The Caproni-Stipa looks like something out of Fernando Botero’s hyperbolic paintings, or Benito Jacovitti’s brilliantly crazy comics. In fact, it was a real experimental Italian airplane, designed in the 1930s.

Dubbed “the barrel-shaped plane” or “the cask plane”, this forerunner of jet airplanes was designed by engineer Luigi Stipa, and built as a prototype by Caproni di Milano-Taliedo. It featured a large cylindrical fuselage that enclosed the engine and propeller, so that the air thrust in the metal tube by the rotating blades could make the propelling system more dynamic. However, the craft’s shape increased its drag and counteracted the benefits of the engine’s heightened efficiency.

The Caproni-Stipa took off only for a brief series of test flights, and was demolished in 1933. However, a 3/5-scale replica of it was recently built in Australia, with full-color photographs attesting to some successful flights in October 2001.

How lovely it would be to see it soar in our skies again, like a flying cartoon.

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December 15, 2013