The aircraft for today is the CANT Z.506 Airone aka Heron which was developed by the company named CANT (Cantieri Riuniti dell ‘Adriatico) in Italy back in 1936 their three-engine floatplane. This aircraft served its roles as the postal and the transport aircraft for the Italian airline company known by the name Ala Littoria. The aircraft was an exceptional one during tits era as it went on to set nearly 10 world records for aviation back in 1936 and then 10 more in the year 1937.
The CANT Z.506 Airone not only served its commercial purposes but also was used as the reconnaissance and a lightweight bomber during World War II by the following branches of Italian and Nazi Germany military.
- Italian Regia Aeronautica
- Regia Marina
- Aeronautica Cobelligerante del Sud
- Aeronautica Nazionale Repubblicana
The military variant for the CANT Z.506 Airone proved itself to be one for the best ever floatplanes built to serve their purpose. The aircraft had a wooden structure but it a till able to perform at its exceptional capacity even at rough seas. Quite a few of the CANT Z.506 Airone remained with Italy for their search and rescue missions over the seas until the year 1959.
For or readers, we have gathered a bunch of interesting facts about the CANT Z.506 Airone aka Heron, the World War II reconnaissance aircraft.
Origin and First Prototype development:-
The original design purpose of the CANT Z.506 Airone was to build a floatplane for transport purposes which had 12 to 14 seats as the twin-float seaplane. The aircraft was powered by three of the 455 kW radial engines that had been used for this aircraft form the previous seaplane model Z.505. The production of the CANT Z.506 Airone was started by a company named CANT () back in 1935 at the factories coated in Finale Ligure and Monfalcone. The demand for these seaplanes went on to be so big that even the company named Piaggo started producing them on license from CANT. The very first time this aircraft entered the service was for a commercial airline named Ala Littoria.
As for the military version of the CANT Z.506 Airone, it appeared back in 1936 with nearly 15 of the civilian models getting redesigned to serve the purpose. The aircraft was designated as Z.506B and had 3 of the 560 kW Alfa Romeo 127RC 55 engines. This military variant entered the service back in 1939.
The design for the CANT Z.506 Airone was unique of all the seaplanes of its era which made it really stand out. The main reason for its fame was the tri-engine design in which the engines were fixed on the wings.
As for the fuselage, it was streamlined from the nose to the tail section. The fuselage section of the CANT Z.506 Airone sat on top of the reinforced struts which were attached to its 2 long floats which allowed or easier take-off and landing.
The aircraft offered its best capabilities when it was flown by Italy’s ace pilot named Mario Stoppani and managed to break records for altitude, distance and speed from the year 1936 to 1938. The aircraft at that time set the following records.
- Top speed 191.539 mph for a range of 3107 miles
- Top speed 200.118 mph for a range of 621 miles
As for a close circuit flight, it flew for a range of 3,345.225 miles.
Induction into Italian Navy:-
The Italian Navy took the immediate notice of this record-setting seaplane and adopted its tri-motor design to make a military variant by the designation Z.506B. This version had a deeper fuselage section as compared to the civilian ones. This was done to equip it with a bombing bay and a raised cockpit section for increased visibility of the outside. As for the crew acclamation, it allowed for 5 personals to sit inside.
Powerplant and other specs:-
The aircraft was powered by 3 of the Alfa Romeo 126 RC 34 radial piston engines that created a power of 750 HP. This much power was able to propel this aircraft for a top speed of 226 mph for a range of 1706 miles. The aircraft had a maximum ceiling capability of 26247 feet.
The aircraft has the following standard armament configuration fitted on it.
- A single 12.7 mm Breda-SAFAT machine gun fitted on the dorsal turret
- 2 of the 7.7 mm Breda-SAFAT machine guns fitted on the beam fuselage side
- A single 7.7 mm Breda-SAFAT machine gun fitted on the ventral side
In addition to these standard armaments, the aircraft had a bomb-carrying capacity for 2600 lbs, which was used to carry ether drop bombs or a single torpedo weighing about 1800 lbs.
Italy providing Nazi Germany with the CANT Z.506:-
After the Spanish Civil War came to an end, Italy started showing interest in the war effort of the Nationalist Movement led by Nazi Germany alongside Portugal. This also included the delivery for war goods which included aircraft such as the CANT Z.506 Airone.
Italy taking part with Axis Power:-
World War II officially started back in September for 1939 as Germany invaded Poland. Poland had also ordered for 6 of the CANT Z.506 Airone but only one was delivered and that too got destroyed during the German invasion. In 1940, Italy joined the Axis power of Nazi Germany officially and they incorporated nearly 92 of the CANT Z.506 Airone in their 2 units of Italian Navy bombers.
During the course of World War II, nearly 70 of the CANT Z.506 Airone fell into the hands of Allied Forces after Italy surrendered.
Post World War II service:-
Ding post World War II era, Italy was able to get back their CANT Z.506 Airone from the allied forces for the Italian Air Force and was then used by the country as the search and rescue aircraft for sea missions. Their floatplane design and long-range with added endurance allowed them to be exceptional in this mission role. This is why the CANT Z.506 Airone still made its appearance during the era of the Cold War from 1959 to 1960.
Total number of CANT Z.506 produced and retirement:-
From the first year of the production of the CANT Z.506 Airone as the civilian aircraft in 1935 to the last time it was produced in 1942, nearly 324 of these CANT Z.506 Airone were manufactured. The last one was released from its service back in 1959.