More April Italian connections for you:
Aviation Pioneer Francesco de Pinedo (1890-1933), who piloted the first foreign aircraft to land in the United States, saw his dream seaplane, the Santa Maria (a double-hulled Savoia-Marchetti S-55) go up in smoke on April 6, 1927, in Arizona when it caught fire while refueling, due to a careless thrown cigarette.
Mussolini ordered immediately an identical seaplane shipped to the United States so Francesco de Pinedo could continue his trip. In no time (considering those slower times), the “Santa Maria 2” arrived in Arizona and by mid-May was flying East.
Francesco de Pinedo caught world aviation attention and Mussolini’s favor two years earlier (1925) on a spectacular aerial tour, that opened flight paths across the Middle East, India, Indochina, Indonesia, Australia, China and Japan, blazing an aerial trail connecting four continents.
It was Mussolini’s suggestion that De Pinedo’s second great air journey should fly to North America. De Pinedo thought it was a great suggestion and on February 13, 1927, along with his navigator Captain Carlo Del Prete and his mechanic Vitale Zacchetti, they lifted off on their seaplane the “Santa Maria” from the southern tip of Sardinia. After a refueling stop in Portugal’s Guinea, they flew over the Atlantic and made stops in Brazil, Argentina, Paraguay, Haiti and Cuba before heading for the United States.
On March 29, 1927, the “Santa Maria” with De Pinedo at the controls, touched down to cheering crowds on the Mississippi River at New Orleans. This event was the first time a European aircraft was ever flown into the United States.
From New Orleans they flew to Galveston, Texas, and then to Lake Medina near San Antonio, then they flew to a lake east of Phoenix, Arizona where, while refueling, the seaplane caught fire as Francesco De Pinedo watched from the shore. The accident, caused by a carelessly thrown cigarette, destroyed the seaplane, after having flown 18,000 miles from Italy. Mussolini ordered an identical seaplane shipped to the United States so that De Pinedo could continue his trip.
Boarding his new seaplane the “Santa Maria 2” he flew to Charleston, Philadelphia, Boston and then to Chicago on May 15, 1927. Landing on Lake Michigan, by the Chicago Yacht Club, the crew was greeted by enormous crowds, in the heavily Italian populated city. After Chicago, De Pinedo made stops in Montreal and Newfoundland.
In Newfoundland the Canadian government was so honored by De Pinedo’s feat, they issued the first commemorative stamp in history, honoring an aviator and on it was Francesco’s De Pinedo’s name. On June 16, 1927 after making several stops, Francesco De Pinedo and his crew flew back to Rome, and were greeted as World class Italian heroes.
And De Pinedo’s portrait on Italian Air Force recruitment posters pushed enrollments sky high.
Francesco De Pinedo was born in Naples in 1890. When he began (April 25, 1925) the first of this historic flights, he christened the “Gennariello”, naming it after San Gennaro, the patron Saint of Naples.
De Pinedo was the son of Neapolitan parents. His father was a lawyer and his mother a homemaker. He had a classical education, schooled in literature, music and art. Short slender and confident, he was a believer in order and neatness. A sailor at heart he joined the Italian Navy as a teenager and later became a cadet in the Royal Italian Naval Academy.
As an Ensign fresh out of the academy, he served on a destroyer during the Italian-Turkish war in 1911, where he saw the Italians launch the first military deployment of aircraft in history. Intrigued, he joined the Italian Air Division and became a pilot in World War I. In 1917, he volunteered for air duty.
As a pilot, he became a vigorous proponent of intercontinental flight and focused all his energies on maritime aviation and especially the seaplane. Francesco’s talents were quickly recognized and he was rapidly promoted.
In 1925 at a time when only the bravest flyers dared to fly over the oceans, he and his mechanic, Ernesto Campanelli, readied his seaplane the “Gennariello” for a historic flight which would cover a record shattering 34,000 miles, launched from Sesto Calende, Italy. With stops in Baghdad, India and Indochina, he reached Australia on May 31, 1925.
He was the first pilot to reach Australia from such a distance. His next first was to open the air route between Australia and Japan when he landed in Tokyo on September 26, 1925. After replacing an engine, he returned to Rome landing on the waters of the Tiber. In recognition of the glory De Pinedo brought to Italy, the King gave him the title of Marquis.
In 1927, “Il Duce” declared him “Messaggero d’Italianità”, “a winged envoy to all parts of the world”.