Wednesday, June 14, 2023

A replica of the world's first strategic bomber has taken to the air


Just in time for the 100th anniversary of the Italian Air Force, the Jonathan Collection Foundation has flown a replica of a Caproni Ca.3 bomber, a design that first flew in 1914.  They claim it's the only bomber of the World War I era to be in flyable condition, albeit as a replica rather than an original aircraft.

(Photograph courtesy of AvioHub.  Click the image for a larger view.)

In an Italian-language article, auto-translated to English, AvioHub reports:

Caproni Ca.3 was the first strategic bomber in aviation history.

Conceived in 1913 by Eng. Gianni Caproni ( 1886-1957 ) in response to the operational concepts of Maj. Giulio Douhet ( 1869-1930 ), Ca.3 was one of the largest planes of his time. It was a biplane with tail beams with a central gondola for the crew, propelled by three engines with a total power of 260 HP ( on the prototype ) at 450 HP ( on the latest production series ).

The prototype was flown on November 20, 1914 by Emilio Pensuti. During the First World War he equipped many Italian squadrons and Gabriele D’Annunzio also carried out numerous missions in crew with the pilots Maurizio Pagliano and Luigi Gori.

It was produced until 1925 in about 750 specimens, including 89 in France, and remained in service in Italy in the training role until around 1934.

As Giancarlo Zanardo tells us, the construction of Caproni della Jonathan Collection Foundation, not only unique in the world, but the only bomber of the First World War in flight conditions and the largest amateur construction aircraft ever made in Italy, it was started in 2008 on the basis of the technical documentation provided by the Caproni family.

In 2015 this CA-3 took off for the first time, even if only for a few minutes, at the controls of Giancarlo Zanardo and Carlo Zorzoli.

At the time equipped with three Ford 300 six-cylinder in-line 180 horsepower engines modified for aeronautical use and equipped with a gearbox, the power did not guarantee a satisfactory ascent rate.

On June 8, 2023, however, after years of work by the Jonathan Collection Team, the Caproni Ca-3 has finally returned to unplug the wheels of the track! Not only that, in just two days he made over 4 hours of flight in 5 separate missions.

Currently 2 Continental 264 HP engines and a 180 HP Lycoming push were fitted and the project also saw a modification of the landing gear and the fuselage.

As they explain to us, the original design was with a conventional trolley and shoe in the tail, without the possibility of a steering trolley, feature that would make it difficult to operate from asphalt tracks and the same movement on the ground. The design was modified with a front tricycle trolley with steering wheel.

A few more hours of flight and Caproni will be ready to reach Pratica di Mare, for the Centenary Event, stopping ( probably ) in Ravenna and Foligno.

There's more at the link.

Here's video of the flight from four days ago.

That's a fascinating piece of aviation history.  Wouldn't it be great if they could bring it to the USA, to fly at some of our major air shows?



Anonymous said...


Have a look at

Aesop said...

Pilot's life expectancy in combat: 4 seconds.

Peter said...

@Anonymous at 5:37 AM: Yes, that's another great replica. However, the Vimy first flew in 1917, so the Caproni gets the nod as the first strategic bomber.

Anonymous said...

What kind of payload could it carry?I imagine that climbing rate was a bit underwhelming loaded up.

Peter said...

@Anonymous at 8:26 AM: According to Wikipedia, it could carry up to 800kg (1,764lb) of bombs.

Michael said...

A baby isn't very strong nor survivable in its early years. This was the Infant of the modern bomber corps.

Nobody seems interested in the SHEER BRAVERY of men Piloting these unreliable bags of wooden sticks.

Impressive to me at least, thanks Peter for the review article :-)

gonetomorrow said...

I'd say Sikorsky's Ilya Mourumets is a better candidate for first strategic bomber. It first flew earlier and flew it's first bombing mission earlier. It was more technically advanced too, four engines and a tail gunner, armoured engines.

(The brilliant animated movie 'The Wind Rises' by Myazaki has Gianni Caproni as a character, as well as Hugo Junkers and Jiro Horiskoshi.)

Anonymous said...

Amazing. Just fathom the cast iron balls humans undertook a century ago compared to now. I have have a thousand skydives under my belt but these guys took the chances.