The Fiat G.46 – a spritely Italian
Tags: Aeronautica Militare, aircraft, Argentina, Austria, Aviation, Bianchi Aviation Film Services, de Havilland Gipsy Six, Fiat G.46, fighter trainer, Great Britain, Imperial War Museum, Ing. Giuseppe Gabrielli, Italy, museum, Patrick Lindsay, Syria, warbird
I like allohistory, where alternative futures are laid out. The novel ‘Fatherland’ by Richard Harris, is set in Berlin in 1964, in a world where Germany won the Second World War, contains a scene where a huge military march is being planned to mark the 75th birthday of Adolf Hitler. The march is to be overflown by the latest Messerschmitt fighter jets; the organizers would have liked to bring up the rear of the flypast with some Spitfires and possibly a Lancaster from the defeated Royal Air Force, but they have all been scrapped.
In the years following the end of WW2, a series of airshows, both civilan-organised and sponsored by the military, were established all over Europe. In some cases, the organisers wished to simulate a dogfight between the Allied and Axis aircraft. This set piece usually took the form of a tail chase in a figure of eight, inside the confines of the airfield. However, there was one huge problem, just like in ‘Fatherland’ there was almost no ‘opposition’ to be had. Airshows were reduced to using one of the few surviving Bf108’s to simulate their bigger, faster brother the Bf109 (see previous diary), despite the very gentle performance of the Bf108 ‘Taifun’ (this was before the ‘Buchon’, the CASA-built version of the Bf109, had been retired and then sold off by the Spanish Air Force).
The situation was worse, if anything, with the WW2 aircraft used by the Italian forces. The Fascist regime had been defeated, including the ‘rump’ of it in the north of the country, and the new non-Fascist state in the south was not one of the Allies, merely a ‘co-belligerent’ equipped with mainly US or British equipment. Consequently, there were NO Macchi 200 or 202 fighters, nor any Fiat G.42, G.50, or G.55 aircraft available for use in flying displays. What to do? Well, we can see the answer above!
The Fiat G.46 was a splendid training aircraft, a contemporary of the de Havilland DHC-1 Chipmunk, and, it is said a better aerobatic mount. The Italian aircraft industry recovered very quickly after the war, and produced some excellent designs. The Fiat G.46 resembled its stablemate the WW2 Fiat G.55 very strongly, apart from the neatly faired enclosure for the second seat and fact that the engine is an Alfa Roma 115-1-Ter (licence-built Gipsy Queen II) of 225 hp, rather than the German-designed Fiat R.A 1050 Tifone (1,475 hp) of the Fiat G.55. This is hardly surprising, since they were all designed by Ing. Giuseppe Gabrielli, who was designed the G.50 and G.55 – the tailfin of the G.46 is almost identical to that of the G.50 and the undercarriage mirrors that of the G.55. The prototype first flew in June, 1946.
Some 220 of these extremely manoeuverable trainers were built in both single and two-seat form, in various sub-types, with the single seater having a gun camera and a Breda-S.A.F.A.T 7.7mm machinegun; 150 went to the Aeronautica Militare and a total of 70 others to Austria, Argentina and Syria. This aircraft – seen at an Imperial War Museum, Duxford event – is a Fiat G.46-3B (built in 1950) and delivered to the Italian forces as 44-MM-52-801. After a very busy service life, the G.46 fleet began to be disposed of to Italian aero clubs in 1958. These aircraft were sold into civilian hands over time and ‘our’ G.46 was acquired by the Honorable Patrick Lindsay, an eccentric aristocratic sportsman/pilot of some note. Following his death, it was disposed of to Bianchi Aviation Film Services, where it was adorned with a WW2 colour scheme which mirrored that of a wartime G.55. Despite being currently based in the U.K., and making rare airshow appearances, it is now owned by an Italian, Claudio Coltri. It is fairly safe to say that this aircraft will be, sometime in the near future, heading south!