1926: The First Flight of an Italian Seaplane

July 6, 1926

The first test flight of the racing seaplane Macchi M.39 took place in Italy. This seaplane had been designed by engineer Mario Castoldi, and it was built by the aircraft company Aeronautica Macchi (based in the city and comune of Varese in northwestern Italy). The first M.39 to take to the skies was a “trainer” version known as MM.72.

The M.39 was the first low-wing monoplane that the prolific Castoldi designed for Aeronautica Macchi. This seaplane was constructed from both metal and wood. Its wooden wings were wire-braced. The aircraft’s floats carried the fuel.

On November 13, 1926, the M.39 earned international acclaim when three of those versions (MM.74, MM.75, MM.76) took part in that year’s Schneider Trophy racing contest for seaplanes and flying boats. This competition, which was held a total of 12 times between 1913 and 1931, had been initiated by the French aircraft enthusiast and financier Jacques Schneider.

The 1926 Schneider Trophy contest was held in Hampton Roads, Virginia. Major Mario de Bernardi, a seasoned seaplane air racer who had distinguished himself during World War I as a fighter pilot in the Italian Air Service (the present-day Italian Air Force), won first place in that competition with the version of the M.39 known as MM.76. (MM.74, which was flown by Adriano Bacula, came in third; MM.75 had to be removed from the race early on because of a burst pipe.)   

In the course of his winning flight that day, de Bernardi set a new world speed record for seaplanes by averaging 246.5 miles (396.7 kilometers) per hour in his version of the M.39. Only four days later, he broke his own record by using MM.76 to reach a top speed of 258.9 miles (416.6 kilometers) per hour at Hampton Roads.

Photo Credit: Public Domain

For more information on the Machi M.39 racing seaplane, please check out    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Macchi_M.39

Additional information on the Schneider Trophy competitions is available at   https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Schneider_Trophy

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