As Italian military aviation struggled to get back on its feet in the wake of World War Two, an unlikely fleet of Savoia-Marchetti SM82s in the markings of the Order of St John managed to fly on

Order of Malta personnel after landing at Lourdes in a Savoia- Marchetti SM82PW during 1951.

Visitors to the Italian Air Force Museum at Vigna di Valle, north of Rome, might be forgiven for wondering at a strange roundel on the fuselage of one of the exhibits. It’s a white eightpointed cross on a red background, an emblem that in fact goes back at least 900 years, originating in mediaeval Jerusalem. As such, it’s arguably by far the oldest aviation insignia in the world.

Become a Premium Member to Read More

This is a premium article and requires an active Key.Aero subscription to view. You can also access it if you’re subscribed to one of our Key Publishing magazines.

I’m an existing member, sign me in!

I don’t have a subscription…

Why not join our community of aviation enthusiasts? Pick one of our introductory offers and access a wealth of world-class aviation content.