Although there are a few aircraft models on display, there is no real aviation museum on the premises. One of the finest such museums I know is the Museum of the Italian Air Force. Te museum was established in 1977 It at Vigna di Valle, on Lake Bracciano (Lazio), in central Italy. It is operated by the Italian Air Force. The collection has an emphasis on Italian aircraft from the early days of aviation to the present with engines, airplanes, seaplanes and helicopters. While maintaining the technical and historical aspects, the museum is also dedicated to the influence aviation has had on Italian art, featuring works by Futurist painters. This Wikipedia entry does a good job.
I was looking through the dozens of images aircraft at that link and you can learn a lot of history. Try the image you see above, right. OK, that is Lake Bracciano in the background. That was easy, but think Lake Garda. The plane, the plane. WWII. Yes, good eye. Dark olive drab. Single green-white-red flag insignia on the tail This is the hard part The color and insignia indicate that this is an aircraft of the Italian Social Republic (alias the Republic of Salò) the Fascist German puppet state set up in 1943 to prop up what was left of Fascism in Italy. It was all up north. The south had made a separate peace with the advancing Allies. Yes, I see a hand. What? Yes, the designation "WW2" means there was another one before that. Class dismissed.
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"G.M. Bellanca did more for general aviation than any other person during aviation's first 100 years."
- Aviation historians Alan and Drina Welch Able
Giuseppe Mario Bellanca (1886–1960) was an Italian-American aviation pioneer, airplane designer, and builder, who is credited with many design firsts and whose aircraft broke many aviation records. He was inducted into the U.S. National Aviation Hall of Fame in 1973.The Bellanca C.F., one of the world's first enclosed-cabin monoplanes, is on display at the U.S. National Air and Space Museum in Wash. D.C. Bellanca was known mostly for his long range aircraft, which paved the way for international and commercial air transportation.
He was born in 1886 in Sciacca, Italy and graduated with a degree in engineering from the Politechnical Institute of Milano. He emigrated to Brooklyn, NY in the U.S. in 1911 where he ran the Bellanca Flying School from 1912–1916. In 1913 he created the first modern aircraft design (tractor design) (i.e. with engine and propeller in the front, with a wing in the middle and a tail to the aft —the opposite configuration for aircraft of the time. Bellanca's "tractor" design offered performance and safety advantages over the old standard design, and was adopted internationally as the new standard for almost all following aircraft and is the common configuration today.
- In 1916 he built two models of biplanes for WWI but the war ended and the military was no longer interested.
- In 1921, he moved to Omaha, Nebraska, and with Victor Roos, formed the Roos-Bellanca Aircraft Company.
- In 1922 he built the first enclosed-cabin monoplane. Called the Bellanca CF, this aircraft is now on display at the U.S. National Air and Space Museum. The CF was the first aircraft design to use "lifting struts" with a wide chord and airfoil to add strength and lift to the wings. It was a high-wing monoplane (i.e. the wing on top of the fuselage).
- In January 1927 ha partnered with Charles A. Levine form the Columbia Aircraft Corp. Bellanca is closely linked with the high-wing design since it was the model for Charles Lindbergh's "The Spirit of St. Louis".
- Bellanca created the "Bellanca A" airfoil which could lift twice the weight of other airfoils of the time. This new airfoil sparked the era of commercial air transportation and militarily it made long range bombing possible. Bellanca used this new airfoil on the six-place WB-1 and WB-2, which were the first long range passenger planes.
- On April 12–14, 1927, Clarence Chamberlin and Bert Acosta set a new world's non-refueled endurance record of 51.5 hours in the Bellanca designed WB-2. The WB-2 was renamed the Columbia, and later Miss Columbia. Charles Lindbergh's first choice for a plane to cross the Atlantic was, in fact, the Columbia. Different sources claim different reasons for Lindbergh not being able to buy the Miss Columbia, but according to one source, "He was turned down when Lindbergh insisted on making the transatlantic flight by himself. Bellanca and Levine thought that it was suicidal to do so because no one could stay awake alone the length of time to complete the flight." The Columbia thus lost the race to be first across the Atlantic to Lindbergh because of a court injunction grounding the plane due to a contract dispute between Levine and a pilot named Bertaud who was supposed to be a co-pilot on the Miss Columbia for the crossing. Two weeks after Lindbergh's successful flight, the Columbia took off for Germany with Levine as a passenger. Landing in Berlin, they beat Lindbergh’s distance record. Ironically, Bellanca’s airplane was completed several years before The Spirit of St. Louis and could have been first to cross the Atlantic had it not been for the lawsuit. Not only did the Columbia fly further than The Spirit of St. Louis, but it carried a passenger. It also had a windshield so the pilot could see ahead. This design set a standard for the modern aircraft. Bellanca appeared on the cover of Time magazine (above) in 1927 (image above, right).
Other achievements include an inwardly retracting landing gear that reduced drag during flight. This invention was the first fully retractable commercial landing gear ever developed. In October 3, 1931, a Bellanca model CH-400 Skyrocket named the Miss Veedol was the first aircraft to cross the Pacific non-stop. Miss Veedol flew from Samishiro Beach, Japan to Wenatchee, Washington. It was flown by Clyde Pangborn and co-piloted by Hugh Herndon Jr.
Bellanca designed cargo aircraft during World War II under contract to the U.S. Army Air Corps. A very unusual and forward looking aircraft design was his "blended wing body" concept, which resembles the modern B-2 bomber but with a twin tail boom for stability and two pusher propellers with low drag laminar air flow over the wing. In all, Bellanca was granted 45 patents in his career.
Giuseppe Mario Bellanca died from leukemia at Memorial Hospital in New York City on December 26, 1960. He was cremated and his ashes rest in the Mount Olivet Crematory and Columbarium in Middle Village, Queens County, New York.