Monday, 14 March 2011

Macchi C.202 first kills

During the summer of 1941, Italian fighter units started to receive the first examples of the new Macchi C. 202 fighter. Built around the DB 601 engine and designed with particular attention for aerodynamics - thank sto the company's experience in the Schneider Trophy -, the Folgore promised to give Italian pilots a new mount, able to fight on equal terms and even outclass RAF fighters, thanks to its top speed of 600 km/h (372 mph) and service ceiling of 11,500 m (37,730 ft).

The first fighter squadron to receive the aircraft was 97° Squadriglia. On 30 September, at around 14.00, Comiso airfield was attacked by five Hurricanes from No.185 Squadron. Three C.202s flown by Sottotenente Jacopo Frigerio, Tenente Luigi Tessari and Sergente Maggiore Massimo Salvatore scrambled to intercept the intruders: in the ensuing dogfight, Frigerio shoot down Hurricane Z5265 flown by Pilot Officer Lintern, who bailed out 15 km south of Gozo. Sadly, Lintern was never seen again.
Jacopo Grigerio
After the battle, a Cant-Z.506 rescue seaplane started a searching mission escorted by the three C.202s. Off the Sicilian coast the flight ran into five Hurricanes of No. 185 Squadron escorting a Fulmar, both formations looking for Pilot Officer Lintern. A second dogfight developed, and the Fulmar was shot down by Tenente Tessari. The Fulmar's crew, Lieutenant Eyres and Sub Lieutenant Furlong bailed out and were picked up by a Swordfish seaplane. Tessari's plane was also damaged by fire from the Hurricanes.
The following day seven Macchis from 73° Squadriglia took off from Comiso; led by Maggiore Pluda, the fighters' task was to cover two reconaissance Macchi C.200. One fighter had to abort the mission, the others went on and midway between Sicily and Malta ecountered eight Hurricanes, again from No. 185 Squadron. The Macchis were at 8,000 m, in a fovourable position above the Hurricanes and dove on them. After the fist pass the RAF fighters scattered and broke off the engagements, returning to Malta; one aircraft was lost and one damaged; the downed pilot was Squadron Leader Peter "Boy" Mould. His victor was Tenente Bonfatti, who saw his opponent took on his parachute. Flying Officer Murch came back badly damaged. Capitano Ivaldi was also damaged and belly landed on the Sicilian beach of Pozzallo.
A search and rescue operations was carried out by Swordfish flights, but Mould was sadly never found.
Sqn Ldr Mould

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