No Toys for Old Men

Pure love for aviation can be expressed by working on aero engines, becoming a private aircraft pilot and even throughout model aircraft, something very serious and incredibly close to reality.

july 2019

"Aeritalia Informazioni, I-BIAP at waiting point 28R, is ready for departure." The control tower replies: "I-BIAP, Aeritalia Informazioni, line up and takeoff at your discretion. The wind is calm. Take it back downwind. We're all with you, kid!" It is like listening to an incomprehensible foreign language. But it is aviation jargon, used by real pilots.

"I line up on the arrows that indicate the relocated threshold bar, Monte Musinè is straight in front of me. I stop the plane and give a last check of the directional gyro (the instrument used in air navigation to check flight direction, ed.). Then I throttle up to 1,800 rpm and release the brakes! I softly hold the centerline. The air starts acting on the wing. I feel lighter already. Looking at the anemometer as I reach 65 miles per hour, I have to pull up! So, I pull the center stick towards me and finally... take off! From above, I can see the unmistakable skyline of Turin, with the Mole and a little to the right the Basilica of Superga. It's a very cold Wednesday afternoon of November, and the shadows are already long. As ordered, I bring the tower downwind. It's like I've been doing it forever, but this time I'm flying alone!

This is how, in November 2009, Francesco Mandriota, born in 1992 in Turin, became a student pilot: after passing this first step, a few years later he became a private pilot. Francesco's immense passion for airplanes began when he was a child. Today, in addition to being a Materials Planning & Execution Specialist at Avio Aero in Rivalta, he is also a great expert in model airplanes.

A Eurofighter Typhoon scale model looking so real

His career in the world of aeronautics began at the end of middle school: he enrolled at the Istituto Tecnico Aeronautico "Carlo Grassi" in Turin and graduated as an Air Transport Expert. It is a fast paced curriculum, without a single deviation. Immediately after graduation, he took a two-year post-grad course called "ITS - Istituto Tecnico Superiore - Meccatronica per l'Aerospazio" [Mechatronics for Aerospace], which required 1,800 hours - of which 600 hours as an intern in a company. It was during this course that Francesco first met Avio Aero, directly involved in teaching some of the subjects of the course.

That is how Francesco was introduced to Avio Aero, through a couple of internships at a very young age. In the meantime, he continued to develop his skills and knowledge, even studying to become an Air Traffic Controller. After an experience at Leonardo Helicopters in Vergiate (Varese), in November 2014 Francesco got a call from the headquarters in Rivalta: this time in Logistics. In 2016, he joined the division where he works currently: Product Fulfillment where he has the opportunity to serve customers directly with the aim of satisfying their needs. 

Francesco, your path is definitely devoted to aeronautics in all its shapes and sizes... even model airplanes: how did you get interested in all this?

"Actually, I got into the world of aviation mostly due to model airplanes. Thanks to my passion, I learned right away about the history of flight, the pioneers of aviation, the aircraft and the characters who have left indelible traces over the more than one-hundred year history of Icarus's great dream. It is not just a hobby; rather, it is truelove. It all started on a Saturday afternoon when my mother, as usual, left me at the youth center to play with friends while my father was at the airfield flying his 'creatures'. Suddenly, I decided to go and find my mother to ask her to take me to the field with my father. From that day on, I went to the Collegno airfield to see the planes take off and land. I still -.can recall the sound of the Stinson L-5 Sentinels that pulled the gliders perfectly. It became a regular appointment for me, especially on weekends when - during landing - they flew over my house. And I looked at them in awe, waiting anxiously for the day when I could fly them."

Francesco Mandriota in action during models flight display

"Ayrton Senna used to fly model airplanes in his spare time as a technique to concentrate and win: he followed complex aerobatic flight programs, taking care details and learning to avoid mistakes"

And what does it mean for you today?

"For me, model airplanes are everything. Every Saturday afternoon, it's a must for me to hang around in Pianezza to fly model airplanes. But what I like most of all is flying on Sundays, constantly training, taking part to races and organizing events. I began competitive modeling in October 2002 with a small, dual-control powered glider. Since then, I switched to more and more sophisticated models, and became an independent pilot. After that test, it has been a constant climb, months of continuous training to achieve a great result: in 2008, I won F3A R / C6Aerobatics Italian Championship. Everybody thinks that model airplanes are a hobby for old people. But it is fun to remember that the great Formula 1 driver, Ayrton Senna, flew model airplanes in his spare time. He used this hobby as a technique to concentrate and win. He followed rigid, complex aerobatic flight programs, taking care of the details and getting used to not making mistakes. A winning technique, I daresay."

It also sounds like a very challenging competition from a technical viewpoint, doesn't it?

"Making model aircraft means knowing the fundamentals of aerotechnics, being able to determine the center of gravity of the model, the pressure center of the wing, the mobile surfaces that allow rotation, the perfect positioning of the engine, being able to create a propeller from scratch starting from a block of wood and much more. There are many complexities, especially if you start as a child when you come up against unknown areas such as mechanics and aerodynamics, but the challenge and satisfaction is in being able to understand and anticipate through the playing topics you encounter at school only many years later."

Three-modelists preparing a Sikorsky SH-3D helicopter model before the flight

What similarities do you find between your work in Avio Aero and modeling?

"There are many, because in both cases can’t be made mistakes. The success of a model airplane show - like customer satisfaction - is the result of an excellent teamwork where everyone is part of a great mosaic, whose perfect positioning is fundamental to achieve a brilliant result."

What is your greatest satisfaction as an Avio Aero employee, and as an air plane model maker?

"As for the job-related satisfaction is a daily occurrence, i.e. every time a customer receives what is requested. However, as a model airplane pilot, it was the performance in front of more than 125,000 people during the celebration for the 100th anniversary of Turin Airport / Aeritalia. At the end of the flight, I shook hands with Jan Slangen, Commander of the Frecce Tricolori: the photo marks one of the most beautiful memories of my life”. 

What is your next dream?

"As a great fan, I dream of flying with the Frecce Tricolori, experiencing the entire acrobatic program on board of the legendary Aermacchi MB339A/PAN. It's a demanding flight, with considerable stress. You need great mental and physical preparation. But who knows! Maybe that day will come, too!"

Mandriota, second up from the right, with his team at RIvalta

Aircraft modeling photos in page are courtesy of Lidie Berendsen ©

AUTHOR

Stefano Rostagno

Domitilla Fracassi