Costantino Petrosellini

Italian Ace, Costantino Petrosellini; Macchi MC.200

There are 350 limited edition prints in this series. 12×18″

Buy Now With Credit Cards

Limited Edition, Signed by the Ace. $75.00

All signatures by both the Aviator and the Artist is done in soft graphic pencil.

Shipping $6.00 anywhere in the world.

Buy Now With Credit Cards

Poster Print $14.95

Poster prints are not autographed or numbered.

Costantino Petrosellini’s Story

“Lt. Col. Costantino Petrosellini”

Costantino Petrosellini was born on April 17, 1921 in Rome, Italy . His family is descendents from an ancient Roman family with a proud history in the Italian military and the arts. After graduating from high school in 1938 he joined the Regia Aerinautica. As a student officer at the pilot academy of Nisidia ( Naples ) he earned his wings in the spring of 1940 with the rank of 2nd Lieutenant. He was assigned to the 63rd Gruppo, 41stSquadriglia at Udine Air Base in Northern Italy flying a Ro.37 reconnaissance aircraft. Here he got combat experience by flying numerous recon and strafing missions over Yugoslavia.

In July 1941 he began training as a fighter pilot in the Macchi Mc.200 and was assigned to the 8th Gruppo, 92nd Squadriglia. His unit was deployed to North Africa, taking part in the battle of El Alamein. Petrosellini’s first aerial victory was an RAF Martin Maryland shot down near Tobruk. His second was during a ground attack against English transport vehicles. His flight was bounced by RAF P-40 Kittyhawks. Petrosellini was able to outmaneuver one of the heavy P-40’s and shot it down, however his flight lost two aircraft.

In December 1942 the battered 8th Gruppo was transferred back to Italy and assigned to Sarzana Air Base. Here their responsibility was to provide air defense for the Italian Naval Base at La Spezia. This area was a prime target for the Allies due to the large amount of Axis shipping. On June 21, 1943, while flying an air defense patrol, Petrosellini was ordered south to Livorno. English aircraft were attacking an Italian tanker. Upon arriving at the ship Petrosellini spotted two R.A.F. Beaufighter’ s very low on the water trying to escape after their attack.

As Petrosellini dove on the Beaufighter’s they split, one right and one left. Petrosellini chose one and got as close as possible before firing. His bullets were accurate as the enemy aircraft exploded in front of him. Within a second Petrosellini found himself with his open cockpit fighter flying through the flames and wreckage of the enemy aircraft. Fortunately no damage occurred to Petrosellini’s fighter. The other Beaufighter had made a 360 degree turn and was bearing down on Petrosellini with cannons blazing. Both aircraft maneuvered wildly until the pilots turned in opposite directions and returned to base. “In Petrosellini’s own words “He simply disappeared!”

Little did he know that his fourth victory would change an enemy into a life long friend. On July 28th 1943 near Pisa he intercepted a RAF Martin Baltimore bomber. Petrosellini commented, “A very good pilot flew this aircraft, he maneuvered the bomber expertly and with precision.” After a long and exhausting fight Petrosellini was able to gain enough hits to bring down the Baltimore in the sea near Livorno. The crew was captured and taken to Pisa Air Base. Here Petrosellini was able to meet the pilot, whose name was “Bax”. Petrosellini was able to praise the Englishman on his flying.

His fifth and final victory was on September 3rd 1943 while on patrol over La Spezia. His air base warned Petrosellini that a flight of enemy bombers were incoming. He turned to the heading given but saw no bombers. His radio blasted, “You are amongst them!” Nothing above so Petrosellini rolled his Mc.200 on its back and directly beneath him flew 24 B-17s! Petrosellini dove and singled out a bomber firing as he approached. He passed between two B-17’s in formation that were less than 50’ apart. His attack was a complete surprise! The B-17 that bore the initial brunt of his attack was smoking. Petrosellini pulled out of his dive and came back for a second pass. As he concentrated his fire on the wounded B-17, the bomber group was ready for him.

The American gunners unleashed a massive volley of .50 caliber fire. Petrosellini’s fighter took numerous hits in the fuselage, wings and cockpit. Miraculously Petrosellini was not hit as his world seemed to explode around him. Petrosellini saw four parachutes from the stricken B-17, which was in its fatal dive. Petrosellini dove away from the bombers for an emergency landing at Sarzana Air Base.

