A Family Affair,
the Nustrinis and the Falco

This article appeared in the September 2002 issue of the Falco Builders Letter.

by Giovanni Nustrini

  This Mustang belonged to Mr. Giorgio Billi, who owned the airline company for which Luciano Nustrini was operations manager as well as chief pilot. They flew Russian Yak-40's, and Luciano had the use of the Mustang pretty much whenever he wanted, so any excuse was good to go out and fly it. I have countless flights in that plane, it's a shame I was so young. All I remember was the incredible weight of the helmet in those tight turns and aerobatics. My father first learned to fly in the Italian Air Force, in Harvards, then went straight into Mustangs. He loved the Mustang, and kept saying that the Mustang and the Falco were the two most beautiful aircraft ever designed. -- Giovanni Nustrini  

Flying with Dad in his Falco was for me, like hopping in and out of the family car, such were the frequency of flights when I was a child. I remember when I was very, very young, sitting in the seat beside my Dad, too small to see above the dashboard, (I had learned to keep it level by looking at the wing tip!) watching in total fascination as we lifted high into the sky when my Dad, soon after take-off was frantically turning the wheel between us in my mind, that wheel was vital it made us go up! I had the feeling of complete freedom and safety in the extremely noisy, avgas-smelling familiar cockpit because I knew when it was time to go down I would see Dad spring into action, again with that wheel between us, winding and winding, this time in the other direction, to bring us back gently down to Earth. I later learned that that was the undercarriage going up and down (!) he took the electric motor out for lightness

ERNA, as he was known (yes, "he": you should all know that Falcos are all "boys"), was the fairest of all the Falco's in the land. The whole family would pile into the Falco and accompany Dad and Mum to Race days. As a young family we were essential in the final preparationwe would be issued with rags and would crawl around all of the underside of the Falco while Dad and Mum made the final preparations for the race. Attending the Race days was just a part of life for us, (an exciting part!) just as it would be for the whole family to attend and support any event such as motor racing day. That's how I grew up. When I was a wee bit older old enough to see out the windscreen, I would accompany Dad, as his time-keeper and navigator in the races. Only now, as a pilot, I understand so much of what he was doing and why. On one particular occasion, the "Giro di Sicilia" (a race around the island of Sicily), Dad calculated that he would get more speed if he went around a cape rather than over the land, so off we went, low on the water (by low, I mean a few feet) to make the most of the ground effect, full throttle (I don't think ERNA knew any different), and he told me: "Giovanni, you keep an eye on those instruments"-oil temp and cylinder temp -- "If you see them going into the red, tell me."


Grandfather Alfredo Nustrini in the Mustang


"Tell me" is easier said than done, the noise in that plane was so loud! The intercom and headphones were too heavy so, I had to kick him on the side with my fist! Sure enough the temps did go up, he did not see them as he was busy keeping the plane just off the water, the seagulls moving away from us. So as instructed, I pointed at the instrument and kicked him: no answer. He kept flying totally oblivious to my call. So I kicked him again. Nothing. The temperatures still in the red. I kept kicking. Eventually he pulled the nose up a bit, gained a few feet for safety and with two fingers he "unpeeled" the red tape on the glass of the instrument, and moved it further along the scale. Problem fixed!


Luciano Nustrini on the Mustang


We did not win that race, but I remember that we achieved an incredible average speed so that the handicap was destroyed as usual. I think that race is the only one he never won!

In Italy, the speed racing was governed by a handicap system since the aircraft were all so different. The handicap was initially based on the weight, power, wing area, etc., but as time went by and my Dad went faster and faster they decided to alter his handicap rating basing the changes on the previous races results. What happened was that the faster he went the worse his handicap was, and therefore in the end it became almost impossible to win a race, even though he was doing some incredible speeds.

Nice memories, and nice stories that will accompany me forever.


Giovanni in his favorite flying hat.



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