Legends in Our Own Lunch Times:
The Stipa Caproni

by Lynette Zuccoli

This article appeared in the December 2001 issue of the Falco Builders Letter.

Beauty and the Beast. Falco sleeps with fascist Gee Bee

Sitting around our lunch table about six years ago, our usual subjects of discussion, sex, rock 'n roll and anything politically incorrect, was interupted by Guido, who had found a picture of the most bizarre and ugly plane we had ever seen. It was published in a book by Giorgio Evangelisti.

The aircraft was the Stipa Caproni, designed by Luigi Stipa and built by the Caproni factory in Italy. We were all astonished when Guido announced, "We must have one of those!".

No-one we knew wanted to build it. So we sought someone who was creative, imaginative with not a great sense of embarrassment, and Bryce Wolff was the chosen one.

Work was commenced shortly after using the available information at hand, then in January 1997, Guido was lucky enough to personally meet with Count Gianni Caproni. He generously gave us information and plans, although very scant, we were able to proceed with the project.

Sadly, Guido left us in March 1997, but his dreams and purpose were strong, and we were motivated to carry on.

We purchased the Italian Simonini racing engine, a bit ironic as it was for a very slow aircraft. The engine was suitable for the 65% scale replica of the original, which we did not consider building as it went into the "too hard basket" as we did not have "Experimental Category" in Australia at that time. Also, the original was rather large, with the fuselage standing at over 12 feet tall and wing span at about 50 feet.


Consenting Aviators: Lynette Zuccoli and the Stipa Caproni.

There are some things in life that you can't blame on other people. The Zuccolis willingly and voluntarily did this.


With some research, we were able to find the original paint scheme of ivory and blue, very '30s, and the original fascist decorations.

As time went by, the Stipa took shape and seemed to be an endless source of jokes and mirth for onlookers. Most people thought we were going into the wine industry, making wine barrels.

The general consensus was that whatever it was, it would never fly.

Bryce bravely pushed on and then last October, 69 years to the month, the Stipa took to the air with Bryce at the controls. Two directional flights were completed approximately 600 metres at 6 or so metres high.

We joined the Wright Bros and the Spruce Goose in history. We have photos of the flight taken by Craig Justo which show Byrce in his test pilot mode, calm and in control and able to report that the aircraft flew much as the original reports had stated.

I am proud of the Stipa and its history, the first jet, a contribution to the world of aviation and our little bit we did.

Luigi Stipa died a few years ago a bitter man, believing he was unacknowledged and his concepts stolen. I like to imagine if he and Guido are looking on from another dimension, they would have smiles on their faces.


Are Aussies colourful?

I know that we, the pilot, Bryce, Chief Engineer, Wayne and myself were red while waiting for the first flight of the Stipa, white when it flew and a natural tan some time after the event. Bryce says that while he felt terrified during the short flight of approx 600 mts., he was also thrilled, testing the unknown by and large and trying to apply all of his skills to keeping the aircraft aloft and stable.

Gulpingin the air, the Stipa Caproni lifts off on its first flight.

In actual fact, Bryce was able to confirm that the Stipa performed much as the original reports had stated, that is the difficulties of the attitude references and the good stability of the aircraft overall. The strangeness of the seating position of the pilot which is like sitting on top of a hugh barrel and requires agility of foot just to get in the aircraft. When Bryce is in the pilots seat onlookers peering through the empty void of the fuselage (venturi tube) often wonder if he was legless, but due to ingenuity of construction leaving very little for the pilot to breath heavily we were able to construct the aircraft true to its concept and intent. We don't really know what's ahead of us now, there are little adjustments to do to the aircraft which Bryce thinks may improve handling etc, but our 'contract' is really finished in a philosophical and practical sense, and we may well quit while we are satisfied with results as they are now.

We have found that mugs with pictures of Bryce flying are in big demand so perhaps we may have a business venture in that field. Viva Aviation.

Lynette Zuccoli


  From the familiar design halls of Italy's Caproni comes the naked horror of the Stipa, built in 1932 to test the thrust effect of a tubular fuselage.  

The 120 hp DH Gipsy III yielded a top speed of 81 mph, and the lift effect of the tube made the landing speed 42 mph.

Stipa Caproni Plans!

Build your own Stipa Caproni. Here are several drawings of the original aircraft. The first drawing is a tracing of a Caproni drawing, and the others are illustrations from a book. While the illustrations may show more 'detail', they could well be the embellishments of a creative illustrator.


A few photos and more

Many thanks to Lynette Zuccoli for sharing her drawings with the rest of the world.

Models Built
Don Watson

This airplane is a joke writer's dream. Send us your observations, one-liners and zingers, and we'll publish them here! Alfred Scott

You can't hurt this airplane's feelings, so hurl your insults to alfred@seqair.com!

Yikes! A beheaded, de-tentacled calamari with (only just) wings! That pretty little Falco doesn't stand a chance.

Nigel Moll

I have already complimented Lynette on the Stipa Macaroni. It is a wonderful project. And you know my high regard for all the Zuccoli group.

At first, I thought it was just one of the better looking RV-4s, but I then concluded that is a barrel without a proper bung, that got skewered by a surf board.

