In 1933, the Aero Club of Italy invited Dr Robert Kronfeld to present the recently-developed sport of gliding.
Kronfeld, an Austrian Jew, was an aerobatics champion who had perfected all the techniques of gliding and was the author of a number of technical papers about gliders and meteorology for unpowered flight.
Invited to Turin by the then President of the Turin Aero Club, Count Thaon di Revel, Kronfeld presented his glider in a highly appreciated Air Show at Mirafiori.
Piero Casana, father of Torinese gliding
It was at Mirafiori that Kronfeld met Baron Piero Casana and invited him to participate in an Air Show in the skies over Vienna near the Luxembourg Castle in the presence of the Chancellor Dolfuss. This stimulating experience was the driver for the creation of the Turin Aero Club’s “Glider Section” in 1933. Its animator and first Director was none other than Baron Casana himself.
The lineup for a “City of Turin Gliding Trophy” during the 1960’s
In July 1939, the first “Turin Sailplane Week” was organised at the “Gino Lisa” airfield at Mirafiori.
When the war ended, the Italian glider fraternity began to reorganise, and in 1946, the Federazione Italiana Volo a Vela (FIVV - Italian Gliding Federation) was constituted. Baron Casana was nominated as its first President. He was succeeded by Vittorio Bonomi.
60s. Passero Glider I-FOLM landing during a City of Turin Trophy
In June 1947 Casana organized the second “Turin Sailplane Week” at Aeritalia. This enjoyed considerable success for the large number of entrants both old and young. Among the more famous participants were Rovesti, Mantelli, Vaghi, Galimberti, Lagler and Riccardo Brigliadori (elder brother of Leonardo, who went on to become World Champion in the “Standard” class in 1985).
In 1952, under the patronage of Baron Piero Casana, the Gliding School was opened at Aeritalia, with Angeloni as the instructor and Casana himself as the director.
The first gliders employed were a “Canguro” and an “Asiago”, followed by a “Zigolo” and a “Veltro”, all towed by a “Caproncino”.
Sailplane flying joined powered flying as a sport with an academic slant. In fact the Glider Section (following the example of the German “Akaflieg” and the Milan Polytechnic’s Gliding Centre) became the initial operative arm for the design activity of the Turin Polytechnic.
There are many exploits worth recalling in this discipline, beginning with those of Alberto Morelli, who in 1957, for the first time in Italy, flew a distance of over 300 km, and of Gianni De Marta and Dario Rasero who in 1963 over Mount Ruitor, in Valle d’Aosta, reached an altitude of over 7,000 metres for the first time. Outstanding at the individual level of sporting prowess we find Carlo Della Chiesa, Italian Gliding Champion in 1970 with an FK3 and Nino Perotti, who became Italian Standard Class Champion in 1972, 1973, 1979, 1980 and 1981, and finally Giancarlo Grinza, italian champioship of 2013.
We cannot fail to mention the 4th year Torinese Accounting student Maria Clara Germano, who in 1960 became the youngest Italian aviatrix of all time, attaining her glider pilot licence on her 17th birthday, after winning a bursary from the Einaudi Institute. She was awarded the licence personally by Luigi Einaudi, the Italian Senator, who was present in Turin for the inauguration of the school year.
Senator Luigi Einaudi congratulates Maria Clara Germano
And let’s not forget the ladies, particularly Marisa Seren Bernardone, who set the Italian womens record of 5,480 metres (17,755 feet) for height gained on the 30th April 1971 in her M-100 S glider I-OULX. Even today this remains unbeaten.
Starting from 1962, the Aero Club of Turin organised a gliding competitions called the “City of Turin Trophy” (won by Leonardo Brigliadori). This race, has become the classic “first-of-the-season” challenge for Italian gliding, maintaining its fascination right up until today.
Piero Morelli in the glider research center of the Turin bPolytechnic during the ’60’s
The first of their gliders was the CVT-1 “Zigolo” (1954) followed by the innovative CVT-2 “Veltro” (1961) and the well-known M-100, winner of the competition set up by the Aero Club of Italy for a single-seater trainer sailplane. This in turn was followed by the M-100 s, modified to comply with the regulations for the new “Standard” class published in 1958 by the FAI (International Aeronautical Federation).
More than 200 M-100 gliders were built, as well as another 70 of the M-200 two-seater version. Between 1964 and 1970 two advanced (for the times) prototypes of the M-300 were built. These, however, still being of wood construction, found themselves up against the explosion in Germany of the revolutionary glass-fibre technology.
Credit must also be given to the significant impulse imparted by Torinese gliding in the ’70’s and ’80’s towards the development of Italian organisational capacity to host high level competitions. Thanks to the “Morelli school”, Rieti became first the seat of the Italian National Championships, then the European Championships in 1982 and finally the World Championships in 1985.