30 March 1928

With its cowlings removed, the Fiat Aviazione AS.3 V-12 engine of a Macchi M.52 is visible. (San Diego Air and Space Museum Archive)

30 March 1928: At Venice, Italy, Regia Aeronautica Major Mario de Bernardi, flying a Macchi M.52bis, established a new Fédération Aéronautique Internationale (FAI) World Record for Speed Over a 3 Kilometer Course of 512.78 kilometers per hour (318.63 miles per hour).¹

Major de Bernardi was the first pilot to fly faster than 300 miles per hour (482.8 kilometers per hour).

Colonel Mario de Bernardi, Regia Aeronautica
Colonel Mario de Bernardi, Regia Aeronautica

The Macchi M.52bis was a specially-constructed single-place, single-engine float plane designed to compete in the Schneider Trophy Races. The airplane was 23 feet, 4¾ inches (7.131 meters) long with a wingspan of 25 feet, 9 inches (7.849 meters). It had a gross weight of 3,263 pounds (1,480 kilograms).

The M.52bis was powered by a water-cooled, normally-aspirated, 34.677 liter (2,116.138-cubic-inch-displacement) Fiat Aviazone AS.3 dual overhead camshaft (DOHC), four-valve, 60° V-12 engine. The AS.3 had four valves per cylinder and a compression ratio of 6.7:1. It produced 1,000 horsepower at 2,400 r.p.m. The design of the AS.3 was based on the Curtiss D-12, although it used individual cylinders and water jackets instead of the American engine’s monoblock castings.

Only one M.52bis was built.

¹ FAI Record File Number 11827

© 2016, Bryan R. Swopes

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