By Ugo Vicenzi

The Aeronautica Militare italiana (AMI) is promoting aviation culture and interest in the Air Force with Aeronautic Culture Training courses, specifically geared toward secondary school students. Every year, personnel of the 60° Stormo (60th Wing) from Guidonia, near Rome, visit five regions across Italy, bringing military history docents and pilots to train groups of 180 students in each session. Guidonia is a historic site and very important for Italian Air Force heritage. In fact, during the pre-war period it hosted the historical department of the Air Force and now is the site of the Selection Center for new Air Force airmen.

Students attend a fully immersive course where subjects include generic aviation, basic aeronautical engineering principals, instruments familiarization, flight safety, meteorology, engines, and navigation. Lessons are also mixed with flights on the SIAI 208M of the 60° Stormo. The objective of these courses are to get students interested in aviation, and at the same time to attract them to the Air Force as possible future recruits. At the end of the first week there is a first evaluation, after which the best students will have the option to fly in the SIAI 208M as copilots.  These chosen students will be allowed to perform basic maneuvers under the supervision of the instructor, while the other students will be passengers on the flights.

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The instructors try to promote partnership between students and familiarization with airplanes, while avoiding any harsh competition. Is there still competition? Yes, there are awards at the end of every course. In fact, the top two students of each course are sent to Guidonia for a full seaplane training, where at the end of the program they receive the coveted glider license.  For students this is a unique chance to experience the world of flight by engaging in hands-on sessions.  For the AMI it is a chance to share knowledge about the values of its mission and attract new prospects for the Air Force.

The airplanes used are SIAI-S208M,  military designation U-208A. It is a militarized version of the light utility and trainer airplane that first flew in 1967. An order of fourty-five airplanes were first ordered by Aeronautica Militare back in 1967 for liaison and banner towing missions. About twenty are still in service at 60° Stormo. In honor of the 100th anniversary of  the Italian Air Force a few airplanes were painted with special color schemes. One in particular was dedicated to Arturo Ferrarin, one of the greatest aviators in Italian history, author of the famous Roma to Tokyo raid in 1920.

These images depict the last course for 2023 at the Valbrembo airport, near Bergamo in northern Italy.