War Above the Trenches: Ansaldo A.1 Balilla
The Ansaldo A.1, nicknamed “Balilla”, after the Genoan folk-hero, was Italy’s only fighter aircraft to be both domestically designed and produced during the First World War.
The A.1 resulted from continued efforts by the Ansaldo company to create a true fighter type. Previously, the Italian government had relied on French aircraft to maintain their air service, principally Nieuport 17s and SPADs.
The first prototype was completed in July, 1917, but acceptance by the air service did not occur until December that year. Pilots were not enthusiastic in their evaluation. While they found a marked increase in performance over the company’s earlier SVA.5, the A.1 was still not as manoeuvrable as the French types.
This resulted in a number of modifications to the A.1, including a slight enlargement of the wings and rudder, and a further 10% increase in engine power. This initially proved satisfactory, but reports from pilots remained mixed.
Although now in production, the machines were not widely available until July, 1918, and even then they were assigned mainly to Home defence duties. Ironically, because of the perceived handling issues, Italian pilots retained their French machines, often refusing outright to fly the Balilla, leaving the new A.1s standing idly to the side of the airfield.
Its post-War history was arguably more impressive, with service in Poland, Russia and Latvia in the early 1920s during the Polish-Soviet War.
This is Polish firm Karaya’s 1/48 resin model of the Ansaldo A.1 Balilla. I’ve previously posted two Progress reports about this build so won’t revisit those elements here.
I’ve added a few photos of the wing-setting process, lower planes, then cabanes followed by main struts. The strut/turnbuckle contact points are a sort of cleat, nicely made, that allows for the turnbuckle anchors to sit at an angle and the strut to notch-in just adjacent within the cleat.
All upper turnbuckles are rigged to the underside of the top wing before setting it to the struts, with other points to the fuselage cowling as applicable. The process is repeated for the lower wing contacts after the top wing is set. There are 16 double sets of flying wires (32 turnbuckle doubles), a pair of drift wires, six individual cowling runs, two pair of transverse strut supports and the undercarriage strengtheners.
The kit’s other Techmod decals include those for Pilot Captain Merian Caldwell Cooper, 7th Squadron, Polish-Soviet War, 1920, and a machine assigned to Independent Naval Flight Section, Novyi Petergof/Odessa, 1922.
The machine modelled here is that of pilot Tenente Antonio Locatelli, of 87a Squadriglia, St. Pelagia, 1918, one of two survivors under restoration for Museo del Risorgimento in Bergamo.