The AER factory at Orbassano. Workshop for making canvas covering for aircraft wings
The advent of war brought considerable impulse to the increase in industrial aeronautical activity: FIAT and SPA increased their production of aircraft engines, producing more than 24,000 engines between 1914 and 1918.
As previously mentioned, the FIAT car company entered the aeronautical sector in 1908, manufacturing engines for airships. It subsequently began to produce aircraft engines.
During the course of the 1st World War, the 250 HP A.12-1 (and later the A.12 bis of 300-320 HP) aircraft engines were those produced in the greatest quantity in the FIAT workshops of Corso Dante. These were fitted to many Allied aircraft, including those of the British Royal Flying Corps, who preferred it for its heavy bombers over the Rolls-Royce “Eagle”, despite its higher cost. It was only in 1914 that FIAT began to build aircraft, initially under licence from Farman, building the 5b equipped with the 100 HP a.10 engine. In 1915-16 these began to be superseded by the “SP” ries (SP.2 and SP.3). The “SP’s”, designed by engineers Savoia and Pomilio and refined by the DTAM (Direzione Tecnica Aviazione Militare), were powered by the 250 HP A.12 engine. The Farman-Savoia was also known as the “type 1914”.
The FIAT Aircraft Engine Workshops in Corso Dante (Turin)
The largest number of aircraft came from the factories in Via Madama Cristina and Via Nizza, where, following construction of Farman type 1914’s, production was concentrated on the SP.2 and SP.3, all robust but slow aircraft with twin tail booms.
By June 1914, the constant rise in production and the expectation of continued increases due to the continuation of the war induced FIAT to set up a company, the sia (Società Italiana Aviazione), that became the vehicle into which all the former aeronautical activities were channelled. It quickly became operational from the hangars of Mirafiori.
The head of the sia design office was Eng. Torretta, who in collaboration with the DTAM, launched the “7B” project towards the end of 1916, powered by the 250 HP A.12 engine. This went into production the following year.
With the “7B1” and the “7B2” models Captain Laureati made two famous long-range flights, the non-stop Turin-Naples-Turin and Turin-London.
It was also with a SIA “7B1” that Gabriele d’Annunzio organized the reconnaissance mission preparatory to what became known as the “Mockery of Buccari”. The sia 7B1 took off from Tesséra aerodrome (Venice) with 2nd Lt. Lombardi as co-pilot and 2nd Lt. Campacci as observer and overflew the ports of Pola, Rijeka and Buccari. Campacci was able to take many photographs of the enemy installations and ships in the harbours, essential for the attack by sea which followed a few days later.
By 1918, the sia production had reached 7-8 aircraft per day and became renamed FIAT-Aviazione.
The 7B1 evolved into the 7b2 which sported a 300 HP A.12 Mk2 engine. It outclassed the most modern Austro-German aircraft both in speed and armament. Some 20 of these were sold to the Usa after being test-flown by a group of American pilots who came to Italy specifically for this with the Mayor of New York, Fiorello La Guardia.
Mirafiori 1918. Engineer Torretta, Technical Director of SIA with Chief
Test Pilot, Lt Brach Papa and Capt Pozzi, Test Pilot
Thanks to the development of its aircraft production during the war, Turin attained a preeminent position in the Italian aeronautical industry.
Following the 2nd World War, the FIAT Aircraft Section, which has moved to its own premises at Caselle in 1949, with the installation of a technical department for flight testing, built an Aircraft Electronics Center followed by the creation of experimental departments for the construction and testing of jet engines. This also began the epoch of such famous test pilots as Agostini, Cus, Catella, Marsan, Bignamini, Sanseverino, Quarantelli, Trevisan.
It is worth recalling, just as historic fact, that from its origins up until the year 1962 FIAT had produced:
• 55 types of aeronautical engine
• 166 types of aircraft between prototypes and derivates
for a total production of:
• 32,000 aircraft engines
• 13,000 aircraft which were sold to 27 countries
This is neither the time nor the place to recount the history of FIAT’s aeronautical exploits – sufficient to say they began as an engine constructor (in 1908) then progressed into the construction of aircraft through the sia (in 1916), FIAT Aeritalia (in 1926), cmasa – Costruzioni Meccaniche Aeronautiche sa of Pisa (in 1931), and cansa of Cameri, when they acquired the former Gabardini (in 1939).
