physiology..
In 1912, at the Turin Polytechnic University, Professor Modesto Panetti founded the Aeronautical Laboratory in the buildings beside the Valentino Castle.
A number of years later (1927), Panetti became a Member of the Aero Club Torino Board while Edoardo Agnelli was Vice president to Count Carlo Nicolis di Robilant.
Among other things, Panetti was a member of the “Accademia dei Lincei”, President of the Turin Academy of Science, Senator of the Republic from 1948 to 1953 and Minister of Communications in the Pella government of 1953.
2021 © Aero Club Torino - All rights reserved - CF: 01395280017 - Credits
Website design and construction
vg59* Progetti Multimediali