With his landing gear damaged, Petrosellini was able to gravity drop his gear. His flaps for landing did not operate with their controls shot out. He came in fast but was able to stop the Macchi while blowing both tires! There was thick smoke in the cockpit and so much damage Petrosellini assumed that he was on fire! He immediately jumped out of the cockpit and tore off his flight suit.

As emergency vehicles arrived with his squadron mates they started laughing at him as saw him jumping around. He stood in his underwear as they pulled up. Petrosellini also laughed once he realized he was not injured. Petrosellini was amazed that he flew through a hornet’s nest of fifty caliber missiles and lived! His MC.200 was riddled with American bullet holes. The B-17 came down in the water in front of Marina di Massa blowing out windows along the marina.

After the truce of September 1943 Petrosellini sided with the Allies and joined the Aeronautica Co-Belligerante. 8 Gruppo was relocated to Lecce Air Base in Southern Italy. He was made Commander of 94 squadron in the spring of 1944. He flew the Mc.200 until June 1944 when his squadron received Macchi Mc.202 fighters. His personal Mc.202 was marked “94-1”. His unit flew mainly ground attack and bomber escort missions across the Adriatic into Yugoslavia and Albania. November 1944 he led eight Mc.202s to attack Berat airfield in Albania destroying 28 Junkers Ju52 transports parked there.

Petrosellini ended the war with five air victories. He was awarded 3 silver medals for military gallantry, the war cross, and a promotion for war gallantry.

After the war he became an instructor pilot on the T-33, Vampire, and F-86. In 1954 he was chosen for Test Pilot school and in May 1956 became the initial pilot to fly Italy’s first mach 1 fighter the Ambrosini “Sagittario II”. He left the Air Force and joined Alitalia, national airlines of Italy, in December 1956. Flying the Convair 340/440, DC-6, DC-8, and Boeing 747 on routes all over the world until his retirement in 1981. He currently lives in Rome with his wife Adriana, whom he married in 1941. They have three successful children Luigi (Alitalia manager), Alberto (Doctor), and Rafaela (Architect).

Written by Garth Didlick, Edited by Sir Hamilton.

A.P._Mc.200_A

Painting by Sir Ernie Hamilton Boyette

Aircraft Development

by Sir Hamilton

The Italians were interested in the development of aircraft from the very beginning. Leonardo DaVinci drew the first known sketching of the parachute, the helicopter, and the glider. Within a few years of the Wright Brother’s milestone achievement, the Italians were airborne. World War One gave Italy the opportunity to develop, manufacture, and pilot top line fighters and bombers. Italy was obtaining international attention with the development of their aircraft industry. After the war Italian aviators set distance records along with winning many air races. Italy set out to be a front runner in aviation development. Civilian aircraft production advanced as well. Twin and three engine airliners were developed for civilian air travel. However as most of us know, Italy did not keep up with America, England and Germany in aircraft development.

As with Germany and Russia, Italy also contributed to the Spanish Civil War gaining too much confidence in their aircraft’s performance when they were actually fighting against aircraft of their own caliber or lower. Italy entered World War II flying both bi-winged and mono-winged fighters. The Macchi M.C.200 “Saetta” fighter is the subject of this web page.

The fighter was powered by a fourteen cylinder 870 hp Fiat A74RC38 engine. This gave the fighter a top speed of 312 mph. The top altitude the fighter could reach was 29,000 feet, but with an open cockpit it tended to get very cold. The armament was two 12.7mm Breta-SAFAT machine guns in the cowling. Later models were equipped with two additional 12.7mm machine guns, one in each wing. The open cockpit was actually a request from the pilots that were so use to that type of aircraft. They wanted unlimited visibility when in combat.

The fighter was light weight and easy to manufacture. The wing span was thirty four feet eight and a half inches. It was twenty six feet, ten and a half inches long. Stretch fabric with retractable landing carriage and a fixed rear landing gear. It was a nibble fighter and in the hands of a tenacious fighter pilot the C.200 was lethal. Easy to learn to fly and very forgiving platform for aerial combat, the MC.200 was excellent in combat acrobatics. The limited punch from gun fire made the aviator who became and ace in the C.200 more of a skilled marksman than a flying ace. The two 12.7mm machine guns would bring down or damage another aircraft in combat but you had to get in close before you fired. That is what Ugo Drago told me of his experiences flying the MC.200.

The MC.200 first flew on December 24, 1937 and was delivered to Italian squadrons by October 1939. Aeronautica Macchi produced one of the best fighters of WWII with this design by Mario Castoldi. Mario already had a reputation with successful designs in record breaking Schneider seaplanes.

