Why do the Frecce Tricolori fly with "blank tails"?

On March 28th 2007, the Frecce Tricolori made a flypast on Vigna di Valle museum, during the ceremony for the 84th Anniversary of the Aeronautica Militare (ItAF). The following pictures, taken there by Giovanni Maduli, show the formation flying with 5 “unmarked” aicraft, almost a record. As you can see, number 1, 3, 5, 7 and 9 are flying without the distinctive yellow code on the tail. The 313° Gruppo is equipped with 15 MB.339A/PAN MLU, aircraft that (internal smoke generator system aside) differs from the version serving with the 61th Stormo, by the characteristic blue colour scheme. The big yellow numbers are ID stickers that are usually removed at the end of the airshow season when aircraft are grounded and inspected for maintenance purposes. Airframe stress is not uniformely distributed within the formation; aircraft flying along the longitudinal axis of the formation sustain minor G loads than those flying externally (the so-called “2nd wingmen”) and so they usually keep their position and corresponding number for more seasons. However they can change position (as these pictures show), to replace aircraft that suffered higher airframe stress and need some “rest”. For instance, the number “10”, flown by the solo and thus sustaining intense G forces, is replaced each year with the aircraft of the formation in better conditions. Moves happen very often and this is the reason why during the “training period” (from November to May 1st), Frecce Tricolori fly the whole formation with blank tails or with unusual numbers, like “12” or “13”.

About David Cenciotti
David Cenciotti is a journalist based in Rome, Italy. He is the Founder and Editor of “The Aviationist”, one of the world’s most famous and read military aviation blogs. Since 1996, he has written for major worldwide magazines, including Air Forces Monthly, Combat Aircraft, and many others, covering aviation, defense, war, industry, intelligence, crime and cyberwar. He has reported from the U.S., Europe, Australia and Syria, and flown several combat planes with different air forces. He is a former 2nd Lt. of the Italian Air Force, a private pilot and a graduate in Computer Engineering. He has written five books and contributed to many more ones.