Founded in 1884, the Piaggio railway car and shipbuilding company built Caproni aircraft under license during WWI. It absorbed the Pegna Bonmartini Costruzioni Navali-Aeronautiche in 1923, retaining ing. Pegna as its designer-in-chief, although ing. Giovanni Casiraghi, who had worked at WACO Aircraft Co., took charge of the design office in 1936. Known for their advanced aircraft design, Piaggio have continued to build interesting, innovative aircraft to this day, including the P.180 Avanti.
P.7. This extraordinary 1929 Schneider Trophy design was way ahead of its time. It explored the hydrofoil concept to help save weight and gain extra speed but, despite early promise, the programme was cut short due to budget overruns and difficulties encountered while controlling the machine during takeoff. No thoughts were given to how it could be landed safely either. Italiankits released a 1/48 resin kit which was previously available from NOIX Models. Marsh Models have produced a very well cast 1/32 resin kit in very limited numbers. AMP do a very fine looking injection moulded kit but it is underscale, measuring out at 1/50. Has finely moulded parts including extremely thin trailing edges but has quite crude mould lines as well. The top image shows the Vintage Models 1/72 resin kit which has been OOP for some time.
Piaggio P.23. No kit has ever been made of this interesting aircraft but it gets a mention as its subsequent development would lead to the P.108. Powered by four Asso inline engines, fitted in tandem on shoulder mounted wings, the fuselage had a keel intended for emergency landing on water. The P.23R trimotor design had little in common but was possibly the most streamlined aircraft of the time. Originally powered with Asso inline engines it was subsequently fitted with Piaggio radial engines and went on to break two distance records with a 11,000lb payload in late 1938.
Piaggio P.32. This aircraft was a development of the P.23 with revised fuselage dimensions giving it a rather portly appeareance. Despite it’s advanced design it proved rather difficult to fly the high wing loading being compromised by its under-powered Asso inline engines. A second P.32 II was fitted with more powerful Piaggio radial engines and a nose turret and at the same time, Reggiane were working on a more streamlined P.32bis, as well the Ca.405, yet another variant! LF Models produce 2 rather pricey 1/72 resin kits of the P.32, covering the inline P.32 I and the radial engined P.32 II. Although shape wise they are fairly accurate they suffer from a lack of good detail. There is hardly any panel line detailing, even though they were of wooden construction. They could, with some effort, still make an interesting addition to any RA bomber collection.
Piaggio P.50. This design featured design elements of both the P.23 and P.32, but with much increased dimensions. It had the same tandem arrangement of the Asso in-inline engines on shoulder mounted wings but a second prototype was fitted with four Piaggio radial engines in a more conventional arrangement. Although no kits were ever produced of this aircraft, it gets a mention its development lead directly to the P.108.
Piaggio P.108. Designed by ing. Casiraghi, this highly original and advanced aircraft is a rare example of a pure Axis 4-engined WWII bomber. Despite its obvious merits, such as easy controls, good manoeuverability and a very long range, Italy just didn't have the manpower or resources to produce them in sufficient numbers. Total production was 163 for the principal B version. One unique feature of this aircraft, not seen on any other aircraft, was the remotely controlled wing-mounted gun turrets located just behind the two outer engines. At the same time 24 P.108Cs was built for LATI and of those, 15 were commandeered by the Regia Aeronautica for troop transport. Production of the B and C was halted to concentrate on the P.108 T but only one prototype was built. Flying Machines produced a very nicely done 1/72 model and its manufacturer Special Hobby also released the turret-less night bomber & P.108A "artigliere' prototype which had a large bore cannon installed in a restyled nose. All are highly recommended. Special Hobby have also recently re-released the P.108B with revised parts. Cunarmodel did a conversion set for the P.108T prototype which has since been re-issued by Italiankits. The third and fourth images show the Special Hobby kits built for SAMI review articles.
Piaggio P.111. This streamlined twin-engined aircraft was built to carry out cabin pressure trails in parallel with the P.108C that was in development at the time. No kits are known of this but it would make an interesting subject.
Piaggio P.119. One other Piaggio design from the Regia Aeronautica era to be found in kit form is the P.119 fighter prototype, which had a radial engine installed behind the cockpit. It was said to be a very nimble, well-balanced aircraft. Italian Wings issued a 1/72 resin kit of this aircraft, but it will need a serious amount of corrective surgery to be considered accurate.