Savoia-Marchetti S.55

The Savoia-Marchetti S.55 was a double-hulled flying boat produced in Italy, beginning in 1924. Shortly after its introduction, it began setting records for speed, payload, altitude and range.

Savoia-Marchetti S.55
An S.55P of Aeroflot circa 1933
Role Flying boat
Manufacturer Savoia-Marchetti
Designer Alessandro Marchetti
First flight August 1924
Introduction 1926
Retired 1945
Primary users Società Idrovolanti Alto Italia (Savoia)
Regia Aeronautica
Number built 243+
Variants Savoia-Marchetti S.66

Design and development

The S.55 featured many innovative design features. All the passengers or cargo were placed in the twin hulls, but the pilot and crew captained the plane from a cockpit in the thicker section of the wing, between the two hulls. The S.55 had two inline contra-rotating propellers, mounted in tandem. The engines were canted sharply at an upward angle. Two wire-braced booms connected the triple-finned tail structure to the twin hulls and wing.

Operational history

Even though its design was unusual, the Savoia-Marchetti S.55 was a remarkably airworthy craft. In 1926, the S.55P prototype set 14 world records for speed, altitude and distance with a payload.[1] The S.55's greatest successes, however, were its many flights between Europe and the Americas.

The first staged south Atlantic Ocean crossing was made in 1922 using three different Fairey III machines and the Dornier Do J Plus Ultra crossed in January 1926 with a single stop at the Cape Verde Islands.

The first S.55 crossing was made a year later by the Santa Maria under Francesco de Pinedo. After flying south to Bolama, at that time in Portuguese Guinea they hoped to cross the ocean without another stop but were forced down at Cape Verde, reaching Brazil on 23 February 1927. After the crossing, the aircraft was traded to Brazil for coffee beans.

The Brazilian João Ribeiro de Barros and his crew of three made another crossing in S.55 "Jahú" on 24 April 1927. Departing from Santiago Island, he crossed the Atlantic in "Jahú" and landed at Fernando de Noronha Island, Brazil.

Pilots Francesco de Pinedo and Carlo del Prete took off from Sesto Calende, Italy, in an S-55. Four months later, they arrived back in Italy, having flown nearly 48,280 km (30,000 mi) in 193 flying hours and having made just over 50 stops, including Rio de Janeiro, Buenos Aires and New York City.

On 20 June 1928 Savoia-Marchetti S.55 I-SAAT Santa Maria, piloted by Ten. Col. Umberto Maddalena of the Italian air force, located survivors of Arctic explorer Umberto Nobile's crashed airship Italia on an ice floe about 120 km (75 mi) northeast of Nordaustlandet, Svalbard.

The Italian Air Marshall of the time, Italo Balbo became famous for organizing a squadron of S.55s for Atlantic crossings, culminating in his 1933 flight with 24 aircraft to Chicago's Century of Progress International Exposition. On 1 July 1933, General Balbo commanded a flight of S-55s from Orbetello, Italy, completing the flight in just over 48 hours, maintaining a tight "V" formation. These large fleets of aircraft were sometimes called a "Balbo".

The aircraft went on to serve in the Regia Aeronautica as a long-range bomber and patrol aircraft, but by World War II, the last S.55s were no longer serviceable and were in reserve.


Prototypes and original production model delivered from 1927 to 1930, 90 built, including two prototypes.
Civil variant delivered from 1925 to 1926, eight built.
Improved civil variant with enlarged hull for ten passengers and enclosed cockpits delivered from 1928 to 1932, 23 built.
Military variant delivered with 418 kW (560 hp) Fiat A.22R engines, 16 built.
Variant with some wood structures replaced by metal, seven built by Piaggio in 1930.
S.55 Scafo Allargato
Widened and deepened hull and enclosed cockpits, 16 built by Savoia-Marchetti and 16 built by CANT.
S.55 Scafo Allargatissimo
Variant with greatly enlarged hull, 20 built by Savoia-Marchetti, 16 built by Macchi and six built by CANT.
Variant fitted with Isotta Fraschini Asso 750 engines for North Atlantic formation flights, later armed and used as a reconnaissance-bomber. 25 built.


Civil operators

 Kingdom of Italy
 Soviet Union
 United States
  • Marine Air Transport Co.
  • Aero Transport Company d.b.a. AirVia.

Military operators

 Kingdom of Italy
Spain (1937)

Surviving aircraft

The last remaining example is preserved in Brazil, at the TAM "Asas de um sonho" museum, at São Carlos, São Paulo. The aircraft, registered I-BAUQ and named "Jahú", was the S.55 used by Commander João Ribeiro de Barros in his crossing of the South Atlantic in 1927.[3]

Specifications (S.55)

Data from Jane's all the World's Aircraft 1928[4]

General characteristics

  • Crew: 2 pilots, 3-4 other crew members
  • Length: 16.5 m (54 ft 2 in)
  • Wingspan: 24 m (78 ft 9 in)
  • Height: 5 m (16 ft 5 in)
  • Wing area: 92 m2 (990 sq ft)
  • Empty weight: 5,750 kg (12,677 lb)
  • Max takeoff weight: 8,260 kg (18,210 lb)
  • Powerplant: 2 × Isotta Fraschini Asso 500 V-12 water-cooled piston engines, 370 kW (500 hp) each mounted in tandem
  • Propellers: 2-bladed fixed pitch tractor and pusher propellers


  • Maximum speed: 205 km/h (127 mph, 111 kn)
  • Stall speed: 105 km/h (65 mph, 57 kn)
  • Range: 1,200 km (750 mi, 650 nmi) to 2,200 km (1,400 mi; 1,200 nmi)
  • Time to altitude: 1,000 m (3,300 ft) in 9 minutes; 2,000 m (6,600 ft) in 25 minutes; 3,000 m (9,800 ft) in 45 minutes

See also

Related lists


  1. Yenne, Bill (1997). Batchelor, John (illustrations) (ed.). Seaplanes & flying boats. New York, N.Y.: BCL Press. p. 58. ISBN 1-932302-03-4.
  2. Spencer C. Tucker, World War II at Sea: An Encyclopedia (2 volumes): An Encyclopedia, ABC-CLIO, 2011, p. 633
  3. Howard, Lee; Garello, Giancarlo (2010). "Flying-boat in the family". Aeroplane. Kelsey Publishing (December 2010): 94–95.
  4. Grey, C.G., ed. (1928). Jane's all the World's Aircraft 1928. London: Sampson Low, Marston & company, ltd. pp. 169c–170c.
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