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Aermacchi MB 326 Impalla

The MB-326 was designed by Dr. Ing Ermanno Bazzochi and became the most successful aircraft built by the Italian Aermacchi company. During 1954 in a struggling Italy still recovering from the war, Ermanno Bazzocchi at Aermacchi chose a single-engine light fighter aircraft design as they could not afford the development of a supersonic interceptor or bomber. Powered by a Rolls Royce Armstrong Siddeley Viper turbojet engine, the designed aircraft was robust and light, all-metal, simple and cheap to build and fly.

The first prototype, powered by a 1,750 lb (794 kg) static thrust Viper 8 turbojet, made its maiden flight in France on 10 December 1957. During a production run of nearly 25 years, a total of 776 airframes were constructed, including 502 under licence. This made the MB 326 the most-produced post-war Italian military aircraft. Originally conceived as a two-seat trainer, there have also been single and two-seat light attack versions produced. It is one of the most commercially successful aircraft of its type, being bought by more than 10 countries and produced under licence in Australia, Brazil and South Africa. It set many category records, including an altitude record of 56,807 ft (17,315 m) on 18 March 1966.

These Italian-designed jet trainers introduce students into the fast-paced world of high-performance jet aircraft. These aircraft are ideal for demonstrating unusual and abnormal flight situations, such as spins and upset attitude conditions, and how to cope with such during a test flight. The aircraft had many advantages over expensive supersonic jets. Although slower, it could operate take off from relatively primitive airfields and strike swiftly.

The MB 326H, called the Macchi in RAAF and Royal Australian Navy service, was ordered by the RAAF in August 1965 after it was decided there was a need for high-performance jet training to prepare pilots for the Dassault Mirage then entering service. This was part of a trend that developed in the 50s and 60s to implement an "all-through" jet training syllabus, with pilots going from ab initio to advanced training on jet aircraft.

Of a total of 97 Macchis operated by the RAAF, the first 20 were assembled in Australia from Italian production, with the remainder produced by the Commonwealth Aircraft Corporation (CAC) and Hawker de Havilland with an increasing level of local components. By aircraft A7-031, production aircraft contained approximately 85% local content. In addition, CAC also built the Macchi's Rolls Royce Viper turbojet engine under licence. The Macchi's main operator was No 2 Flying Training School (No 2 FTS), operating the type from 1970 until the final course on the type in 1991. In addition, the Macchi was operated by the Central Flying School (CFS) to train RAAF flying instructors and also in the lead-in fighter role by No 2 Operational Conversion Unit, No 5 Operational Training Unit, and Nos 25, 76, 77 and 79 Squadrons. The aircraft was replaced in this role by the British Aerospace Hawk from 2001. The Macchi was also flown by the RAAF's aerobatic team, the Roulettes, whose pilots and aircraft were drawn from CFS at RAAF Base East Sale.

During the early 1960s the South African Air Force embarked on a long-awaited programme of modernisation of its main equipment. It also saw the re-establishment of a South African aircraft industry – the Atlas Aircraft Corporation. The Italian Macchi MB-326 was the first aircraft to be manufactured under licence by this Corporation in Kempton Park. The Corporation recruited skilled aircraft workers from all over the world, including French, Dutch and British technicians, as well as Italians, Greeks, Germans, Poles, Yugoslavs, Czechs, Belgians, Americans, Canadians and South Africans. The 1968 October edition of the South African Panorama magazine described the factory metaphorically as a linguistic Tower of Babel, but without the confusion which characterised the Biblical story. “Notwithstanding the many nationalities, a spirit of cooperation is evident throughout the factory. The factory with all its manifold departments and sections, ranging from air-conditioned instrument laboratories to sizeable metal-pressing units runs as a single well-oiled combination.”

Sixteen Impalas were imported from Italy, ready for assembly at AFB Ysterplaat. Delivery of the first of these (with tail number 476 and now known as an Impala MK I) was taken in November 1966. The official symbolic handing-over to the SAAF took place on 3 June 1966, with the dual-seater MK I (tail number 460). Since that day, 151 MK I (MB-326M) dual-seater and 100 MK II (MB-326KC) single-seater Impala aircraft have been manufactured, the last delivery being that of an MK II with tail number 1099 in 1982. The Impala aircraft saw service as an ab initio trainer, a primary jet trainer and an operational light attack fighter. It also served from 1968 for almost three decades as the aircraft of the SAAF’s aerobatic team, the Silver Falcons. In all, the Impalas operated from 10 SAAF bases and both Regular Force and Reserve Force pilots flew this aircraft with great distinction in times of war and peace. Fourteen Impala MK IIs previously belonging to the SAAF later graced Brazilian skies. The Brazilian Air Force bought these aircraft together with their support components and rebuilt the aircraft with the SAAF’s assistance.

DESCRIPTION:Two-seat basic and advanced trainer
Wing span 10.57 m (34 ft 8 in);
Length 10.67 m (35 ft 0 in);
Height 3.71 m (12 ft 2 in).
Empty 2236 kg (4930 lb);
loaded 4300 kg (9480 lb).
POWER PLANT:One 1134 kg (2500 lbs) thrust Rolls-Royce Viper turbojet.
Max speed 806 km/h (435 kt);
Service ceiling 44,000 ft (13 411 m);
Range 1512 km (816 nm).

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Page last modified: 24-06-2016 11:39:06 ZULU