SF 260AM Aeronautica Militare - the final flight
On 19 September 2009, after a prestigious career lasting 33 years, an incredible 235,500 flying hours recorded, and a similarly notable total of more than 4,500 students trained, the mythical orange SF 260AM “Arancione” made its final flight with the Aeronautica Militare.The SF 260 was designed at the beginning of the sixties by Ingegnere Stelio Frati as a development of the F 8 Falco, a light aircraft with two side-by-side seats, 1,200 kg maximum all up weight, and powered by an Avco Lycoming 0-540-E4A5 delivering 260 Hp. The aircraft was developed for sport and touring, but thanks to its capabilities soon achieved widespread acclaim in civilian and military flying schools throughout the world, and the production run of more than 850 examples has established the type as one of the major success of the Italian aerospace industry. Besides the basic version specifically developed for training, an armed version, the SF 260W “Warrior” was developed, together with a turbine powered variant designated SF 260TP.In 1976 SIAI Marchetti supplied the Aeronautica Militare with 45 examples of the type, designated SF 260AM/ The aircraft have always been based at the Latina flying school, and utilised to train student pilots for the award of their BPA (Brevetto Pilota Aeroplano — Aircraft Pilot Licence). Over the years, the school has changed designation, being first established back in 1939 as the Scuola di Volo Senza Visibilità (SVSV — IFR flying school), later becoming the Scuola Istruzione Equipaggi (Crew Instruction School), then the Scuola Addestramento Plurimotori (SAP — Multi-engine training school), and in the recent past became the Scuola Volo Basico Avanzato Elica (SVBAE — Basic and Advanced propeller flying school): today the units is known as the 70° Stormo.The SF 260AM, which has gone into a deserved and welcome retirement will, however, see its training mission assumed by its ‘big brother’, the grey SF 260EA “grigione”. The EA version entered service with the Latina school in 2005, and is an updated version with state of the art instrumentation which allows the Aeronautica Militare to conduct more advanced courses on the type, replacing in some cases aircraft that are more sophisticated and economically more expensive to operate.The aircraft that made the final flight is the example carrying Matricola Militare 54436 and unit code 70-63. Construction number 264, it was delivered to the Aeronautica Militare in the summer of 1976, and for the occasion, the port side of the fin was painted with the total flying hours recorded by the 260AM fleet in the period between 1976-2009. These last dates were, on the contrary, painted on the right hand side of the fin as testimony to the entry into service and subsequent retirement of the type. On 19 September, the day of the ceremony, there were flypasts by a four-ship formation, the leader obviously being the “260 arancione” flown by Colonnello Magazzino, Comandante of the 70°Stormo, accompanied by an “exceptional student”, Generale di Squadra Aerea Gargini, Comandante of the Scuole di Volo AM. The last of the flypasts ended withthe separation of the SF 260AM from the other “260EA”, signifying the definitive retirement.In parallel with the withdrawal of the “260AM”, the same day saw the first reunion of flying instructors who had served at Latina airfield since the initiation of the school. The event was organised by a committee led by Generale di Brigata Aerea (in retirement) Roberto Caminiti, who, during the introductory briefing explained how the reunion had been almost spontaneously conceived through a “rumour mill” which had been airing the subject for some time, and which was brought to reality thanks to the interest of many former members of the flying school community. Many former instructors signed up for the event, amongst whom was the most senior of all instructors, Generale di Divisione Aerea (in pension) Eduardo Bellia, who served at the Latina airfield from 1955. The ceremony was attended by Generale di Squadra Aerea Giampiero Gargini as the most senior representative of the air force. Gargini is the current Comandante of the newly created Comando Scuole of the Aeronautica Militare/3^ Regione Aerea (Bari), a role which he has held since January 2008. Also involved in the ceremony were local authorities from the nearby city of Latina, including the mayor, who tol the opportunity to clearly underline the strong ties between the provincial capital and the 70°Stormo M.O.V.M. “Giulio Cesare Graziani”.In memory of all the aviators who gained their wings at the Latina school, and who have now passed away, a monument has been established on the central square of the 207° Gruppo area which carries a commemorative plaque, while on the opposite side the fin of an SF 260AM has been set in the ground, complete with the badge of the Stormo.
The occasion of the meeting was also a moment of solidarity towards those most in need, the guests were able to attend a fund-raising, the amount of the contributions were donated to the Foundation "aiutare I bambini" the Foundation which is focused on helping children in Italy and around the world with concrete projects to provide housing, food, medicine and education to children and young people themselves.