Plane & Pilot
Tuesday, January 1, 2008

SIAI-Marchetti SF.260: Bellisimo In Tre Dimensioni

Yeah, it’s Italian, and if you’re thinking “flying Ferrari or Lamborghini,” you’re ABSOLUTELY right

In air-combat maneuvering mode, the Plexiglas sliding canopy provides you with as good a view of your adversary as you'll find in anything, except perhaps an F-16. Just hope you don't need to take a long cross-country over the desert in summer beneath all that Plexiglas.

It's not hard to understand why Marchettis make ideal air-combat planes. They offer military maneuverability, and partner Mike Patlin has flown with pilots from the test-pilot schools for the Air Force, Navy and the civilian National school, evaluating handling qualities.

As mentioned above, the engine on Bill's airplane (and the majority of other Marchettis) is carbureted, and that means you can't sustain inverted flight, at least not with the engine running. The Lycoming will spool down at the mere suggestion of negative G's. Hammerhead turns are a thing of beauty in the SF.260, but only if you keep the pitch to about 80 degrees. Arc the nose up to vertical, and the engine will quit long before you reach the stall. The SF.260 is technically approved for snap rolls, but neither Bill nor the other partners subject the airplane to such stresses.

As perhaps the most active partner on the SF.260, Bill couldn't be happier with his choice. "I can't imagine life without a Marchetti. I've always said I'd love to own a Spartan Executive someday, but I'd be unwilling to sell my Marchetti to get one."

Not everyone gets to fly an SF.260, and that's a shame. Though the SF.260 is a gorgeous design, it's one of those airplanes that can't truly be appreciated on the ground. Fly one and you'll love it. I absolutely guarantee it.

My opponent had anticipated my move. Unseen behind me, he had reversed and climbed above me, then reversed again and was looking down at me when I assumed I'd be looking down at him.

Unlike modern fighters that rely on heat-seeking missiles rather than guns, altitude is still an advantage in a Marchetti. In my case, my "enemy" locked on to my six and nailed me with a laser shot. Later, I found out he was an old Vietnam-era Phantom pilot turned 737 driver, renewing his acquaintance with air-combat maneuvering in one of the world's most agile airplanes.

SPECS: SIAI-Marchetti SF.260

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