Dean Hall

Cool plane. Looks like what you'd get if you took Snoopy's doghouse plane and used the Shift-Option "transformation" key command from WildTools.

Andy Caldwell

That is so cool! Remember Bruce McCall's and Brock Yates's totally un-PC Playboy Magazine article in the '70s about ethnic warplanes? The Italian fighter was double-ended, cockpit and engine at each end so that it could change allegiances instantly? The Russian bomber looked like a locomotive with wings? This thing would have been a perfect addition, though I'm not sure in which category.

Stephan Wilkinson

Looks like a runway vacuum cleaner disguised as an airplane.

Bo Clawson

What do you get when you cross a falcon with a pig?

Gregory La Vardera

It looks like the new iPlane to me, with a custom paint job...

Patrick Marr

At last, Snoopy gets a real plane!

Derek Dubout

Is that the aircraft equivalent of the Popemobile?

Rick Blanchard

It's actually not an airplane; it's a really cool concept car for Gen Y-ers. You can keep your beer cool in the big air duct. I wouldn't wanna fall off the cockpit.

George Larson

Flying used to have a category in the spec box called "entry-exit ease". Looks like a zero.

Peter Garrison

So that's what happened to the TravelAir Mystery Ship that went to Italy and pigged out on pasta and pizza.

Mike Jerram

The Falco meets the bastard child of a Gee Bee racer and an Antonov An-226.

L. W. Mahalak, III

I have tried Gas-x and Beano -- but if I ever pass this gas, I will be a jet and will fly with an endurance of at least four hours till my next Burrito

Ray McMaster

The craftsmanship is magnificent. But when was his last eye exam?

Robert Goldberg

Alfred has told me many times in response to my Falco questions, "These planes were built by people who drank wine for lunch, and then went back to work". So then, is this what happens when one starts drinking quite a-ways before lunch?

Duane Root

Is the one to the right going to eat the one to the left?

Owe Rudbeck

Sex-on-wings meets safe-sex-on wings.

Warning: Never circumcise an airplane while intoxicated.

Brad Bellows

Uh, I'll take the red one!

Looks like a case of a Falco eating too much home cooking. Falco owners need to take care of their girls when they're young so they don't turn out like this.

Pierre Wildman

For God's sake, WHY?

Cecil Rives

Monica Lewinsky reborn as an airplane.

Bill Clinton's worst nightmare.

Name Withheld

It's amazing what you can do with tempra paints and an ordinary toilette paper roll!

Rick Fitzwater

"Say Red, do you think this fabric makes my tail look big?"

Before and after the Liposuction procedure.

Richard Dickerson

"Dr. Frati, I will swallow you whole!"

John Devoe

"I told you to stick to the plans." A. Scott.

Stefan Svilich

Come on, guys. Give this little guy (well, not so little) a break. If the same concept was realized in Texas, it would have a saddle on top instead of a cockpit...

Leonid Strakovsky

Thank God that Dr. Frati made the deal with you, Alfred. Who knows what your second choice would be....

Todd Covey

I can forgive somebody for starting this project. But there is NO excuse for finishing it! AMAZING!

Chuck Gallup

My aircraft design professor used to say "Bottom line, if it looks good, it will probably fly good". 'Nuff said.

Nick Seidel

It's unconscionably beautiful. Enough to make a spruce tree blush with envy.

Kas Thomas

Does it whistle when flown?

Ed Kolano

"I love it !" But I bet a major beer company like Budweiser would like it even more. I can just see the commercials they could come up with with this baby.

Kurt Stanley

An extra-large meat-smoker you can fly to the barbecue event! Those brilliant Italians!

My God! I just noticed. It has a tandem seat. Two people can be embarrassed at the same time!

Mike Florey

....so one day in West Virginia, after a few too many beers, we found this big ol' exhaust fan they took outta the Consolidated Coal mine when it shut down....

Robert G. Ebbecke

You have no doubt heard of the Bass-O-matic blender. Well this thing is a Whale-O-matic!

Al Flesher

This barrel-shape design could be popular with Burgundy vineyard owners. I have to check that with them, there might be a business opportunity!

Andrej Cakmak

Looks like instead of the airplane you flew to wind tunnel itself.

Jim Porter

Hang a net on the back and dive in the lake, and you would have the fish already for the frying pan. All Choppy up.

Terry and Donna Clayton

I really do not think there is anything funny about the Stipa Caproni. I am proud to say that my uncle, Luigi, had a lot to do with this plane.

Geno E. Stipa

Volkswagen had the beetle -- Caproni the bug.

Ron Rayner

I think that many people have missed the point with this aeroplane. She was built by Caproni with a definate purpose in mind, to build a machine that would make the most of a tube as a means of harnessing thrust from a small engine. Many have followed in its tracks albeit with a shrouded fan. The fact that it may look strange means nothing. The whole point was it succeeded in proving a principle.

I hold nothing but respect for the great imaginative designer that Caproni was.

Barry Clay

I was surprised to see you qualify this as the ugliest plane ever. I think it is the cutest plane ever... it seems to be coming right out of a Disney Cartoons !

Rolf Dergham

At any air show, the Stipa Caproni, would get more attention than any other plane on the field. I love it.

Chuck Oswald