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Italian Macchi "Saetta" Fighter
September 1954 Air Trails Hobbies for Young Men

September 1954 Air Trails
September 1954 Air Trails Cover - Airplanes and RocketsTable of Contents

These pages from vintage modeling magazines like Flying Aces, Air Trails, American Modeler, American Aircraft Modeler, Young Men, Flying Models, Model Airplane News, R/C Modeler, captured the era. All copyrights acknowledged.

Walter Musciano designed and built this fine control line version of the Italian Macchi "Saetta" Fighter that can be configured either as the C-200 or the C-202 version. At a scale of 3/4":1', the wingspan came out at 36", and a Fox .29 inverted-mounted engine was used. Italy never was a big producer of aircraft in either of the world wars, but the Saetta (Google translates it to "lightning" or "arrow") did its part in helping the Allies achieve air superiority over its country's skies and in North Africa. As with nearly models of the era, construction is on the rugged side in order to withstand constant impulses from the internal combustion engine. If you elect to build the Saetta and use electric power, some weight can be saved by selecting lighter and therefore less structurally strong balsa and substituting hard balsa in place of some plywood parts. I welcome a photo of your completed model for posting here on the website.

Italian Macchi "Saetta" Fighter

Modeled in the popular 3/4 inch to the foot scale is this World War II C-20 and C-202 fighter

By Walter A. Musciano

Italian Macchi "Saetta" Fighter, September 1954 Air Trails - Airplanes and Rockets

Despite the fact that the Italian Air Force did not make a spectacular showing during World War II, it did possess some interesting airplanes that make attractive control line models. One of these is the standard first-line fighter used by Italy during the aerial battles over Malta, Libya and Egypt as well as over the Italian mainland.

Aeronautica Macchi developed the Macchi C-200 "Saetta" (lightning-swift) from the long line of successful Macchi record-holding racers. Powered by a Fiat A-74 RC/38 radial, air-cooled engine of 840 hp, the C-200 attained a top speed of 305 mph and weighed only 4850 lbs. This light weight created a very maneuverable plane. However, the comparatively low speed and armament of only two 12.7-mm machine guns proved no match for the Spitfires, Hurricanes and Warhawks.

In order to meet these Allied fighters on more equal terms and be able to better support the faster German fighters, the C-200 was fitted with the German Daimler-Benz DB-601 N inverted, liquid-cooled, 12-cylinder engine developing 1,200 hp. With the bigger engine and the addition of four .30 caliber wing guns the weight of the C-202, as it was now designated, jumped up to 6400 lbs. This cut down the maneuverability somewhat but the speed increased to 345 mph at 18,000 ft. with a service ceiling of 34,500 ft.

Constructed to a scale of 3/4" to the foot, our model Macchi will accommodate engines of from .14 to .29 cubic inch displacement. After flying for some time with an O.K. Cub .14, we decided to switch to something "heavier." A Fox .29 was installed in a remodeled nose and control was excellent with flights a bit on the fast side. Plans illustrate both the C-200 and C-202 as well as engines installed upright and inverted in beam and bulkhead mounted fashion.

Macchi "Saetta" Fighter, September 1954 Air Trails - Airplanes and Rockets

The first item to be fabricated is the wing, which is started by sawing the plywood joiner to shape in one piece. Cut the balsa spars and taper as the plans describe. Firmly cement the spars to the joiner, thereby automatically forming the correct amount of dihedral. While this is drying cut the wing ribs to shape. Sand smooth and cement the ribs to the spars.

The wing covering material should be butt-joined with cement in order to form the full chord width. Trace the wing outline onto the sheet and cut to shape. Cement the lower covering to the spar, holding it in place with pins until dry. Apply liberal quantities of cement to underside of the wing ribs and attach the lower covering to them, again holding it in place with straight pins until dry.

Bend the landing gear struts to shape with pliers, being sure to make one left and one right-hand strut. Saw the plywood landing gear strut foundations to shape and sandwich the struts between them, using plenty of cement. Make a small hole in the covering at the exact spot where the strut emerges from the wing. Now, slip the strut through this hole, from the top, and firmly cement the plywood assembly to the spar, lower covering and the adjoining ribs. Apply several coats of cement to this joint.

While the wing is drying cut the upper covering to shape. Bevel the lower covering edges in order to fair the covering into the rib contour. Apply plenty of cement to the top of the spar and attach the upper sheet covering to it. Hold this in place with straight pins until dry. Now, add a liberal amount of cement to the beveled portion of the lower covering and to the top of the ribs. Push the covering against the ribs and lower sheet bevel. Again, hold in place with straight pins until dry. Cut the balsa wingtips to shape and cement in place. Set the wing aside to dry.

