Filippo Zappata

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Dr. Ing.Filippo Zappata
(around 1935)

Filippo Zappata (born July 6, 1894 in Ancona , † August 30, 1994 in Gallarate near Milan ) was an Italian engineer and aircraft designer . Zappata became famous for its bombers , seaplanes and large passenger aircraft, which were constructed between 1933 and 1942 at CRDA and later at Breda . The highlights of his activity were the three-engine bomber CRDA Cant Z.1007 , the four-engine Cant Z.511 as the largest floatplane in the world, and the four-engine Breda-Zappata BZ308 passenger aircraft , the largest aircraft ever built in Italy. From 1951 he worked for Agusta , where he first designed a four-engine airliner again with the Agusta AZ.8 and then constructed various helicopters up to the age of 69 .



After school and high school in his hometown of Ancona, Filippo Zappata, who was interested in shipping as a child, began his studies at the secondary school for marine technology in Genoa . The outbreak of World War I (Italy did not enter the war until May 23, 1915) interrupted his training. As an officer of the Bersaglieri he found himself in various battles on the Alpine front , where he was seriously wounded in 1917 near Tolmin . After his recovery, in the second half of 1918 he was assigned a post in a department of the technical services of the aviation troops ( Corpo Aeronautico Militare ), and aviation never let him go. Immediately after the end of the war in November 1918, he continued his studies in Genoa, and after receiving his doctorate as Dr. Engineer in ship technology and aircraft construction, he began his professional activity for the small aircraft factory Gabardini in Cameri near Novara ( Piedmont ).

First time at CRDA

A few years later he went to Monfalcone near Trieste to the CRDA , the "United Adriatic Shipyards" of the Cosulich brothers . There he quickly advanced to a managerial position and became one of the chief designers around 1924. Filippo Zappata now pushed ahead with his aviation activities, but, to his disappointment, encountered increasing difficulties in Italy in implementing his projects, which were partly revolutionary at the time. He then decided in early 1929 to emigrate to France because he saw no prospect of being able to work according to his ideas in his home country.

At Blériot in France

In France, he immediately began to work with the then legendary pilot and designer Louis Blériot , one of the pioneering aviation pioneers . In 1930 he designed the Blériot-Zappata Z.110 with Blériot , which won an airplane race and set a record. That was Zappata's international breakthrough as an aircraft designer, because from then on he was considered an extraordinarily talented and capable man in the entire aviation world. Numerous companies at home and abroad endeavored to sign him. Now Benito Mussolini's fascist regime became aware of him and told him that they wanted him to work for Italy again in an Italian company.

Second time at CRDA

In consultation with the Italian government, CRDA made him an attractive offer and Zappata returned to his old employer in Monfalcone in 1933. He stayed there for nine years. Thanks to the aggressive rearmament policy of the fascist regime that began around 1932, he no longer had any problems realizing his ideas and plans. Supported by his idealism, the general enthusiasm for aviation worldwide at that time (which the fascist regime of Italy also knew how to skillfully exploit) and the orders from the Regia Aeronautica for new military aircraft , he worked with great commitment on his projects. Filippo Zappata designed numerous types of aircraft, both land and seaplanes for civil and military use, which could be recognized by the designation Cant Z. (Z for Zappata). Above all, his seaplanes became well known outside of Italy. The aircraft designed by Zappata proved to be very successful, both in the civil and in the military field. Zappata's machines were also successful in aircraft races and were able to set numerous records. His best-known designs included the three-engined medium bomber CRDA Cant Z.1007 Alcione (kingfisher) and the four-engined Cant Z.511 Idrogigante (giant floatplane ), which is still the largest floatplane in the world, with which originally even an attack in New York harbor was planned was. A further development of the Cant Z.1007 appeared with the CRDA Cant Z.1018 Leone (Lion), which was without a doubt the best medium bomber in Italy and at the same time also the first all-metal aircraft from Zappata.

Chief Designer at Breda

In the middle of 1942, Zappata took the post of chief designer in the aviation department of the mechanical engineering group Breda in Sesto San Giovanni , a suburb of Milan. Some models that he had designed at CRDA were built there under license (including the Cant Z.1007 bomber), so that when he switched to Breda, he did not lose touch with "his" machines, and in some cases CRDA continued to help out. However, due to the worsening war situation, only one prototype was completed under him, the Breda BZ.303 Leone II (Lion II), a twin-engine bomber and multi- role aircraft that was a further development of the already very advanced and powerful CRDA Cant Z.1018 before American bombers almost completely destroyed the entire plant and the works airfield in several air raids in April 1944. Some CRDA Cant Z.1018 ordered by the German Air Force , as well as many other aircraft under construction, were destroyed. Immediately afterwards Zappata Breda helped by German director in the reconstruction, which with only one exception ( IMAM now fully established) in northern Italy aviation industry until the war ended in May 1945 aircraft for the German Air Force and the Aviazione Nazionale Repubblicana (ANR) of the Social Republic of Italy produced or repaired. Another derivative of the CRDA Cant Z.1018 Leone , the Breda BZ.301 Leone III (Lion III) as a heavy fighter, remained a draft due to the war.

His life's work at Breda

After the Second World War , Zappata stayed with Breda and immediately took over the management of the design and construction of the large and at the time extremely modern four-engine passenger aircraft Breda-Zappata BZ308 . This technically advanced machine, which was designed by Zappata during the war and which was ahead of its time, was intended by Breda to restore the prestige of the Italian aviation industry, accelerate its reconstruction and secure the future economic success of the company. The BZ.308 had its maiden flight in 1948 and was actually supposed to be exported all over the world, but for political reasons or pressure from the USA , production could not start despite several orders from abroad, and under these unfortunate circumstances the aircraft remained a one-off. It served as the presidential plane for a few years until it was sold to the Italian Air Force , which used it as a transport aircraft . Filippo Zappata had now reached the absolute climax of his career as an aircraft designer. He was only marginally involved in the final Breda aircraft, the Breda-Pittoni BP471 , because in this case Mario Pittoni , another long-serving Breda engineer, was in charge.

Chief designer at Agusta

In 1951, immediately after the final closure of the aircraft department in Breda, Zappata moved to Agusta in Cascina Costa di Samarate near Varese . However, the company specialized in the license production of US American helicopters from Bell and also built various kinds of motorcycles as MV Agusta , which were extremely successful in races and later made history. Although Agusta had actually already stopped building an airplane, the construction of an airplane was tackled again under Zappata, albeit for the last time. The Agusta AZ.8 , which first flew in 1958, was a four-engine airliner , but smaller than the Breda-Zappata BZ308 and not intended for long-haul use. But only one copy of this machine was built, but this time because all the available capacities were needed to build the helicopter. At about the same time, Zappata developed the Agusta AZ.1 , a twin-engine medium- haul passenger aircraft with a pressurized cabin , which could be equipped with both turboprop engines and piston engines . Then Zappata worked for Agusta on the construction of his own helicopter models, the successor models of which are still successful worldwide today. Towards the end of 1963, Zappata quit his job for Agusta and retired.

Filippo Zappata died on August 30, 1994 at the age of 100 in Gallarate , near Milan .

Famous aircraft

Note : Military series are shown in italics




  • Giorgio Evangelisti, Giuseppe Zappata: Le navi aeree di Filippo Zappata. Olimpia, Florence 1996 (Italian).