Founded by Rinaldo Piaggio in 1884, this Genoa based company built railway rolling stock and fitted out ocean liners. It absorbed the Pegna Bonmartini Costruzioni Navali-Aeronautiche in 1923, retaining the celebrated ing. Giovanni Pegna as its designer-in-chief. He oversaw many innovative aircraft designs for Piaggio before joining Reggiane in 1936. Giovanni Casiraghi, who had previously worked at the WACO Aircraft Company, took charge of the design office and continued the development of P.50, which was the springboard for his P.108 design, the only Piaggio aircraft to see active duty during WWII. Post war saw Piaggio continue aircraft production up until the P.180 Avanti.
Piaggio P.16. Ing. Pegna introduced a lot of firsts in this 1932 tri-motor aircraft design. With an unusual elliptical inverted gull wing configuration, it had quite a unique appearance. Just one prototype was completed and although the Regia Aeronautica did place an order it was cancelled in favour of the P.23. Not kits are known of this aircraft.
Piaggio P.23M. A 1934 evolutionary development of the P.16, sharing the same wing design but powered by four Asso inline engines fitted in tandem on shoulder mounted wings. The fuselage had a watertight hulll-like shape intended for emergency landing on water, hence the M (Marino) suffix. Only two were built. No kit has ever been made of this interesting aircraft.
Piaggio P.23R. This very sleek and rather large trimotor prototype, which had nothing in common with the P.23M, was possibly the most streamlined aircraft of the time. Originally powered with Asso inline engines, it was subsequently fitted with Piaggio radials and went on to break two distance records with a 11,000lb payload towards the end of 1938. The Allies mis-identified it as a long range bomber, but the Italians did nothing to quash these rumours thinking it would make good propaganda. Would certainly make an interesting modelling subject.
Piaggio P.32. Using knowledge gained from his previous prototypes, ing. Pegna designed this advanced bomber with a reduced wing area, featuring leading edge slats and double trailing edge flaps. It proved difficult to fly with its under-powered Asso inline engines, which could not compensate for the high wing-loading. The P.32 II had more powerful Piaggio radial engines. With only a dozen or so built of each variant, they were taken out of service in 1938. In 1937, Caproni built a more streamlined version of the P.32, designated Ca.405 Procelleria, which was intended for the Istres-Damascus-Paris Air Race of 1937. At the same time ing. Pegna, who had moved across to Reggiane by then, worked on a similar P.32bis design but this programme was halted after a fatal crash.
The KPL 1/72 vacuform kit is discontinued, but LF Models have 2 rather pricey 1/72 resin kits covering both engine types. Although shape wise they are fairly accurate they do suffer from a lack of good quality detail parts. As the aircraft were of wooden construction, there is little panel line detail to worry about. They can, with some effort, still make an interesting addition to any RA bomber collection.
Piaggio P.50. Initiated by ing. Pegna before leaving the company, ing. Casiraghi took over the development of the 2 P.50 I prototypes, which had the same tandem Asso engine layout as the P.23M. Casiraghi proposed a third prototype, the P.50 II which had a more conventional arrangement of 4 Piaggio radials on the leading edge of the wing. This design would lead ultimately to the P.108 design that followed. No kits were ever produced.
Piaggio P.108B. Having established himself with the P.50II prototype, ing. Casiraghis P.108 bomber design was to be the only Regia Aeronautica 4-engined WWII bomber to enter service. Although an expensive aircraft, it had a robust airframe and was very efficient. All 24 P.108B bombers served in 274 Squadriglia, including the serie II, which had the nose turret removed to save weight. These were used as a night bomber. An additional 6 P.108Cs were built for commercial use and nine P.108Ts for troop & transport. Post Armistice, all remaining P.108C & P.108T aircraft entered Luftwaffe service who exploited its spacious interior.
Thankfully this impressive aircraft has been well served in kit form thanks to both Flying Machines and Special Hobby covering the two B variants and the sole P.108A 'artigliere' prototype, which had a large bore cannon installed in a restyled nose. They are all highly recommended, especially Special Hobbys recently re-released P.108B with revised detail parts. Cunarmodel did a conversion set to build the P.108T which has since been re-issued by Italiankits. Airmodel also released a 1/72 vacuform kit but it is a tough build.
Piaggio P.111. Originally a high speed high altitude bomber prototype, it's role was changed to that of a short lived high-altitude research aircraft, in parallel with the P.108 that was in development at the time. Powered by supercharged Piaggio P.XII radials built specifically for this aircraft, it first flew in 1941 and did over 100 test flights before being scrapped in 1943. No kits are known but it would make an interesting subject.
Piaggio P.119. This sole all-metal P.119 fighter prototype was a very advanced design in its day, with its Piaggio P.XV radial engine installed behind the cockpit for improved C of G. Although quite heavy, it had a large wing area and when first flown in 1942, it proved to be a very nimble and well-balanced aircraft. With all its firepower concentrated in its nose, it certainly would have packed a punch.
Italian Wings issued a 1/72 resin kit of this aircraft, but it needs a serious amount of corrective surgery to be considered accurate as it had shape issues everywhere.
Model images are links to a build article