The Volandia Aviation Museum is located adjacent to the Malpensa International airport near Milan.
The objective of the Museum of Aeronautics Foundation is to create Volandia , the largest Italian aviation museum. The prospect of exploring an Italian Warbird museum was too good to pass up, so I visited the Museum during August 2013.
The site was used from 1910 for aircraft production by the likes of Caproni, Augusta, Aermacchi, and Siai Marchetti. The chosen area for the museum in the Caproni Warehouses extends over 16.000m² with an extra 50.000m² of surrounding parkland.
The Museum itself was created over the last few years utilizing the old Caproni Factory complex dating back to pre WW1 days. The buildings themselves are huge, amazing, and highly significant in their own right, as they represent the backbone of the Italian Aviation history from its earliest days up to now.
The establishment of this Aviation Museum is a huge achievement for Italy. To have this extensive historic site remain intact after so many years is a miracle in its own right; then to actually have it handed over to aviation museum is miraculous.
The Aviation Museum is divided into five areas:
- Forms of flight
- Fixed wing, rotary wing
- Model aircraft
Visitors follow a well-defined pathway through the various buildings that make up the Museum, walking amongst the parkland grounds of the former factory/ airfield.
It appears that most of the Pre WW1 hangers and factories have survived intact as have consecutive generations of buildings all now dedicated to one large aviation museum. Planning for the Museum was announced in 2007 and it opened in 2010, to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the establishment of the Caproni factory on the site.
All of the Italian Aviation industry is represented in the Museum, with the history of each manufacturer documented and displayed in the galleries of the Museum as static and multimedia presentations. One gains an appreciation of just how many aviation firms have come and gone in Italy in the past 100 years and the diversity of aircraft they produced in that time. Some have even survived up to the present day.
One exhibit of note is a very impressive and extensive display of instrument panels of Warbird aircraft dating back 100 years to the Bleriot XI, through WW11 fighters and Bombers right up to present day front line aircraft such as the Panavia Tornado. It is a very striking presentation and more than any other shows to progress of aviation in 100 years.
The Warbird aircraft collection is already significant and large. However, it is constantly being updated and expanded with new acquisitions and restorations taking place. Warbird restoration projects underway currently are a Fiat G59 (being reconfigured to WW11 G55 standard) and a Reggiane Re.2002 as well as a Fiat G46 also awaiting its turn as project.
I was really impressed with the Savoia-Marchetti SM.79 as it is proof positive of the efforts that can be made to recover and preserve aircraft. This was one of 3 and possibly 4 of these great WW11 era bombers recovered from Lebanon in 1993 where they had been utilized as transport aircraft since 1949.
This particular Warbird was recovered in a skeletal state from Libya and is very evocatively displayed in a “Crash” diorama desert pose and it is very effective.
The other two S.79 recoveries are now fully restored and displayed at Italian air Force Museum at Vigna di Valle and museum G. Caproni in Trento-Mattarello. I do not know if it is proposed to restore this aircraft (there is certainly enough remains to do it, although the lack of wings for this aircraft may present a problem). Nonetheless, it makes a very successful exhibit the way it is.
I cannot recall seeing such a number of helicopters in a European museum before, including an immaculate C47 Chinook and a beautifully restored Sea King.
I was also pleased from an Australian perspective to see an example of the Macchi MB.326 trainer as used to great effect by the RAAF.
There is an excellent shop, restaurant and child’s play area as you leave the museum. Being located adjacent to the Malpensa International Airport it is accessible via a walkway. It is also noteworthy that to get to the museum from the Malpensa International airport is about a 15 minute walk. Due to some construction it is not as yet well sign posted and a little confusing; so it pays to wear good shoes, make yourself well acquainted with how to get there by asking at the information desk at the airport.
I would certainly visit this Volandia Malpensa Aviation Museum again as it will be good to see the progress and expansion as it occurs in the years to come. I can certainly recommend it to add to your Warbird Museum list.
