Perhaps not every pilot knows the names of Luigi and Giovanni Pascale, but for sure every pilot knows the company Tecnam, which they founded.
Tecnam is an Italian airplane manufacturer of general aviation and ultralight aircrafts. Their planes in both segments are famous for the astounding performance and unique design. For these reasons and for their competitive prices they are very common among flight schools and private pilots. However, Tecnam is just the most recent chapter of a history of passion and tradition which started many years ago when the Pascale brothers were just a little more than kids.
On 17 March 2017, Luigi Pascale passed away at the age of 93 leaving a space that it is difficult to fill in the world of aviation. I had the chance to read a number of articles about him and his brother and came across a book that best collects and transmits their passion for aviation, “L’Aviazione dei Fratelli Pascale” (Pascale Brothers’ Aviation, published by Art Studio Paparo).
In the book, Stefano Mavilio, who later became Global Marketing and Communication Manager at Tecnam, collected a series of historical documents offering a wealth of details about the context in which the first aircrafts by the Pascale brothers were born. There is, however, much more to the book than a simple account of dates and technical details. The excitement of the two brothers comes out of the pages like fireworks during the narration of how they worked night and day on a new plane or when a finished plane had to be finally tested. Reading these pages and the first person accounts of the two brothers, you are brought directly in the middle of the dusty improvised warehouse where the Pascales, in the late 1930s, started the construction of their first manned flying machine and, in the same way, after a few pages you can sneak among the spectators of the first successful test flight of the P48 Astore.
The P48 Astore was the demonstration of the potential for the passion and the incredible brain of the two brothers, which went unstopped despite the young age. Indeed, they had been working hard on the aerofoil of their first flying machine and, during last phases of WWII, a Messerschmitt crash-landed close to the place where the Pascale brothers used to spend the summer. They made a deal with the owner of the land to collect the plane if after two days nobody had showed up to claim it, and so they did. This gave them the opportunity to reverse-engineer the systems of the German fighter plane and learn a great deal of notions that were later put into the project of the P48 Astore.
What surprised most people in the world of aviation of the time was the fantastic design in terms of aerodynamics and balance of the P48 Astore, despite the lack of previous experience by the two young designers. The plane flew splendidly when Mario De Bernardi, a famous Italian military and test pilot, took it for the first flight.
From there on, a series of incredible successes followed. Every plane made by Partenavia (this was the name they initially adopted) had better performance than most comparable plane. Partenavia planes won several air races, like the Tour of Sicily (“Giro Aereo Internazionale di Sicilia”).
However, the success of Partenavia somehow slowed down when it was acquired by a large state-owned company (“Aeritalia”) with its complex and slow system of procedures. After a few years, the Pascale brothers felt frustrated by losing that family feeling that kept the company together and the company close to its clients and obtained to start a new company called Tecnam. Under this brand they resumed the production of GA planes and started the production of ultralights in 1992, with the P92 model. Today Tecnam is leader in the production of GA planes for training as well as ultralight machines.
I read “L’Aviazione dei fratelli Pascale” over a couple of sleepless nights and when I finished it I was thrilled about the narration of the brothers’ pure passion for aviation. I am sure that everyone who loves flying feels the same type of excitement. After closing the book it is impossible not to feel some feeling of affinity with the two ingenious brothers. At the same time, I felt rather sad thinking about the state of General Aviation in Italy. In facts, GA there is rather seen as a game for rich kids and local regulators fail to see its potential for supporting the network of small and medium enterprises on which the whole country heavily relies. In this context, the whole sector has been heavily taxed and had to muddle through a highly bureaucratic and hostile environment. This eventually pushed also Tecnam to focus on the ultralight segment inlands and to look further outside national borders to market its products. Indeed, ultralights manage to partially escape the labyrinth of Italian bureaucracy, although with heavy limitations, and the largest stake of Tecnam’s revenues comes form abroad.
I would recommend “L’Aviazione dei fratelli Pascale” to all pilots, although I believe it is available only in Italian language. It is at the same time a valuable historical document and a beautiful tale.