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Macchi M39T - side views

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The Gordon Bennett Trophy could have been running through the 1920s and '30s, with rules paralleling the Schneider Trophy rules - but for landplanes.

Italy should certainly have participated, and let Mario Castoldi base the landplane racers on his Schneider Trophy designs.

For 1926, the Italian Gordon Bennett Trophy entry would have been Macchi M.39T.

Macchi M.39T (T for Terra) was a single-seat landplane of mixed metal and wooden construction. The wooden wings were wire-braced, with two thirds of the upper surfaces used as low drag surface radiators. The pilot sat in an open cockpit parallel with the trailing edge of the wing. The cockpit's windscreen and "turtledeck" were somewhat raised for better visibility, compared with the seaplane version. Being lower weight than the seaplane, the M.39T was given a shorter wing span.

Macchi built two types of M.39T: two trainer aircraft and three racers. The trainer version had a 447-kilowatt (600-horsepower) Fiat AS.2 liquid-cooled V12 engine, while the racing version had a 597-kilowatt (800-horsepower) Fiat A.S.2.

On 17 October 1926, the three M.39T racers took part in the 1926 Gordon Bennett Trophy contest at RAE Farnborough, Hampshire, England. Major de Bernardi, took first place with an average speed of 426.7 kilometres per hour (265.1 mph), setting a new world speed record.

Three days later, on 20 October 1926, de Bernardi achieved a new world speed record of 442.6 kilometres per hour (275.0 mph) over a 3 kilometres (1.9 mi) course at Farnborough.
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Aya-Wavedancer's avatar
A very, neat idea and wonderful work on the art!

The only issue is this, and this is not your fault, it's the serious and specialized Aerodynamic issues involving the Schneider Cup racers.

Keep in mind that the World absolute speed record was held by Float-planes from 1921 until 1939. Why? Good question! The record for Landplanes was much slower in general until the Me-209.

Part of it was the issue with runways. You had all the runway you needed with a seaplane to make your take-off run. These planes were very high wing-loaded and needed a lot of runway... or ocean. Most airports back then didn't have a lot of runway. Some of these Schneider Cup planes needed several km for the takeoff run.

The other issue with these speed record planes was engine torque. The M.39 and other Schneider Cup planes usually put the fuel in the floats, and a lot more fuel in one than the other to counteract the engine torque. I know of at least one instance where one of the British contestants chased itself in a circle during initial testing because of this and they had to adjust with the fuel.

They might have developed a 39T, but they'd have had to have extended the wings by a fair amount so it could take off on a normal airfield and also do something to the engine and extend the vertical stabilizer so when they did make the takeoff run on land, the plane wouldn't ground loop. It would still have been fast- but not as fast as the seaplane- those floats are more aerodynamic and lighter then people realize. :)
perttime's avatar
Hey, thanks for your thoughtful comment!
I think one of the inspirations for this fantasy was Curtiss using pretty much the same racer with floats and wheels, so I thought this was not too far-fetched. My main worries were having space for fuel, and weight distribution without floats and fuel in floats.
Floatplanes usually need more fin and rudder area, because of the added side area of the floats up front, so I thought there was enough. Take-off runs on water take a lot of power and distance because water causes a lot of drag. Floats also tend to stick to the water. I'm sure take-off distance on land would be less. Forward visibility would be miserable until the tail comes up...
artlovr59's avatar
perttime's avatar
Thanks!
The M.39 turned out to be a good starting point for some modifications :)
I think I took the landing gear shapes from some landplane of about the same period. It may have been Travel Air "Mystery Ship"
artlovr59's avatar
You're welcome!
Bispro's avatar
Excellent concept and fine piece of work!
perttime's avatar
Thanks ... and thanks for accepting it in the Whifcraft gallery!
The concept had been calling me for a while.... I might try some further developments later on - but then I should try to improve on some areas that did not turn out as well as I hoped for.
Bispro's avatar
By all means please submit it when it's done! ;)
MiGpilot's avatar

I saw this and was thinking "I didn't know they hand a land plane version of that." Thank God I read the description.

Ironic that the Italians could build such good racers but not a decent fighter plane until the end of WWII!

perttime's avatar
In What-If circles, it is a great sign if a drawing or model is credible enough to cause a double take :D
Thanks!
CarrieMoore's avatar
Superb! I saw this on What-If earlier today and I realy liked it as well as the backstory.
perttime's avatar
Thanks!
I really really wanted to see what the M.39 would look like on wheels - and this is what I got. Of course it needed a race, and the Gordon Bennett Trophy looked it would work. The written description of the aircraft... it is a slightly edited version of the M.39 article on Wikipedia ;)
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