Italeri + Pavla 1/72 SIAI-Marchetti SM.79 Prototype
I-MAGO (Wizard)
by Vincent Fiore

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In 1934, Savoia-Marchetti commenced work upon what would become the SM.79. The design team was headed by Ing. Alessandro Marchetti. The plane had originally been conceived as a fast monoplane transport aircraft, capable of accommodating eight passengers and to be used in air races. The design, which was initially designated as the SM.79P (P for passenger), was originally intended to be a civil derivative of the Savoia-Marchetti SM.81, a militarised transport/bomber aircraft that was itself based upon the Savoia-Marchetti S.73 airliner.

The company set about the construction of a single prototype with the intention of entering the London-Melbourne race. A three-engine configuration was adotpted primarily for commercial safety concerns rather than for speed. The prototype c/n 19001 (later MM.260) was to adopt the liquid-cooled 801 hp Isotta-Fraschini Asso XI Ri powerplant, however, it was deceided to use the more reliable, although less powerful 590 hp Piaggio Stella P.IX R.C.40, a derivative of the license-produced French Gnome & Rhone K.9.

On 28 September 1934, the prototype SM.79 conducted its maiden flight, piloted by Adriano Bacula. Despite the company's aim to participate in the London-Melbourne race the plane's prepartions were not completed in time. The prototype's registration was I-MAGO which rather allusively meant "Wizard". The plane featured sleek contours and continuous panoramic windows, true to its original intended role as a passenger aircraft. The prototype was able to quickly demonstrate its speed, conducting a flight from Milan to Rome in just one hour and 10 minutes, flying at an average speed of 250 mph (410 km/h). On 20 July 1935, it was awarded its Certificate of Airworthiness. Soon after on 2 August 1935, the prototype established a new speed record flying from Rome to Massawa in Italian Eritrea, in 12 flying hours with a refuelling stop at Cairo, Egypt.

Various other world records were established during multiple test flights performed by the prototype. It was determined early on that it was the engines rather than the airframe itself that proved to be its limiting factor and accordingly the prototype was re-engined. During 1935, the P.IX engines that had been originally installed were replaced by Alfa Romeo 125 RC.35s and in 1936, these were replaced by the new and more powerful Alfa Romeo 126 RC.34s. The prototype being used by Generale Valle, the Chief of Staff of the Regia Aeronautica for various trips to East Africa as a fast liaison. The high performance demonstrated by the prototype attracted the attention of the Italian military, who approached Savoia-Marchetti with a request to investigate the prospects of producing a bomber-conversion of the type.

S.79 Prototype (I-MAGO) with Piaggio engines at Cameri in the winter of 1934-35.

Record-Setting Aircraft
The SM.79 prototype I-MAGO was modified to carry a payload of 6,100 kg (13,400 lb) of bombs internally, which enabled it to attempt speed records while carrying this payload and on 23 September 1935, it flew 1,200 miles (2,000 km) with a 4,400 lb (2,000 kg) load at an average speed of 242.09 mph (389.61 km/h) breaking six separate world records in the process.

As on the prototype, the "hump" was not fitted to some of the first production aircraft, these being transformed into performance aircraft designated as the SM.79CS (Corsa/Racer). One of these aircraft established further records during 1937 powered by an arrangement of three Piaggio P.XI RC.40 engines providing a total of 3,000 hp, it averaged 263.224 mph (423.618 km/h) over 620 miles (1,000 km) with a 4,400 lb (2,000 kg) payload. This record then improved to 275.96 mph (444.12 km/h), while another SM.79 achieved 266.13 mph (428.3 km/h) in the 1,200 miles (2,000 km) / 4,400 lb (2,000 kg) category. Unofficially, a speed of 293 mph (472 km/h) was later achieved in the same category.

A group of five SM.79CSs went on to enter the Paris-Damascus–Istres race, where I-CUPA, I-FILU and I-BIMU took the first three positions, while the other two were placed sixth and seventh. A pair of Fiat BR.20s had also competed in the same race, but were only able to achieve a joint sixth place (with a SM.79) and an eighth place. Three of the SM.79CSs were modified to increase their endurance, allowing them to traverse the Atlantic Ocean and reach Brazil. On 24 January 1938, the three aircraft took off and 11 hours later landed in Dakar, Senegal, where they refuelled before heading for Rio de Janeiro, Brazil and on 25 January, two of the three planes arrived at 22:45 local time. One of the aircraft suffered a technical fault, forcing the crew to land at Natal, Northeastern Brazil, this SM.79 remained there and was eventually donated to the Brazilian Air Force.


This build is the conversion of the Italeri 1/72 SIAI-Marchetti SM.79 to the SM.79 Prototype (I-MAGO) and record setting aircraft using the Pavla SIAI S.79 Corsa 1/72 aftermarket kit. The first thing needed was for the modification of the engine cowlings. First step was to get some older cowlings and remove about one eight and glued it to kit cowlings. Then rolled out some mill put to a thin sheet and wrapped around cowlings. When hardened sand and shape to desired shape. This was done not with any references, because I could not find any. I then used wood tooth picks trying to replicate the cylinder bulges on cowlings. Next step was to cut openings for cabin windows. Again no drawings so this was done using some pictures I found on internet. After openings were cut, after careful measuring I cut out the wind of an old stand base from an old Italeri kit. The clear part is one piece which was glued using epoxy. When the model was painted I painted some decal the color needed and cut it into small strips and placed them on clear part to represent individual windows.

As at the time of painting I had no knowledge as to what color to paint I-MAGO so I searched the internet. I saw a drawing in an old Profile Publications magazine that showed I-MAGO in ivory and orange. I have now learned this is the wrong color (it should finished in a blue trim). MRP paints were used, the orange color is my own mixture of MRP red and yellow. They are sealed with Humbrull gloss. I did not want to use MRP gloss because the Arctic decals are very delicate and I was concerned that the lacquer sealant might damage them. But here is the picture not perfect or totally correct, but I like the results.

Technical Data

Aircraft: SIAI-Marchetti SM.79 Prototype (I-MAGO)
Manufacturer: SIAI-Marchetti
Type: Civil Transport
Year: 1934
Engine: Three Piaggio Stella P.IX R.C.40, 9-cylinder radial, air-cooled, 590 hp each
Wingspan: 69 ft 7 in (21.20 m)
Length: 53 ft 2 in (16.20 m)
Height: 13 ft 5t in (4.10 m)
Weight: 23,180 lb (10,500 kg) (Loaded)
Maximum Speed: 250 mph (410 km/h)
Ceiling: 23,000 ft (7,000 m)
Range: 1,180 miles (1,900 km)
Crew: 2
Passengers: 8

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November, 2019
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