Simanaitis Says

On cars, old, new and future; science & technology; vintage airplanes, computer flight simulation of them; Sherlockiana; our English language; travel; and other stuff


A WISE YOUNG WOMAN taught me “Never say never.” Well, a fat lot of good that did, because as recently as October 13 of last year, I noted that the Stipa-Caproni aeroplane violated one of my GMax rules: “Never take on a project you wouldn’t mind staring at for hours.”

The Stipa-Caproni. Image from “Ducted Fan Ad Extremus.”

 As noted back then, “The problem is, the Stipa-Caproni is pug-ugly.”

But the more I learned about Professor Luigi Stipa’s proof of concept, the more “innovative” replaced “pug-ugly” in my thinking. Here’s my GMax Stipa-Caproni, quite resplendent in its Italian racing colors. 

This and following images are of my GMax Stipa-Caproni.

Staring at the Project. The Stipa-Caproni turned out to be a fairly straightforward project. My computer log indicates its construction began December 14, 2022; its flight testing and photography were completed January 5.

Other than an outer and inner fuselage, the craft had few GMax oddities. I had a paucity of details about the tandem cockpits, so equipped them with dual controls (and placed eye view for the Fltsim Virtual Cockpit aft). I fitted only necessary flight instruments on what was essentially a proof-of-concept one-off.

Its Livery. A marvelous YouTube video of its test flight shows the craft already carrying Italian race plane livery (albeit sans its wheel spats).

Wikipedia says, “In Australia, Lynette Zuccoli and Aerotec Queensland designed a 3/5-scale replica of the Stipa-Caproni, accurate even in terms of paint scheme and markings, powered by an Italian Simonini racing engine. They built it in 1998 and, in October 2001, succeeded in making two directional test flights with it with Bryce Wolff at the controls.”

The 3/5-scale Stipa-Caproni. Image from

“Each flight,” Wikipedia reports, “covered about 600 metres (660 yards) and reached an altitude of approximately 6 metres (20 feet), with Wolff reporting that the replica was very stable in flight and performed much as the Italian test pilots reported that the original aircraft had 69 years to the month earlier. The replica may never have flown again and is now on static display at Toowoomba City Aerodrome in Australia.”

Above, the Stipa-Caproni gained efficiency of its propulsion through its venturi-shaped fuselage. Below, its air-cooled de Havilland Gipsy III with wind-cheating engine covers removed.

Flying Barrel. In March 1933, Popular Mechanics magazine commissioned aviation artist Douglas Rolfe to envision commercialization of Stipa’s proof of concept. The upscaled “flying barrel” transport would carry “a hundred passengers inside its thick tubular hull.”

Image from Popular Mechanics, March 1933. 

The piloting compartment, Popular Mechanics noted, “is faired into the wing and propeller is driven through gears much like the dirigible Akron.

Huge Barrel Plane. In June, 1933, Popular Mechanics followed up with an even more ambition craft: “Pierced by a battery of tunnels a flying wing airplane is proposed by an engineer at the famous Caproni airplane works in Italy. Streamlined motors and four-bladed propellers will drive air blasts through the tunnels, each of which forms a Venturi tube, expanding toward the rear. According to the inventor, the air will give a forward push something in the manner of rocket propulsion.” 

Image from Popular Mechanics, June 1933.

“The craft,” Popular Mechanics noted, “will be piloted from a cabin with transparent walls at the center of the leading edge of the wing. On either side will be observation bays from which passengers can look ahead. Other window will afford a rear view from the central passenger’s cabin. Another feature will be a catwalk running lengthwise through the wing. It will enable mechanics to make adjustments while the plane is in flight.” 

Another GMax Project? No. Been there, done that. 

Image from “Bel Geddes Airliner Number 4.”

On the other hand, there was this Russian aerodynamicist, Victor Nikolayevich Belyayev, who had a thing for batwing tailless aircraft designs. The DB-LK had a forward-sweeping batwing and dual fuselages with glazed rear cones.

Belyayev DB-LK, c.1939.

I’m attracted because word has it that test pilots refused to fly the DB-LK; they called it the Kурица (chicken). Or were they? ds

© Dennis Simanaitis,, 2023


  1. Jack Mason
    January 9, 2023

    But how does it fly? I’m thinking landing that tube might take a little practice.

    • simanaitissays
      January 10, 2023

      I suspect the challenge is recognizing where the bottom of the craft is (kinda like in a 747). It was reported that the plane was particularly stable, perhaps to a fault.
      I haven’t tried landing it from Cockpit View.

  2. Eric
    January 10, 2023

    Reblogged this on Calculus of Decay .

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