© John Parker 2013
- Caproni CA.1 the oldest well-preserved airplane in Italy.
- Caproni CA.113 of the most famous acrobatic airplanes of the years among the two world wars produced in several models…
- Caproni C.22J is the last aircraft built in Vizzola Ticino and the last with the famous name of Caproni.
- Tiltrotor AW 609 the medium-light prototype for civilian use, co-produced by AgustaWestland and Bell. The Park and the Museum of Flight is the only museum in the world that has the mockup of a tiltrotor with a dedicated section.
- Agusta Bell AB204B is the first turbine helicopter mass-produced in the world and the first of its series.
- Agusta A109 A-II is the first helicopter entirely designed in Italy to be mass-produced.
- Aer.Macchi MB-308 was the first new Italian aircraft which flew after the Second World War.
- Aermacchi C. 205V (mock-up) was the last fighter mass-produced by Macchi and it stood out in the last part of the second world war.
- Aermacchi M346 (mock-up) is an advanced trainer to prepare pilots destined to the latest fighters.
- Agusta-Bell AB.47J is a four seat development of the basic Model 47, designed to increase its comfort and capacity.
- Agusta-Bell AB.47G3B1 While the journalist and pilot Leone Concato (1912-1977) advertised the commercial use of helicopters.
- Agusta-Bell AB 206 is one of the most successful and widespread light helicopters.
- Bell 47G was the world’s first helicopter certified for commercial use and made rotary wing aircraft common in every Western country.
- Bleriot XI (reproduction) is one of the most famous aircraft in aviation history.
- Boeing CH-47C Chinook is a medium helicopter capable of carrying loads comparable to those of aircraft. It is used for military and commercial transport and for disaster relief.
- Breda Nardi NH500 is the most successful product of the Hughes Tool Corporation owned by the American billionaire Howard Hughes (1905-1976).
- Caproni CA.18 was the first aircraft of Italian design that formed the sole equipment of an Italian air unit.
- Douglas DC-3
- DH 100 Vampire was the first jet fighter used by the Italian Air Force and the first built by Italian industry.
- Dornier Do.328 (fuselage only) is modern 30-33 seat regional transport aircraft. It is one of the few airplanes built in both propeller and jet-powered variants.
- Gabardini Idro is a pioneer airplane built by one of the earliest Italian aircraft manufacturers.
- Leone T 7 is the first Italian powered ultralight designed for industrial production.
- Macchi C.202 (mock-up) was the mainstay of the Italian fighter force during the Second World War.
- Macchi MB.326 is the most widely built jet of Italian design. With universally appreciated handling qualities.
- Macchi MB.339C was the last aircraft designed by Ermanno Bazzocchi (1914-2005) to enter series production. It is also known as the mount of the Italian Air Force’s “Frecce Tricolori” aerobatic team.
- Magni Eligiro M4 is one the first homebuilt aircraft of Italian design and construction. It is the forerunner of the gyroplanes currently built by the Magni Gyro Company from its factory at Besnate, near Varese.
- Pitts S1-TGM is one of the most famous and most successful aerobatic aircraft of all time, still used in competitions over 65 years from its first flight.
- Savoia-Marchetti SM.79 is the most famous Italian aircraft of the Second World War. About 1,350 were built until 1943.
- Siai Marchetti SF.260TP is one of the greatest successes of the Italian aeronautical industry, still in production and used worldwide over 40 years since its first flight.
- SIAI Marchetti S-211 is a basic training aircraft characterized by its modern design and its state-of-the-art aerodynamics.
- Sikorsky SH-3D is a medium helicopter for naval operations built in five countries in over 1,300 units.
- CVV6 Canguro was for over 15 years the symbol of Italian gliding in every sporting, promotional, training and research aspect.
- Aviamilano A3
- CVV8 Bonaventura
- EC 40 Eventuale