Trace the empennage onto sheet balsa and cut to shape with a single-edge razor blade or a coping saw. Carve and sand the surfaces to a streamline shape. Cement the elevator halves to the dowel joiner.

When dry, firmly install the commercial control horn and hinge the elevator assembly to the stabilizer using cloth hinges or any other popular method you prefer.

Italian Macchi "Saetta" Fighter - Airplanes and Rockets

Cut the vertical keel to shape after it has been placed onto 1/4" sheet balsa. Be sure to cut away for the location of the wing, stabilizer, fuel tank and bellcrank. The first two openings mentioned must be cut accurately in order to insure proper wing and empennage alignment.

Attach the music wire lead-out lines to the bellcrank by twisting the ends as shown and soldering lightly. Cut the hardwood bellcrank mount to shape and drill a hole for the mounting bolt. Bolt the bellcrank to the mount with washers inserted between them. Firmly cement the bellcrank mount to the top of the wing. It will be necessary to make a small hole in the wing to accommodate the nut. Apply several coats of cement around this joint to insure a secure mounting.

Cement the wing and stabilizer to 'the sheet balsa keel. While this is drying cut the fuselage formers and bulkhead to shape and cement the formers to each side of the keel while the bulkhead is attached to the front of the keel.

Bend the control rod to shape and then attach to the bellcrank and control horn. Test the control system to make sure it operates without binding. The tail wheel strut should now be bent to shape and imbedded into the keel. Sew this securely to the keel with heavy thread and cement well.

Numerous commercial fuel tanks can fit this plane. Among these tanks are Maeco, Perfect, Froom, Acme, Kap Pak. It may be necessary to cut away a portion of the keel and the front of the wing in order to install the tank. Be certain that the tank is firmly mounted in order to prevent excessive foaming that will cause erratic engine operation. Add plastic tube filling and vent line extensions as well as the feed line. The latter should be long enough to reach the engine needle valve body without kinks. Pass this line through a hole in the bulkhead and we are ready to fit the mounts to our model.

The prototype model used metal triangle mounts of the K&B variety. These come in a variety of sizes to fit many engines. The mounts are firmly bolted to the bulkhead. If it is not desired to use this type of metal mount the conventional hardwood beam mounts can be installed by cutting rectangular openings in the bulkhead and formers and sliding the mounts in place. Use plenty of cement and be sure that the mounts extend as far aft as the alternate installation illustrates. The model can now be planked.

It is important, when planking, to remember to cement the strips to each other as well as to the formers and bulkheads. Start by cementing one strip to each side and to the top and bottom of the fuselage. Hold these in place with straight pins until the cement is dry. Now, add a planking strip to each side of the four strips already in place. Continue in this fashion until the fuselage is completely covered, It will be necessary to taper and bevel each strip as the planking progresses in order to insure complete coverage and close fitting.

The cockpit fairing may produce a bit of difficulty if not approached correctly. It is suggested that this fairing be ignored during the initial planking, then tackled as separate unit by trimming the strips as required to form the lower contour. The cockpit opening is cut to shape after all planking is completed.

The nose block is carved from medium-soft balsa. This is made in two pieces joined at the horizontal center line. First, trace the top view of the nose onto the blocks and saw to shape. Repeat this for the side view and carve roughly to shape. Hollow the block to clear the mounts and engine. Firmly cement the blocks to each other and to the plywood bulkhead. The tail cone is made by cementing two 1/4" thick pieces of balsa to each side of the keel. Cement this in place and set the model aside to dry thoroughly.

While the model is drying the radiator, exhausts, and scoops can be cut from scrap balsa. It will be noted that the exhaust stacks are built up from thin sheet balsa with the separations inserted at an angle as shown in the top view.

Returning to fuselage, trim the planking strips, nose block and tail cone with a sharp knife. Extra care should be taken with the nose block because of the peculiar shape of the upper portion. It is advisable to have the commercial spinner that you intend to use on hand when shaping the nose block, to insure good fit.

Complete building instructions are available on the full-size plans. Full-size drawings of Macchi are part of Group Plan #954, Hobby Helpers, 770 Hunts Pt. Ave., NYC 59 (35c).

Italian Macchi "Saetta" Fighter plans, September 1954 Air Trails - Airplanes and Rockets

Italian Macchi "Saetta" Fighter Plans


The AMA Plans Service offers a full-size version of many of the plans show here at a very reasonable cost. They will scale the plans any size for you. It is always best to buy printed plans because my scanner versions often have distortions that can cause parts to fit poorly. Purchasing plans also help to support the operation of the Academy of Model Aeronautics - the #1 advocate for model aviation throughout the world. If the AMA no longer has this plan on file, I will be glad to send you my higher resolution version.

Try my Scale Calculator for Model Airplane Plans.



Posted April 17, 2015

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