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Caproni Ca.60

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Old February 15th 19, 04:03 PM posted to alt.binaries.pictures.aviation
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Default Caproni Ca.60


The Caproni Ca.60 Transaereo, often referred to as the Noviplano (nine-wing) or
Capronissimo, was the prototype of a large nine-wing flying boat intended to
become a 100-passenger transatlantic airliner. It featured eight engines and
three sets of triple wings.

Only one example of this aircraft, designed by Italian aviation pioneer Gianni
Caproni, was built by the Caproni company. It was tested on Lake Maggiore in
1921: its brief maiden flight took place on February 12 or March 2. Its second
flight was March 4; shortly after takeoff, the aircraft crashed on the water
surface and broke up upon impact. The Ca.60 was further damaged when the wreck
was towed to shore and, in spite of Caproni's intention to rebuild the aircraft,
the project was soon abandoned because of its excessive cost. The few surviving
parts are on display at the Gianni Caproni Museum of Aeronautics and at the
Volandia aviation museum in Italy.

The Transaereo was a large flying boat, whose main hull, which contained the
cabin, hung below three sets of wings each composed of three superimposed
aerodynamic surfaces: one set was located fore of the hull, one aft and one in
the center (a little lower than the other two). The wingspan of each of the nine
wings was 30 m (98 ft 5 in), and the total wing area was 750.00 m (8073 ft);
the fuselage was 23.45 m (77 ft) long and the whole structure, from the bottom
of the hull to the top of the wings, was 9.15 m (30 ft) high. The empty weight
was 14,000 kg (30,865 lb) and the maximum takeoff weight was 26,000 kg (57,320

The flight control system was composed of ailerons (fitted on each single wing)
and rudders, even if the aircraft didn't have a tail assembly in the traditional
sense and, in particular, didn't have a horizontal stabilizer. Roll (the
aircraft's rotation about the longitudinal axis) was controlled in a completely
conventional way by the differential action of port and starboard ailerons;
pitch (the aircraft's rotation about the transverse axis) was controlled by the
differential action of fore and aft ailerons, since the aircraft didn't have
elevators; four articulated vertical surfaces located between the wings of the
aftmost wing set acted as vertical stabilizers and rudders controlling the yaw
(the aircraft's rotation about the vertical axis). Wings had a positive dihedral
angle, which contributed to stabilizing the aircraft on the roll axis; Caproni
also expected the Transaereo to be very stable on the pitch axis because of the
tandem-triplane configuration, for the aft wing set was supposed to act as a
very big and efficient stabilizer; he said that the huge aircraft could "be
flown with just one hand on the controls." Caproni had patented this particular
control system on September 25, 1918.

The aircraft was powered by eight Liberty L-12 V12 engines built in the United
States. Capable of producing 400 hp (294 kW) each, they were the most powerful
engines produced during the First World War. They were arranged in two sets of
four: one close to the foremost wing set (two engines were pulling and had a
two-blade propeller, while the other two were located in a push-pull nacelle and
had four-blade propellers) and one close to the aftmost wing set (two engines
were pushing and had a two-blade propeller, while the other two were located in
a push-pull nacelle and had four-blade propellers). All four side engines and
both nacelles were surmounted by radiators for the cooling liquid. The two
nacelles also housed a cockpit for one flight engineer each, who controlled the
power output of the engines in response to the orders given by the pilots by
means of a complex system of lights and indicators located on electrical panels.
Each of the two fore side engines was connected to the central wing set and to
the corresponding aft engine thanks to a truss boom with a triangular section.

