|Fate||Incorporated into Agusta|
Caproni, also known as Società de Agostini e Caproni and Società Caproni e Comitti, was an Italian aircraft manufacturer. Its main base of operations was at Taliedo, near Linate Airport, on the outskirts of Milan.
Founded by Giovanni Battista "Gianni" Caproni during 1908, the company produced several successful heavy bombers during the First World War. Following the acquisition of several other aviation firms throughout the interwar period, Caproni transformed into a sizable aviation-orientated syndicate, the Società Italiana Caproni, Milano. The majority of its aircraft were bombers and transport aircraft. It played a pioneering role in the development of the Caproni Campini N.1, an experimental aircraft powered by a thermo-jet. It provided large numbers of combat aircraft for the Axis during the Second World War. The firm did not prosper in the postwar era, the Società Italiana Caproni collapsing during 1950. Many of the company's former assets were subsequently acquired by the Italian helicopter specialist Agusta.
The company was founded during 1908 by the Italian aviation pioneer and aeronautical engineer Giovanni Battista "Gianni" Caproni. It was initially named, from 1911, Società de Agostini e Caproni, then Società Caproni e Comitti. Caproni was responsible for completing the first aircraft of Italian construction in 1911. Its principal manufacturing facilities were based in Taliedo, a peripheral district of Milan, close to Linate Airport, while the firm's Caproni Vizzola division was based in Vizzola Ticino, close to Milan–Malpensa Airport.
The firm initially produced a series of small single-engine aircraft, including the Caproni Ca.1, Ca.6 and Ca.12; these became important milestones in the early development of Italian aviation. As such, Caproni became one of the most important Allied aircraft manufacturers during the First World War, being responsible for the design and manufacture of large, multi-engine long-range bombers, such as the three-engined Caproni Ca.32, Ca.33, Ca.36 and Ca.40. These aircraft were adopted not only by the Italian military, but by the French as well. Caproni's bombers were a significant contribution in the development of heavy aircraft. Following the end of the conflict, the strategic bombing theories of Giulio Douhet were reputedly shaped by the operational use of Caproni bombers, and thus have been was seen as an important landmark in the history of aviation.
The Interwar period was a busy one for Caproni. While the end of the First World War had led to a rapid decrease in demand for bombers, impacting orders for much of Caproni's traditional product line, Caproni elected to redirect the bulk of the company's resources towards the growing civil aviation market. It was also during this period that the company was reorganised into a large syndicate, which was named the Società Italiana Caproni, Milano, as a result of having acquired several smaller Italian manufacturers. By the 1930s, the company's main subdivisions comprised Caproni Bergamasca, Caproni Vizzola, Reggiane and the engine manufacturer Isotta Fraschini. Caproni's aircraft activity largely orientated towards the production of bombers and light transport aircraft.
Perhaps the most distinctive of Caproni's aircraft was the Caproni Ca.60 Transaereo, an experimental large flying boat designed for the civil sector. At the time, the concept of a large multi-engined flying boat to serve long-distance passenger routes was considered to be radical. However, Caproni believed that such an aircraft could allow the travel to remote areas more quickly than ground or water transport, and that the investment required to develop and manufacturer such an aircraft would be less expensive than pursuing alternative means. During 1919, Caproni filed to patent his work on the concept. His large seaplane design, designated Caproni Ca.60, was highly unorthodox, featuring eight engines and three sets of triple wings. On 12 February or 2 March 1921,[N 1] the aircraft took off for the first time, proving to be both stable and maneuverable during its brief flight, in spite of a persisting tendency to climb. However, on March 4, the sole completed aircraft was lost while attempting its second flight.
During 1927, the Caproni Museum (Italian: Museo Caproni) was established in Taliedo by Giovanni Caproni and his wife, Timina Caproni. It is both the oldest aviation museum in Italy, as well as the country's oldest corporate museum. The Caproni Museum has long outlived the Caproni company itself.
Caproni continued to maintain its interest in innovative aircraft. One such example was the Stipa-Caproni, also known as the Caproni Stipa, which was designed by Luigi Stipa and built by Caproni during the early 1930s. The aircraft featured a hollow, barrel-shaped fuselage with the engine and propeller completely enclosed by the fuselage, effectively forming a single ducted fan. While unconventional, flight testing found that the approach induced significant aerodynamic drag, cancelling out much of the gains in engine efficiency and reducing the aircraft's top speed to only 131 km/h (81 mph). Some authors have claimed that its design had influenced the development of jet propulsion.
During the 1930s, Caproni became involved with the Italian aeronautics engineer Secondo Campini, who was engaged in pioneering research in the then-unexplored field of jet propulsion, having proposed adopting a so-called thermo-jet to power an aircraft. Campini had been issued with an initial contract from the Italian government to develop and manufacture his envisioned engine. During 1934, the Regia Aeronautica (the Italian Air Force) granted its approval to proceed with the production of a pair of jet-powered prototype aircraft; Caproni was engaged to manufacture this aircraft, which was thus designated as the Caproni Campini N.1, with Campini providing technical guidance while specialising in the engine's design.
On 27 August 1940, the maiden flight of the experimental N.1 occurred at Caproni's Taliedo facility. On 30 November 1941, the second prototype was flown from Milan's Linate Airport to Rome's Guidonia Airport, in a highly publicised event that included a fly-past over Rome and a reception with Italian Prime Minister Benito Mussolini. According to the historian Nathanial Edwards, the practicality of the N.1 design had been undermined by political pressure to speed the programme along so that Italy would be more likely to be the first country in the world to perform a jet-powered flight. According to economics author Harrison Mark, Soviet aircraft design bureau TsAGI obtained details on the N.1 programme and were encouraged to pursue work on a similar design; as such, there is a basis for stating that the design of the N.1 influenced subsequent early jet aircraft.
The early years of the postwar era was one of considerable hardship for Caproni and the wider Italian aviation industry alike. During 1950, the Società Italiana Caproni ceased to exist. However, one of the company's former divisions, Caproni Vizzola, endured until 1983, at which point it was acquired by the Italian helicopter manufacturer Agusta.