Experimental jet aircraft first flown in 1940 and was the second jet aircraft flown in
During 1931, Italian engineer Secondo Campini submitted his studies on jet
propulsion, including a proposal for a so-called thermo-jet to power an aircraft.
Following a high-profile demonstration of a jet-powered boat in Venice, which was the
world's first vehicle to harness jet propulsion, Campini was rewarded with an initial
contract issued by the Italian government to develop and manufacture his envisioned engine.
During 1934, the Regia Aeronautica (the Italian Air Force) granted its approval to proceed
with the production of a pair of jet-powered prototype aircraft. To produce this aircraft,
which was officially designated as the N.1, Campini formed an arrangement with the larger
Caproni aviation manufacturer.
The N.1 was powered by a motorjet, a variant of the jet engine in which the compressor is
driven by a conventional reciprocating engine. It was an experimental aircraft, designed to
demonstrate the practicality of jet propulsion. On 27 August 1940, the maiden flight of the
N.1 occurred at Caproni facility in Taliedo, outside of Milan, flown by renowned test pilot
Mario de Bernardi. Subsequent flight tests with the first prototype led to a maximum speed
of roughly 320 MPH (515 km/h) being recorded. On 30 November 1941, the second prototype was
flown by pilot De Bernardi and engineer Giovanni Pedace from Milan's Linate Airport to
Rome's Guidonia Airport, in a highly publicised event that included a fly-past over Rome
and a reception with Italian Prime Minister Benito Mussolini. Thsi was the first long-range
flight of a jet powered aicraft in history. Testing of the N.1 continued into 1943, by which
point work on the project was disrupted by the Allied invasion of Italy.
The N.1 achieved mixed results, while it was perceived and commended as a crucial milestone
in aviation, the performance of the aircraft was less than expected; specifically, it was
slower than some existing conventional aircraft of the era, with limited deveoplment
potential. The motorjet engine was incapable of producing sufficient thrust to deliver
viable performance levels to be used in a fighter aircraft. Campini embarked on further
projects (like the Reggiane Re.2007), but these would involve the indigenously-developed
motorjet being replaced with a German-provided turbojet. The N.1 programme never led to
an operational combat aircraft, and the motorjet design was soon superseded by more
powerful turbojets. One example of the N.1 has survived to the present day and is on display
at Vigna Di Valle Air Force in Rome.