22 October 1938

Lieutenant Colonel Mario Pezzi, wearing a full-pressure suit, seated in the cockpit of the Caproni Ca.161bis.
Lieutenant Colonel Mario Pezzi, seated in a pressure vessel built into the cockpit of the Caproni Ca.161bis.

22 October 1938: Lieutenant Colonel Mario Pezzi, Regia Aeronautica, set a Fédération Aéronautique Internationale (FAI) World Record for altitude when he flew an experimental Società Italiana Caproni Ca.161bis to an altitude of 17,083 meters (56,047 feet).¹

Pezzi was awarded the Medaglia d’oro al Valore Aeronautico and promoted to the rank of colonel.

The Caproni Ca.161bis, with Lieutenant Colonel Mario Pezzi, wearing a full-pressure suit, in the cockpit. (Mario Pezzi Family Archive)
The Caproni Ca.161bis, with Lieutenant Colonel Mario Pezzi in the cockpit. (Mario Pezzi Family Archive)

The Caproni Ca.161bis was an experimental single-seat, single engine, two-bay biplane developed from the earlier Ca.113. It was 27 feet, ¾ inch (8.249 meters) long with a wingspan of 46 feet, 9 inches (14.249 meters) and height of 11 feet, 5¾ inches (3.500 meters). The airplane’s empty weight was 1,205 kilograms (2,657 pounds) and gross weight was 1,650 kilograms (3,638 pounds).

ub The Ca.161bis was powered by an air-cooled, supercharged, 38.673 liter (2,359.97 cubic inch) Piaggio P.XI R.C.100/2v two-row 14-cylinder radial engine which produced 700 horsepower and drove a four-bladed propeller through a 0.62:1 reduction gear. This engine was a license-built version of the French Gnome-Rhône 14K Mistral Major.

Generale S.A. Mario Pezzi,Regia Aeronautica. (Mario Pezzi Family Archive)
Generale S.A. Mario Pezzi, Regia Aeronautica. (Mario Pezzi Family Archive)

¹ FAI Record File Number 11713. This record was retired by changes of the sporting code.

© 2018, Bryan R. Swopes

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About Bryan Swopes

Bryan R. Swopes grew up in Southern California in the 1950s–60s, near the center of America's aerospace industry. He has had a life-long interest in aviation and space flight. Bryan is a retired commercial helicopter pilot and flight instructor.

4 thoughts on “22 October 1938

  1. Hi Bryan! Here’s another one for you on this date – 22 Oct 1911 – One of the most significant dates in the history of our profession, the airplane 1st used in war (a Bleriot XI on a recconnaisance from Tripoli to Azizia, Lybia, by Italian Capt Piazza).

  2. Thanks for posting! The Italian Air Force was very innovative, they used to have a hydroresearch research center in Guidonia AB (near Rome) which represented quite an edge at that time. Part of this heritage is now in Pratica di Mare Test Center and the AF itself does very well on this and other sides of its institutional role on the quest to stay on the leading edge of innovation and technology. That said, Mario Pezzi ‘story is today part of ItAF ‘syllabi. Thanks again Bryan!

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