Experimental airliner

National origin


Gianni Caproni

First flight
February 12 or March 2, 1921

Destroyed on second flight

Number built


The Transaereo was taken out of its hangar for the first time on January 20,
1921, and on that day it was extensively photographed. On January 21, the
aircraft was scheduled to be put in the water for the first time, and a
cameraman had been hired to shoot some sequences of the aircraft floating on the
lake. Because of the low level of the lake and of some difficulties related to
the slipway that connected the hangar with the surface of the lake, the flying
boat could not reach the water. After receiving De Siebert's authorization, the
slipway was lengthened on January 24, and then again on 28. Operations were
carried on among problems and obstacles until February 6, when Caproni was
informed that 30 wing ribs had broken and needed to be repaired before the
beginning of test flights. He was infuriated, and kept his employees awake
through the night to allow the tests to begin on February 7. The ribs were
fixed, but then a starter was found broken, causing Caproni's frustration, so
that the tests had to be postponed again.

On February 9, finally, the Transaereo was put in the water its engines running
smoothly and it started taxiing on the surface of the lake. The pilot was
Federico Semprini, a former military flight instructor who was known for having
once looped a Caproni Ca.3 heavy bomber. He would be the test pilot in all the
subsequent trials of the Transaereo; no tests were going to be performed with
more than one pilot on board.

On February 12 or March 2, 1921, the bow of the aircraft loaded with 300 kg (660
lb) of ballast, the Transaereo reached the speed of 80 km/h (43 kn; 50 mph) and
took off for the first time. During the brief flight it proved stable and
maneuverable, in spite of a persisting tendency to climb.

The second flight took place on March 4. Semprini (according to what he later
recalled) accelerated the aircraft to 100 or 110 km/h (5459 kn, 6268 mph),
pulling the yoke toward himself; suddenly the Transaereo took off and started
climbing in a sharp nose-up attitude; the pilot reduced the throttle, but then
the aircraft's tail started falling and the aircraft lost altitude, out of
control. The tail soon hit the water and was rapidly followed by the nose of the
aircraft, which slammed into the surface, breaking the fore part of the hull.
The fore wing set collapsed in the water together with the nose of the aircraft,
while the central and the aft wing sets, together with the tail of the aircraft,
kept floating. The pilot and the flight engineers escaped the wreck unscathed.

Caproni, coming from Vizzola Ticino by automobile, was delayed, and only arrived
on the shore of Lake Maggiore after the Transaereo had crashed. He later
commented, "So the fruit of years of work, an aircraft that was to form the
basis of future aviation, all is lost in a moment. But one must not be shocked
if one wants to progress. The path of progress is strewn with suffering."

The flying boat had sustained heavy damage in the crash, but the rear two-thirds
of the fuselage and the central and aft wing sets were almost intact. However,
the Transaereo had to be towed to shore. The crossing of the lake, performed
thanks to a boat that may have been the same that had interfered with the
takeoff, further damaged the aircraft: a considerable quantity of water leaked
in the hull and the fuselage was partly submerged, while the central and aft
wing sets got damaged and partly collapsed in the water.

The possibility of repairing the Transaereo was remote. After the accident, only
the metallic parts and the engines were still usable. Almost all wooden parts
would have to be rebuilt. The cost of the repairs, according to Caproni's own
estimate, would be one-third of the total cost of building the prototype, but he
doubted the company's resources would be sufficient to sustain such a financial
effort. After initial discouragement, however, on March 6 Caproni was already
considering design modifications to carry on the project of a 100-passenger
transatlantic flying boat. He was sure that the Transaereo was a promising
machine, and decided to build a 1/4 scale model to keep on testing the concept.

Specifications (Ca.60)

General characteristics
Crew: 8
Capacity: 100 passengers
Length: 23.45 m (77 ft)
Wingspan: 30.0 m (98 ft 5 in)
Height: 9.15 m (30 ft)
Wing area: 750.00 m (8073 ft)
Empty weight: 14,000 kg (30,865 lb)
Max. takeoff weight: 26,000 kg (57,320 lb)
Powerplant: 8 Liberty L-12 liquid-cooled V12 engines, 294 kW (400 hp) each

Cruise speed: 130 km/h (70 kn, 80 mph)
Range: 660 km (360 nmi, 410 mi)



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