In combat the MC.200 held its weight with many allied fighters especially the English Hurricane and the P-40. The MC.200 saw more combat during the war than any other Italian fighter. The MC.200 served in North Africa to the Russian Front. Italian Squadrons claimed eighty eight Russian aircraft with the loss of only fifteen C.200’s.

Tenente Costantino Petrosellini flew the above C.200 with 92a Squadriglia. The 92nd was attached to the 8 Gruppo, 2 Stormo at Sarzana in August 1943. The color scheme of the fighter was a standard “Home Front” combination of dark olive green on the fuselage sides and upper wing surfaces with light blue gray on the bottom areas. Petrosellini claimed four of his five aerial victories flying this fighter including an American B-17 bomber. Records show that Petrosellini’s last victory was also the last for the Regina Aeronautica and the last for this rugged Italian fighter, the Macchi MC.200.

This specific model of the MC.200 had new wings. To improve high altitude performance the wings of the MC.200 was replaced with the wings of the MC.202 fighter. The fighter also had a new radio. Amazing enough that many Italian fighters had no radio’s in the beginning of the war.

squad art 8_GRUPPO_Italian

The artwork above shows the Group artwork on the top with each squadron, 92, 93, 94, and 95 below.

Photo_Petrosellini_Didlick

This is a photo of Italian Ace, Costantino Petrosellini and Garth Didlick.

photo_Petroselli 3

Garth visited with Petrosellini at his home in Rome. Here is the Ace with his metals.

A.P._Mc.200_D.jpg

Great photos by Garth in an Italian Aviation Museum.

A.P._Mc.200_C

I visited this museum when I was in Italy visiting with Ugo Drago.

photo_Petroselli 2.jpg

A.P._Mc.200_B2

This is the drawing the Ace sent me to go by for my painting.

The first deployed C.200 fighters had enclosed canopies that slid back to open. The pilots hated the restriction they felt from the enclosed canopy. The pilots were from the era of WWI bi-winged fighters that could loop and dip and cartwheel with ease. The Italian fighter pilot was not aware that the new fighter aircraft would be larger, more high powered, well armed and using the latest technologies available. The current Italian pilots were too “old schooled.” Like some of the Japanese pilots that chose light weight maneuverable fighters over armor protection for the pilot. The Italian pilots demanded that the fighter be redesigned to have an open canopy. Later in the Russian campaign the Italian pilots hated the open canopy when it was cold. Can you imagine flying this fighter in the Russian winter? It did hurt the ability to fight at times.

Ugo Drago told me that he liked the C.200 but the open canopy definitely had its disadvantages.

How all this happened:

Garth Didlick contacted me in the summer of 2007. He had bought several of my prints off the internet from other art dealers in the spring. On the bottom of each of my prints I have my name, address and phone number. One night Garth called me and told me that he had bought a print of P-51 Ace, Donald Bryan, and Tuskegee Airman Ace, Lee Archer. He thanked me for my talent and I thanked him for buying my artwork.

Garth told me that he was leaving within days to Rome, Italy to visit with Costantino Petrosellini. He wanted to know if I had Ugo Drago’s address so he could visit Drago while he was in Rome. I told Garth that I did not have Drago’s address and that I was under the impression that he was no longer with us. In my next contact with Garth he confirmed that Drago had indeed passed away. Garth wanted to know if I wanted to do another Italian Ace print? I said sure, so Garth has worked with me on this web page honoring Italian Ace, Costantino Petrosellini and the proper painting of his fighter.

I am in the process of publishing a limited edition print of Petrosellini’s C.200 Below is my painting of his fighter with the ace. I have a few corrections to make on the painting when it returns from Italy. I am going to let Garth write the story on the print of Petrosellini’s aerial combat adventures. Garth’s name will be labeled on the print as the author of the text. I will be listed as the artist. The profile I worked from is provided by Osprey Aircraft of the Aces. On page 52 of the book Italian Aces of WW2, is the art rendering they have of Petrosellini’s C.200. Petrosellini sent me an e-mail stating that I needed to add to the painting his victories and dates of the victories on the tail.  I also need to add the name of his newly born son painted behind the cockpit in red, “GIGINO.”

photo_Petroselli 1

photo_Petroselli 1A

Here is Ace, Costantino Petrosellini with my painting. The original artwork has been sold but I have several that are 24×36″ that have also been autographed by the pilot and are available for sale. $2,500.00.

How many Italian Ace signatures do you have?

Squadron_Italian_Crown