One hundred years in flight

The Air Show at Pratica di Mare was a bright success that highlights support for the continued preservation, and growth, of aviation culture and passion in Italy.

Jun 2023

A two-day air show was held June 17 and 18. Open to the public of all ages, it celebrated the Centennial of the foundation of the Italian Air Force - one-of-a-kind - which gave hundreds of thousands of enthusiasts the opportunity to admire the historical heritage of aviation, as well as aircraft currently in service, in flight and static exhibition.

The air show totaled about 200,000 participants: aviation enthusiasts from every Italian region or country and companies that have supported the Armed Forces, as well as military personnel and their families, for whom Friday, June 16, was reserved. On hand the final day, Sunday, were the highest institutions, with the President of the Italian Republic leading the way.

The perfect setting for this momentous event could only be the "Mario De Bernardi" airport at Pratica di Mare (a few kilometers from Rome). It is the largest military airport of the Air Force, which has hosted numerous events over the years, and is home to some of the Air Force's most technological units.

A moment of the Frecce Tricolori flight display at Pratica di Mare, ph. credits - Ezio Cingolani.

"At Pratica di Mare," said General of the Air Division, Alessandro De Lorenzo, commander of the Airborne Division of Aeronautical and Space Experimentation, “we have a hub of excellence in aerospace research and development thanks to the presence of the Experimental Flight Unit, the Materials Technology Unit and a study center for aviation medicine that work together to address future challenges for military aviation."

General De Lorenzo also personally oversaw the organization of the air event, having a perfect knowledge of the airport grounds as a former commander, working alongside the 5th Detachment of the Air Force General Staff, which is leading the entire program of the celebrations throughout the year 2023.

"The goal we set for ourselves was to put on an event that could retrace all 100 years of the history of our Armed Forces, making spectators take a dip into the past through Field 100, the static exhibition and the in-flight displays," the general stated.

General Alessandro De Lorenzo, Chief of DASAS at the Pratica di Mare base.

A goal brilliantly achieved. The idea behind the journey from the dawn of flight to the present day was conveyed by every corner, every detail and every aircraft on the large forecourt where the static exhibition was set up, which included memorabilia of Italian aviation: a Macchi-Castoldi MC.72 with its powerful Fiat AS.6 engine. The one that propelled it up to the record speed (for the time) of 709.209 km/h, a very rare specimen of the Gabardini Monoplane, and World War II fighter planes.

And also the backbone of the Air Force fleet in the Cold War period, for example, the Fiat Aviation G-91, the Lockheed Martin F-104. Concluding the static exhibition is the journey into the present, with a Lockheed Martin F-35A opening the view for visitors to the aircraft in the Air Force's fleet today, also including a Eurofighter Typhoon – powered by the EJ200, boasting Avio Aero's excellence – and a Panavia Tornado, as well as transport and training aircraft in addition to helicopters currently in force.

The Italian Air Force’s century-long history was also experienced in full with the flight displays which started with the takeoff of a Caproni Ca.3 and a SPAD aircraft. The first, a bomber, and the latter, a fighter, plied the skies of the trenches during the Great War. And not only that, because authentic icons of aviation history also flew: a Supermarine Spitfire in the livery of the Royal Air Force, a P-38 Lightning, three Fiat G-46s, a T-33 Shooting Star, a refurbished Fiat G-91 in the livery of the National Aerobatic Patrol, and, 20 years after its last flight, even an F-104 Starfighter.

The F-104 Starfighter landing after the flight display, ph. credits - Ezio Cingolani.

An authentic journey into the past continued on Saturday afternoon, when opening the flight of the Horsemen Flight Team 's three P-51 Mustangs – exceptionally for the occasion – was none other than the American president of Roma football team, Dan Friedkin. These aircraft made in the US during World War II served in the Italian Air Force until 1960.

Also in the afternoon taking flight were a North American F-86 Sabre, followed by a series of takeoffs of the "Legend" formation consisting of six trainers (three propeller and three jet) that trained, and still train today, the pilots of the Italian Air Force.

To conclude the event, was first the passing of the 100 formation, then a parade of all the aircraft in force today in the Italian Air Force, and especially the display of the F-35A and F-35B, the T-346, the C-27J and the Eurofighter Typhoon. In conclusion was, of course, the unfailingly exciting demonstration of the Frecce Tricolori.

An Eurofighter Typhoon flying over Pratica di Mare, ph. credits - Ezio Cingolani.

According to General De Lorenzo, if the aim of the event was "to have the entire world of aviation enthusiasts spend a day in which they could look back on a century of history, and not only that of the Italian Air Force, but also of the entire history of flight in Italy," then it can be said to have been achieved in a big way.

This was evidenced by the comments of the many people who also crowded the chalets, dedicated to the official sponsors of the Air Force 100 years or the partners of the air show event, and the welcoming hospitality area during the three days.

A group of Avio Aero employees hosted at the chalet.

Among these people were Avio Aero's guests, who came from the various Italian plants, different company functions and teams. Their faces expressed satisfaction, along with their bewitched and excited looks at the beauty of a great event, which for three days brought to life – with some goosebumps – a century of the Italian Air Force.