Aircraft of Tintin – Macchi MC 94

macchi mc94_7Tintin had saved the state of Syldavia from a coup against the King Ottokar in “King Ottokar’s Sceptre”. He had flown in in a Ju 52. At the end of his adventure he was given a state farewell and left for his home with Thomson and Thompson in a yellow flying boat. As happens with any industry in its nascent stage, it has some linkages with an existing industry as far as concepts are concerned and then slowly breaks away and develops into its own with its ideas and concepts. For example as the horse driven “Carriage” became a “car”, the initial cars still had tillers to steer rather than a steering wheel. The whole computer OS is still based on the concepts of “folders”, “files” and “documents”, the manner in which documentation was managed till advent of computers. Similarly, people traveled long distances by sea and when aviation developed, the vestigial linkages continued for some time in the form of flying boats.

macchi mc94_6A flying boat is a fixed wing aircraft with a hull that allows it to land in water and float. Usually flying boats do not have a landing gear and hence they cannot land at an airport. During the inter-war period, flying boats were a popular means of long distance international travel. They were some of the largest aircraft of the period, smaller only to the bombers built before and during World War II. These aircraft were characterized by having a boat hull rather than an aircraft fuselage, wings and engines placed high to protect them from water and stabilizing sponsons attached to the wings. In addition to international travel, they were extensively used for Search and Rescue (SAR) at sea. The use of flying boats reduced drastically after World War II primarily because of the huge investments that had been made into developing airports. However, some amphibious aircraft are still in use for some niche purposes like scooping and dropping water on forest fires, travel between archipelagos and access to under developed areas where no air strips exist.

macchi mc94_3Coming back to the Macchi MC 94. This flying boat was designed by Mario Castoldi for the Aeronautica Macchi the predecessor of Aermacchi of Italy. It was first displayed at the Salon Aéronautique International de Milan in 1935. These aircraft were designed for the Italian airline Ala Littoria to replace their older aircraft. A total of one prototype and 11 aircraft were built. Ala Litorria purchased the prototype and first five aircraft and later the balance six when the Royal Italian Air Force refused to buy them. In 1939 three aircraft were exported to Argentina for service with the ” Corporacion Sudemericana de Servisios Aeros”. Ala Litorria used these aircraft mainly on their Adriatic routes. During World War II these aircraft were extensively used especially for flights from Sardinia to Spain. Eight aircraft were still in service in 1943 when the Luftwaffe, ordered dismantling of all obsolete aircraft. However, soon  Italy joined the war against Germany and these aircraft were saved and saw service for a few years after the war also.

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Courtesy the Aviation Photo Company – This picture is of the first prototype which was the only version to be built with retractable wheels for landing on land. All other MC 94 flying boats had no undercarriage.

The MC 94 had a stepped hull which had the cockpit at a higher deck than the passenger compartment. The hull of this flying boat was made of wood. It had a crew of three an could carry twelve passengers in comfort. These aircraft were initially powered by the Nine cylinder, air cooled Wright SGR-1820-F Cyclone radial engines which produced 770 BHP. Two such engines were mounted above the wings. Later aircraft were installed with two Alfa Romeo 126 RC 10 engines which produced 760 BHP. These aircraft were 16,167 mm (53 ft 5″) long, 5,448 mm (17 ft 10.5″) high and had a wingspan of 22,924 mm (75 ft 2.5″). It had an empty weight of 5,339 Kg (11,770 lbs) and a gross weight of 7,534 Kg (16,610 lbs). The MC94 had a flight ceiling of 6,000 m (19,680 ft) and a top speed of 291 km/h (181 mph) at a height of 1,000 m. It could cover a maximum distance of 1,387 km (862 m) in 5 hours and 30 minutes at a cruising speed of 245 km/h (152 mph).

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