On August 9, 1918. Gabriele D'Annunzio flew to Vienna
Rome, Italy - It was planned already from time immemorial, but technical problem delayed its implementation
Today it is the 99th anniversary of the historical flight performed by Gabriele D'Annunzio to Vienna. The flight was planned already from time immemorial, but delayed implementation due to the technical problem (in particular range). Also the Italian command was restived to support operation, as long as provided a Caproni CA-3 airplane to test the flight of 1000 km that D'Annunzio wanted to try. On September 4, 1917 the test had success, the Lieutenants Pagliano and Gori flew for 1000 km and ten hours, but the authorization was refused just before the departure. The changes were improved to the airplanes dedicated for the operation, the Ansaldo SVA-10 biplanes (created as fighters, they were faster for that period, reaching 220 km/h, but due to the inadequate manageability they were converted in bombers and reconnaissance planes), permitting to load more fuel. Unfortunately D'Annunzio's plane was destroyed in a crash a few days before challenge and for this reason another one was changed in record time, piloted by the Capt. Natale Palli, who was renamed "Incendiary seat". A first flight was tried on August 2, but the fog forced 13 SVA took off, belonging to the 87th Squadron "San Marco" named "La Serenissima" to return. On August 9 was the positive day: 11 SVA took off at 5:50 from San Pelagio (near Padua), after closing statement by D'Annunzio to incite them to continue any difficulty they would have met. Three airplanes had mechanical failures during flight but returned, while a fourth, piloted by the Liet. Giuseppe Sarti was forced to land due to problem to an engine and he set it on fire, to avoid that was captured by Austrians; Sarti was taken as prisoner by the enemy later. Only seven aircraft remained (the command had given order to cancel mission in the case of less of five were remained) and reached Vienna around at 9:20, continuing in formation to Cuneo passing the Valle Drava, the Carinzia mountains and the cities of Reichenfels, Kapfenberg and Nenberg, without have opposition by Austrian side (two fighters that seen them, returned to communicate it to the command, but they didn't try to intercept them). The unclouded sky allowed Squadron to descend up to 800 m. Overall 400,000 leaflets (each airplane had 20 kg of them) were launched from the SVAs. 50,000 brochures were written by D'Annunzio and reported them a tribute to the victory and a praise to Italy, extremely poetic and untranslatable in German; the other 350,000 written both in Italian and German, were composed by Ugo Ojetti. SVAs returned at the base undamaged, making a different route for return, to avoid to be attacked by the Austrians, and passing via Graz, Lubiana and Trieste. The operation was so a huge public relations coup success. The SVA on which D'Annunzio flew is survived until now and it is to this day preserved at the Vittoriale Museum, on the Garda Lake.
World Aeronautical Press Agency