Aermacchi was an Italian aircraft manufacturer. Formerly known as Aeronautica Macchi, the company was founded in 1912 by Giulio Macchi at Varese in north-western Lombardy as Nieuport-Macchi, to build Nieuport monoplanes under licence for the Italian military. With a factory located on the shores of Lake Varese, the firm originally manufactured a series of Nieuport designs, as well as seaplanes.
After World War II, the company began producing motorcycles as a way to fill the post-war need for cheap, efficient transportation.
The company later specialised in civil and military pilot training aircraft. In July 2003, Aermacchi was integrated into the Finmeccanica Group (now Leonardo) as Alenia Aermacchi, which increased its shareholding to 99%.
Since the beginning, the design and production of military trainers have been the core business of Alenia Aermacchi.
The products include:
Alenia Aermacchi has cooperated in international military programs:
Alenia Aermacchi takes part in the AMX program with Alenia Aeronautica and Embraer of Brazil with a total share of 24%. Alenia Aermacchi develops and manufactures the fuselage forward and rear sections and installs some avionic equipment in the aircraft. A Mid-Life Updating program is required by the Italian Air Force to upgrade the aircraft capabilities.
Alenia Aermacchi designs and produces wing pylons and wing tips, roots, trailing edges and flaps, which represents a 5% share in the overall program.
Alenia Aermacchi has a share of more than 4% in the Eurofighter program, for the design and development of wing pylons, twin missile and twin store carriers, ECM pods, carbon fiber structures and titanium engine cowlings.
After participating in the G-222 transport aircraft program, the company is involved in the new Military Transport Aircraft C-27J Spartan, for the production of outer wings.
Since the mid-1990s, Alenia Aermacchi has participated in programs for the supply of engine nacelles for civil aircraft. It produces cold parts for engine nacelles: inlets, fan cowls and EBU, the systems-to-engine interface. In 1999, the company established a joint venture (MHD) with Hurel-Dubois (presently Hurel-Hispano, of SNECMA group), a French company specializing in the development and manufacture of thrust reversers, to obtain the full responsibility for the development of nacelles installed on maximum 100-seat aircraft.
Aermacchi began producing motorcycles in c. 1951; the first Aermacchi to be marketed to the public was a scooter/motorcycle hybrid called the 'Convertible', with the majority of working parts semi-enclosed, an under-saddle engine and foot boards, a conventional motorcycle fuel tank position and 17 in (430 mm) wheels. It was succeeded in 1953 by the 'Zeffiro' which was offered with a 125 cc or 150 cc two-stroke engine; these later models had upgraded suspension but remained similar in appearance. In 1955 they produced the 125 cc Monsone, followed by the 150 cc Corsaro, both of which had pivoted fork rear suspension and telescopic front forks. They were two-strokes like the early models and ran a 4-speed gearbox. In 1956 they produced their first over head valve four-stroke engine on the Chimera fitted horizontally, a layout which would become a standard for the marque. Similar to their first offering, the Chimera kept many enclosed working parts. In 1957 they released a series of sport models, powered by a single cylinder ohv engine in 175 cc or 250 cc displacements. Aermacchi continued with scooter production, but sales were poor and they were unable to compete in the market amongst the well established Vespas and Lambrettas, and concentrated solely on the production of motorcycles.
In 1960, US business Harley-Davidson motorcycles purchased 50% of Aermacchi's motorcycle division. The Italian branch of the brand was named 'Aermacchi-Harley-Davidson' and the first bike was a variation of the 'Ala Verde' suitably modified for the American market. This was also the year that the Chimera ceased production. The remaining motorcycle holdings were sold in 1974 to AMF-Harley-Davidson, with motorcycles continuing to be made at Varese. The business was sold to Cagiva in 1978.
After the Harley Davidson investment, Aermacchi branched out into racing with a 250 cc production-volume Ala d'Oro for road racing competition. Early results varied but over years of bike development the team placed third during the 1966 350 cc World Championship with racer Renzo Pasolini and third again in 1968 with Kelvin Carruthers. The following year Carruthers competed at the Isle of Man TT.
A new era began in 1971 with the development of twin-cylinder two-stroke racers of 250cc and 350cc capacity, designed at Aermacchi by their chief engineer, Ing. William Soncini. The first 250cc racer was very fast, with 46hp at 11,000rpm, and weighed only 250lbs. After Harley-Davidson acquired 100% of Aermacchi in 1972, they funded further racing development at the Aermacchi factory, and the racers were branded with Harley-Davidson on their fuel tanks. These two-stroke twins provided Harley-Davidson with their only Grand Prix wins, and four World Championships: the 250cc World Championship in 1974, '75, and '76, and the 350cc World Championship in 1976, all under rider Walter Villa.