The Macchi M.C. 72 was an experimental seaplane designed and built by the Italian aircraft company Macchi Aeronautica. In 1933 and 1934 it set a world record for speed over water.
For two years the plane suffered from many mechanical defects as well as the loss of two test pilots who died trying to coax world class speed out of the M.C. 72 (first Monti and then Bellini). The final design of M.C. 72 used a double, counter-rotating fixed-pitch propeller powered by a modified Fiat AS-6 engine generating some 2,500 to 3,100 horse power (thanks to supercharging).
After 35 flights, the engines were overhauled in preparation for a record attempt. The aircraft finally lived up to expectations when it set a new world speed record (over water) on 10 April 1933 with a speed of 682 km/h (424 mph). It was piloted by Warrant Officer Francesco Agello (the last qualified test pilot). Not satisfied, development continued as the aircraft's designers thought they could break 700 km/h with the M.C. 72. This feat was in fact achieved on 23 October 1934 when Agello piloted the plane for an average speed of 709 km/h over three passes (440 mph). This record remains (as of 2006) the fastest speed ever attained by a piston engine seaplane. After this success, the M.C.72 was never flown again.
The M.C.72 held the world speed record for all aircraft for five years. For comparison, the record holder for a land-based aircraft was held (for a time) by the Hughes H-1 Racer with a top speed of only 566 km/h (352 mph). Then in 1939 two German racing aircraft passed the M.C.72. The first was a Heinkel He 100 which reached the speed of 746 km/h (464 mph). The second racer was a Messerschmitt Me 209 which set the new world speed record of 756 km/h (470 mph) in August - just days before the start of World War II. The current world speed record for a piston-engine aircraft is 850 km/h (528 mph) set by a heavily modified American F8F Bearcat named Rare Bear in 1989.
One M.C.72 is a surviving airframe, and is on display at the Vigna di Valle Aircraft Museum, near Rome.
Crew: 1 pilot
Length: 8.32 m (27 ft 3.5 in)
Wingspan: 9.48 m (31 ft 1.25 in)
Wing area: 15 m² (151.46 ft²)
Empty weight: 2,505 kg (5,512 lb)
Loaded weight: 2,907 kg (6,409 lb)
Max takeoff weight: 3,031 kg (6,669 lb)
Powerplant: 1× Fiat AS-6 Liquid-cooled V24 engine, 2,126 kW (2,850 hp)
Maximum speed: 709.209 km/h (382.9 knots, 440.681 mph)