However, at the same time, it is impossible to proceed without mentioning two of their most important designers, men who made history: Celestino Rosatelli and Giuseppe Gabrielli. Rosatelli participated actively in the day to day affairs of the Aero Club of Turin becoming a Board Member in 1927.
Celestino Rosatelli, born in Belmonte Sabina (Rieti) in 1885, attended the School of Engineering in Rome, graduating in 1910.
In 1927 Rosatelli became a member of the Board of Directors of the Aero Club Torino during the presidency of Count Carlo Nicolis di Robilant and the vice presidency of Dr Edoardo Agnelli.
The year 1930 saw the emergence of the CR.20 which abandoned the canvas-covered, wood-framed concept, to become the first Italian aircraft with the fuselage metal. Its high performance gave birth to the military aerobatic team commanded by Rino Corso FOUGIER at the Campoformido airfield near Udine.
At the beginning of the ’30s, Rosatelli’s aircraft attained numerous firsts for speed and height. His last project was the CR.42 in 1939.
He died in Turin on the 23rd of September 1945.
Giuseppe Gabrielli (Caltanissetta, 26th February 1903) came to Turin as an adolescent. He graduated as an Aeronautical Engineer in 1925.
From then onwards, he begun to design jet aircraft, leading to the construction of the FIAT G.80, the first Italian jet two-seat trainer, powered by a De Havilland "Goblin", built in Aeritalia in Turin and assembled at the military base of Amendola (Foggia). Here its maiden flight took place on Dec. 9, 1951, in the hands of the test pilot, Vittore Catella.
In 1915, initially with French capital, before passing into control of the Italian Mario Marzocchi, the AER company was founded in Orbassano and opened up a factory (part of which still exists today) in Via Piossasco. It produced the reconnaissance Caudron g.3, g.3bis and the twin-engined g.4 aircraft under licence. These went to equip the first reconnaissance squadrons at the front; AER also produced the SP.3 SP.4 and the sva for a total of around 1000 aircraft. AER went on to open two further factories, one in Turin in Via Pollenzo for the production of radiators and one at Porte di Pinerolo, for the production of fuel tanks and control rods.
Between them, the three factories had a work force of over 700 people, mainly women, who were particularly skilful at sewing the fabric used to cover the aircraft. In 1917, at Rivalta, on the right hand side of the road which runs from Orbassano to Piossasco (the FIAT factory today), AER built and inaugurated an airfield to test-fly its aircraft. This was definitively closed at the end of the World War II.
In 1916, the Pomilio factory (Società Anonima Costruzioni Aeronautiche O. Pomilio & Co.) was founded to build the “SP” (Savoia-Pomilio) aircraft designed by Engineers Savoia and Pomilio. By 1917, this had more than 1,000 workers and a production of over 150 aircraft per month! Considering its importance, the following chapter is entirely dedicated to this.
There were many constructors who flocked to the aeronautic sector. One in particular, Ansaldo of Genoa, bid for and won the contract proposed by the DTAM in 1917 for the construction of the sv aircraft, (a lightweight, highly aerodynamic fighter) designed by Engineers Umberto Savoia and Rodolfo Verduzio (later assisted by Verduzio’s promising pupil, the young engineer Celestino Rosatelli, who went on to become FIAT’s chief aircraft designer).
1918. The finishing room at the Ansaldo factory, where almost 12,000 aircraft were built
As the large numbers of aircraft they had contracted to build were well beyond the capabilities of its small factory at Borzoli (Genoa), Ansaldo began to look for suitable companies to buy, particularly companies already operating in Turin, the area with the most promising potential for aeronautical development.
The sit Company was thus taken over in 1917 by Ansaldo to produce the mythical “sv” at a rate of between 40-60 per month, and began to call them “sva” (Savoia Verduzio Ansaldo). The former sit factory became known as the “Cantiere Aeronautico Ansaldo 3” and produced more than 350 examples of various versions of the sva up to the end of the war.
