Race to the Bottom

The early days of flight were perilous ones. Aeronautical understanding was limited and building materials more so, meaning things that operated a long way from the ground were made out of bits of wood and chickenwire. However by the late 1920s mankind’s incredible rate of progress (no doubt helped by the otherwise totally pointless First World War) had made flying relatively safe and normal. Except in one area; Speed.

Like racing cars of the era, racing planes were fantastically dangerous, pushing the limits of physics and effectively working by trail and error, when error often meant death. This is one example from the time, the bonkers Savoia-Marchetti S.65 racing seaplane, designed for the 1929 Schneider Trophy race. With two 1,050bhp V12 engines mounted fore and aft of the pilot, the S.65 proved so unstable it didn’t get airborne at all and the Italian team behind it returned to Italy for more development.

On Lake Garda in 1930 the trails continued, and on the forth attempt the seaplane took to the air in a glorious rush of wind and noise. Whereupon it stalled, crashed into the water, and sunk to the bottom taking its young pilot with it. Thankfully although recovered the S.65 did not attempt to fly again, but a failure though it was it did look rather wonderful, as does Henrik Jensen‘s marvellous mini-figure scale recreation, pictured here in a neat diorama depicting the plane before its fateful flight attempt.

There’s more to see of Henrik’s excellent Savoia-Marchetti S.65 at his photostream – head to Lake Garda in 1930 via the link in the text above, but maybe watch from a distance.

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