With a steadfast commitment to preserving its esteemed aviation heritage, the Aeronautica Militare (AM) is taking proactive steps to ensure that its legacy continues to soar. Embracing innovation and forward-thinking initiatives, the Italian Air Force has announced plans to embark on a journey that celebrates its rich history and contributions to aviation. By safeguarding iconic aircraft, fostering educational experiences, and embracing technological advancements, the Italian Air Force is poised to lead the way in honoring its past while inspiring future generations of aviators.

One of the hangars at Piacenza San Damiano Air Base during the presentation of the Flying Museum initiative. The NVPA (Nucleo Valorizzazione Patrimonio Aeronautico) currently maintains the newly restored FIAT G.91 a Tornado (static only) the recently arrived AMX Ghibli and several other artifacts and airplanes. Photo: Aeronautica Militare

On April 11, 2024, at San Damiano Air Base, home of the NVPA (Nucleo Valorizzazione Patrimonio Aeronautico), General Francesco Vestito, Commander of the 1st Flight Region of the Italian Air Force, announced a plan for the creation of a “Flying Museum” which will be located in San Damiano, near Piacenza, in northern Italy. A special area will be created that is separated from the actual military airport which will serve as the host area for this museum of historic aircraft.  The museum will be home to both static and airworthy aircraft, a section dedicated to flight simulators where adults and children will be able to climb on aircraft mockups, an interactive area where visitors have the opportunity to try on a pilot’s flight suit and offer the ability to experience the excitement of flight in the selection of airworthy aircraft. The project will further include an engine exhibition area, a conference room, a restaurant, a shopping area, and a playground for children.

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General Francesco Vestito addresses the guests during the presentation. Photo: Aeronautica Militare.

The event took place concurrent with the arrival of the four AMX Ghibli that were recently retired from operational duty and transferred to San Damiano to become part of the NVPA (Nucleo Valorizzazione Patrimonio Aeronautico). Two single-seat and two dual-seat Ghibli will be kept in flying condition with all parts, paperwork, and documentation kept current and accessible. The decision to maintain the Ghibli to this level was made in accordance with the difficulties and bureaucratic hurdles that VolaFenice and AM encountered to resurrect the FIAT G.91 more than 30 years after its retirement. The four AMX will not fly regularly but they will be ready to do so in instances where the AM decides it is a necessity to utilize these aircraft.

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During the presentation of the program, General Vestito mentioned that this facility will also need to house maintenance and conservation activities for the aircraft. In fact, the intention is not to have an overabundance of aircraft parked in the museum, but rather key aircraft, most with the ability to be started and flown at any time. This will be the case, along with the four Ghibli, for the two HH-212 helicopters, which have concluded their operational life after over 40 years of missions in Italy and abroad.

In recent years, largely thanks to the 2023 Centenary, the Aeronautica Militare has increased the focus and funding toward its aviation heritage. Initiatives like the remodeling of the Air Force Museum, the MUSAM, hosting several events in Italian city squares, working with private companies to resurrect engines, and supporting aircraft restoration and preservation show an expanded commitment to heritage and education by the Aeronautica Militare.

One of the hangar of the base is dedicated to a storage facility for several engines. Photo by Ugo Vicenzi

Speaking on the future of this project, General Vestito said, “Today, we lit a match, a spark. We are building a solid plan which we hope will be supported by local government entities and the private sector.” This ambitious endeavor not only celebrates the illustrious history of the Aeronautica Militare, but also underscores its enduring importance in the annals of Italian military history, as well as, aviation history in general.