1917. Gio.Ansaldo & Co, Aircraft Constructors – SVA 5 aircraft
1918. Ansaldo factory No. 5. The workshop for the assembling of the SVAs
In 1918, Pomilio also sold his 10,000 sq. metre factory in Corso Marche and its related aerodrome (today the Torino-Aeritalia airfield) to Ansaldo. Known as the “No. 5 Ansaldo Aeronautical Workshop”, this was soon turning out the sva in considerable numbers.
9 agosto 1918. Gabriele d’Annunzio aboard an
Managers and aeronautical technicians of the Savigliano factory with a Caproni Ca.33
The sva 5’s, with SPA 6 engines, took their place in history on August 9, 1918, at the height of the 1st ww, when 11 such aircraft, commanded by Gabriele d’Annunzio and Natale Palli of Casale Monferrato, carried out their daring raid on Vienna.
For a number of months, production of the “P.E” continued, but this was phased out in favour of the new “A3” version with its redesigned wings, fin and tailplane. In the months which followed the end of the war, production of the A3’s ceased, and Ansaldo, due to the industrial crisis which followed the end of the war, reduced its aircraft-building activities, keeping production going only at its “No 5 Workshop” (the ex-Pomilio factory) changing its name first to “Aeronautica Ansaldo” then later to “Aeronautica d’Italia S.A.”
In 1927, the factory was sold to FIAT and assumed the name of “FIAT Aeronautica d’Italia S.A.”.
To close this list of major aircraft constructors in the Turin area, let us not forget:
Savigliano Workshops (one of the most prestigious Italian industrial companies of the twentieth century), were founded in Turin on July 17, 1880, with the main objective of undertaking the building and repair of railway running stock and mechanical construction in general. As of 1911/12 they also ventured into the aviation world, with the production, under license from the German company Maybach, of engines for Zeppelin airships.
Effectively the aviation business really began following the outbreak of the Great War with the license production of the SP.2 and SP.3 scouts in 1916, the sia 7B1 in 1916-18 and maintenance of the Caproni ca.33 bombers as of 1917.
Engineer Darbesio, the Asteria designer also collaborated in the aircraft production of the Savigliano workshops.
A large factory was specially built for these activities. This included a department for the construction of propellers and an adjoining airfield for flight testing.
Inside the Moncenisio factory during construction of the P.D.
Officine MoncenisioFortunato Bauchiero (born in 1860 in Banengo, part of Montiglio d’Asti) together with the Torinese industrialist and financier Cesare Goldmann, constituted the Società Anonima Bauchiero on September 29, 1906, for railroad construction and supplies, with headquarters in Piazza Carlo Felice, Turin and factories in Condove in the Susa valley.
This company, which would become one of the most prestigious designers of the Turin car industry, was founded by Battista “Pinin” Farina (Turin 1893 – Lausanne 1966) for the production of car bodyworks.
Farina was interested in all forms of technical progress and was particularly fascinated by aeronautics and flight. On account of the large demand from the Army for aircraft, required for World War I, from 1916 onwards, the company also undertook the manufacture of aircraft, producing various series of the Aviatik training biplane under license (it had been developed by the German company Automobil und Aviatik ag), receiving a praise from the Military Aviation Technical Office for the quality of the work.
In 1918, the final year of the Great War, it also participated in the construction of the experimental Adamoli-Cattani biplane fighter with its 200 HP Le Rhône engine, designed by Enea Cattani, Chief of the Pomilio Research and Experience Office.
The construction of the prototype began in 1918 at the Farina factory in Turin and was later completed by the Officine Moncenisio in their factory at Condove (Turin) in collaboration with Pomilio.
In 1918, following the construction of this prototype, the Military Aeronautical Engineers subjected all the various parts including the fuselage to a succession of static tests. The plane was then declared to be ready for flight testing but this was fated never to be undertaken.
The reasons were twofold: the death of the pilot, Carlo Pietro Adamoli, and the end of the conflict. By now it was 1919 and new aircraft development was abandoned.
With the end of the Great War, most of the national aircraft factories underwent drastic downsizing.
The Turin factories were no exception.
However, a number of these remained active, mainly those which were capable of successfully returning to peace-time production, such as FIAT, Farina and Savigliano plus others like the riv (bearings) factories which had been instrumental in the production of engines for Italian aviation.
FIAT CMASA BGA (Bombardiere Grande Autonomia)
airplane designed by Ing. Aldo Guglielmetti
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