All You Need To Know About The Epic Formation Of A Caproni Ca.3 Replica And An F-35B

F-35 Ca.3
Some images from the video shared by Daniele Beltrame and Fabio Consoli, the two pilots of the Ca.3r, of the formation flight with the F-35B on Sept. 6, 2023.

A Caproni Ca.3 WWI bomber replica flew in formation with an Italian Air Force F-35B over Istrana earlier this week.

On Sept. 6, 2023, a pretty unique formation flew over northeastern Italy: the Caproni Ca.3 replica, registration I-ZANA, the only WWI bomber in flight conditions and the largest Italian amateur-built aircraft, and an Italian Air Force F-35B assigned to the 32° Stormo (Wing), flew in formation over Istrana Air Base, home of the 51° Stormo, escorted by an HH-101 acting as a camera-ship. Aboard the Caesar, there were the ItAF photographers of “Troupe Azzurra” taking shots of the unique formation for the Aeronautica Militare’s 2024 calendar.

As the videos and photos posted online show, in order to match the speed of the three-engine bomber, that was one of the highlights of the 100th Anniversary of the Italian Air Force airshow at Pratica di Mare Airbase, Jun. 16-18, 2023, the F-35B flew in STOVL (Short Take Off Vertical Landing) mode: the Ca.3r was indeed flying at about 65 knots (roughly 120 km/h).


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The Caproni was by our friends Daniele Beltrame and Fabio Consoli, wearing Horus flight helmets manufactured by CF HELMETS: despite the low airspeed, the open cockpit of the aircraft makes the noise level so high the pilots need to wear a mask to be able to talk to and hear the the ATC agencies (a problem that WWI pilots didn’t have but it’s mandatory to fly today).


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On the very same day, after the air-to-air photo shooting, the Caproni landed at Aviano whose airport, since 1920, is named “Pagliano e Gori” after Lt. Maurizio Pagliani and Luigi Gori who lost their lives aboard a Ca.3 in 1917.


As we have explained in a previous post:

Giancarlo Zanardo began building the three-engine bomber replica for the Jonathan Collection in 2008 based on the technical documentation provided by the Caproni family. Powered by three straight-six Ford 300 automotive engines, modified for aircraft use and fitted with reduction gears, the WWI bomber made series of short hops from the Campo di Nervesa runway to test the engines and related propellers before taking off for the first time on Mar. 3, 2015, piloted by Giancarlo Zanardo and Carlo Zorzoli. The first flight highlighted lack of power from the engines chosen for the replica.

Work on the aircraft was halted when, in October 2018, a massive flood hit the region causing significant damage to the Jonathan Collection’s hangars and aircraft. However, additional years of works and repairs managed to bring the Caproni Ca.3r back to an airworthy condition, so much so that the aircraft flew over 4 hours in 5 separate flights since Jun. 8, 2023.

Caproni Ca.3

The Caproni Ca.3 was the first strategic bomber in aviation history.

Conceived in 1913 by Gianni Caproni (1886-1957) in response to the operational concepts of Giulio Douhet (1869-1930), the Ca.3 was one of the largest aircraft of his time. It was a tail beam biplane with central nacelle for the crew, propelled by three engines with a total power ranging from 260 HP (on the prototype) to 450 HP (on the latest production series). The prototype was flown on Nov. 20, 1914, by Emilio Pensuti. During the First World War it equipped many Italian squadrons. Gabriele D’Annunzio carried out numerous missions in crew with the pilots Maurizio Pagliano and Luigi Gori.

It was produced until 1925 in about 750 units, including 89 in France, and remained in service in Italy in the training role until about 1934.

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.