Model Airplane News
October, 1933

Model Airplane News Cover for October, 1933 by Jo Kotula Savoia-Marchetti S.55

Savoia-Marchetti S.55
Model Airplane News Cover Art for October, 1933
by Jo Kotula
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The Savoia-Marchetti S.55 was a double-hulled flying boat produced in Italy beginning in 1924. Shortly after its introduction it began setting records for speed, payload, altitude and range. The S.55 featured many innovative design features. All the passengers or cargo were placed in the twin hulls, but the pilot and crew captained the plane from a cockpit in the thicker section of the wing between the two hulls. As well, the S.55 had two inline counter-rotating propellers, achieved by mounting the twin engines back to back. The engines were canted sharply at an upward angle. Two wire-braced booms connected the triple-finned tail structure to the twin hulls and wing. Even though its design was unusual, the Savoia-Marchetti S.55 was a remarkably airworthy craft. In 1926, the S.55P prototype set 14 world records for speed, altitude and distance with a payload.[1] The S.55's greatest successes, however, were its many flights between Europe and the Americas.

 The Savoia-Marchetti S.55

Photo of the Savoia-Marchetti S.55
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The Savoia-Marchetti S.55 was one of the first airplanes to cross the Atlantic Ocean when the Santa Maria under Francesco de Pinedo made the crossing between Dakar, Senegal and Pernambuco, Brazil setting out on 13 February 1927 - more than three months before Charles Lindbergh's first solo crossing. Pilots Francesco de Pinedo and Carlo del Prete took off from Sesto Calende, Italy, in an S-55 and headed west across the South Atlantic. Four months later, they arrived back in Italy, having flown nearly 48,280 km (30,000 mi) in 193 flying hours and having made just over 50 stops, including Rio de Janeiro, Buenos Aires and New York City.

 The Savoia-Marchetti S.55

Poster the Savoia-Marchetti S.55 Flight to Chicago
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Italo Balbo soon became famous for organizing fleets of S.55s for Atlantic crossings ( Balbo was the Italian Air Marshall at the time). The S.55 was featured in a poster for Italo Balbo's 1933 transatlantic flight to the Century of Progress in Chicago with 24 aircraft. These large fleets of aircraft became so well known that even today a large formation is sometimes called a "Balbo". The celebration of the achievements of "Italian Aviators" is satirized in the Marx Brothers film A Night at the Opera.

The aircraft went on to serve the Italian Air Force and the Luftwaffe as a long-range bomber and patrol aircraft, but by World War II, the last 13 S.55s were no longer servicable and were kept in reserve.

Here is a video based on newsreel footage of the Savoia-Marchetti S.55:

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