Saturday, May 23, 2009

Crazy Boy

At the beginning of the 20th century the notion that man might construct a machine capable of surpassing the speed of sound was so remote that the term "sound barrier" was coined. It would not be until 1947 that the sound barrier would be broken. However during the 1930's aircraft were rapidly approaching this milestone. The Italians were at the cutting edge of aeronautics during this period and were determined to wrest back the outright speed record for seaplanes from the English who had held the record for several years.

Mario Castoldi was the designer reponsible for the beautiful Macchi MC 72. He was by all accounts the most unlikely of aeronautical engineers. "Misogynous, good wine loving, he had the hobby of rice growing. His huge and heavy complexion was the most improbable for a man devoted to the quest for speed. We believe he only flew once." His design incorporated twin Fiat AS6 V12 engines which were linked together one behind the other. These engines produced around 2850 hp which the Italians believed would be more than enough to reclaim the record.

The pilot entrusted with the task of flying such a machine was Warrant Officer Francesco Agello. Agello had been given the name of "Crazy Boy" by his peers and was more than capable of extracting the best from the Macchi. He was a graduate of the Scuola di Alta Velocita. This was a high speed training school set up to maximise Italy's prescence in international air racing. The fact that he was also a test pilot for Macchi didn't detract from their chances either.

At 2.50pm on the 23rd of October 1934 Agello climbs into the cockpit of the red Macchi. The sky is heavily clouded and a slight wind ripples the surface of Lake Garda. At 2.56pm he takes off. Visibility is far from perfect and he decides upon the dome of Montichiari Church as his orientation point. Agello makes four passes of the lake at an unbelievable speed of 709 km/h and becomes the fastest propeller driven seaplane ever. To this day Crazy Boy's record has not been broken.

No comments:

Post a Comment