Rebuilding the Savoia-Marchetti S.55 X Flying Boat

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During March 2016, a new partnership emerged in Italy under the banner of the Savoia-Marchetti Historical Group. As the name suggests, the society aims to promote and preserve the history of the famous Italian aircraft manufacturer, Savoia-Marchetti. They are based in Somma Lombardo, Varese which is very close to Milano-Malpensa airport. The head office is in the Volandia Park and Flight Museum located in the same old factory where Gianni Caproni designed and built a long series of aircraft dating back to 1908! The partnership is made up of many passionate aviation enthusiasts technicians, journalists, fund-raising experts, members of the SIAI-Marchetti Ex Workers Group and the Association of Volandia Friends along with support from a number of companies in the Varese area including Aerosviluppi and OVS Villella.

The group has also received support in publications such as Modellismo, VFR AVIATION and RC Model World which recently produced some articles on Savoia Marchetti aircraft and particularly on the S.55 X flying boat. This famous, ground-breaking aircraft has captured the imagination of the Savoia Marchetti Historical Group members, and they have decided to make a full-scale replica.

Filippo Meani is coordinating the four teams working on the project: Program, Construction, Communications and Financing. The overall plan is to locate and repair any existing S.55 components, as well as find, restore and scan the type’s surviving technical documentation and drawings so they can use the material in the rebuild program without risk to the originals. Towards this end, Maurizio Grillo and his staff have examined approximately 900 original S.55 assembly, detail and construction drawings. Key support for this effort has come from Marzio Mariani, president of the SIAI-Marchetti Old Workers Group, Paolo Montonati, president of Volandia Friends and Claudio Tovaglieri, president of Technical and Scientific Volandia Museum Committee.

Savoia-Marchetti produced several different versions of the S.55, building roughly 250 examples of all types. The search for wrecks and components has so far turned up small parts within the Italian Air Force Museum collection in Vigna di Valle, near Rome, but most importantly parts from a wreck have emerged in Siberia. In 1935 an S.55P (“P” for “passengers”) lost its way in dense fog, touched the tip of a larch tree and cartwheeled into the forest. The tragedy took the lives of nine people. The plane, torn apart by the crash, lay abandoned and was quickly forgotten. However the wreck was rediscovered in the Khabarovsk region during 2008. Unfortunately, the area is very difficult to explore, due to dense forestation, many rivers and hilly terrain. It is only practical to search for the wreck during the summer season, because of the long, harsh winter climate when much of the land is covered in snow and ice. The Savoia Marchetti Historical Group is trying to obtain at least one of the two Isotta Fraschini 750 Hp engines and, hopefully some other pieces too.

Only one complete S.55 still exists. It is the Jahù flying boat of Joao Ribeiro de Barros which crossed the Atlantic Ocean in 1927, after Francesco De Pinedo on S.55 Santa Maria. The “Jahù” was carefully maintained and on display in the TAM Museum in Sao Paulo State, Brazil. Sadly, this museum closed very recently, so Jahù will likely be on the move for too long. Hopefully she will find a secure new home soon.

The above situation pushed the Savoia Marchetti Historical Group to consider building a full scale S.55 X replica. Their dream was to create a flying example, to properly memorialize the famous aircraft of the 1933 North Atlantic Ocean crossing. Unfortunately all Italian lakes and the coastline, even if historically dedicated to flying boats, are now off limits due to the present airport and safety regulations. Only Lake Como allows seaplanes. The modern Como Aero Club flying school is still located on the beach, but the site is not sufficiently large enough to accommodate the 74’9″ wing span of a big S.55 flying boat weighing in at roughly 18,000lbs max takeoff. So they hav decided to build faithful, though non-flying replica for eventual exhibition at the Volandia Museum. The construction will follow the scanned construction drawings and the original instruction manuals. For more information visit