‘OPERATION MC.72’: Record-winning seaplane is reborn in Italy

In Italy, the passion for aviation has had a fresh start on the shores of Lake Garda. The new work is taking place at Desenzano, formerly a seaplane base that bound its fame to the Regia Aeronautica’s Reparto Alta Velocità, a high-speed aircraft unit formed by seaplanes designed to participate in the 1920s-30s Schneider Trophy.

A group of volunteers has started a project to build a full-scale copy of one of these aircraft, Macchi MC.72 s/n 181. This aircraft was flown by Maresciallo Francesco Agello on October 23, 1934, who achieved the world speed record for seaplanes (709.209km/h). It still stands today.

The project has been aided by Aermacchi which provided original blueprints, and by a large contribution from the town council of Desenzano del Garda. Other parts were reproduced through molds made from the original seaplane, on display in the Air Force Museum at Vigna di Valle, Rome. The project is in an advanced state – a proportion has already been completed with materials true to the original, such as wooden wings and cloth control surfaces. The only exceptions are the floats, which are reproduced in resin. The aim of the enterprise is not only to bring a historic aircraft back to life, but also to raise awareness about the fate of the seaplane base, which is presently uncertain. For this reason, some citizens have joined forces in the Comitato Idroscalo Desenzano (Desenzano Seaplane Base Committee) whose aim is to preserve the integrity of the site and to revive the history of the Reparto Alta Velocità.

Unfortunately, there is also some ill feeling because the history of the base is also tied to the Fascist regime, which threw Italy into the disaster of World War Two, marking the decline of those ‘magnificent men on their flying machines’.


Nevertheless, the Committee strives to awaken a greater interest in the wider public, leading guided tours on base (with the help of the Ghedi-based Italian Air Force 6° Stormo, in charge of the site) and advancing the reconstruction of the seaplane mock-up. The finished exhibit will be presented as a tribute to the Italian Air Force in 2023, on the centennial of its foundation. The project is also funded by private citizens through GoFundMe. Donations are welcome from anywhere in the world, and we thank in advance any overseas enthusiasts who wish to contribute. See you in 2023! GIAN SPAGNOLETTI 

GoFundMe link: https://www.gofundme.com/f/mc72-aereo-di-francesco-agello