Photo: Monica De Guidi

LONDON – In 1920, one of the most iconic flights was achieved by Italian Pilots Arturo Ferrarin and Guido Masiero: the first air connections between Europe and the Far East.

To celebrate the occasion, Thiene commemorated the 100th anniversary of the Rome-Tokyo raid at the Arturo Ferrarin airport in February 2020.

Attending were the two pilots, together with technicians Gino Cappannini and Roberto Maretto, who were aboard two of SVA9 wooden biplanes.

The Rome Tokyo Raid is still considered among the most extraordinary undertakings in aviation history.

Raid Rome-Tokyo by Arturo Ferrarin (1920). CC BY-SA 3.0.

The raid


The mastermind of ​​a flight from Italy to Japan was the aviator poet Gabriele D’Annunzio who, in 1919, shared the idea with Harukichi Shimoi, a Japanese writer and sincere admirer of Italy who at the time taught at the Institute of Oriental Letters of Naples.

The project, albeit with some changes to the initial program of the vate, was accepted by the General Directorate of Aeronautics.

As D’Annunzio was unable to leave because he was barricaded in Rijeka, it was established that the challenge was going to be comprised of two formations.

The first formation was of five SVA 9 reconnaissance fighters; the second, of four Caproni bombers of different models, two Ca.450, a Ca. 600 and a Ca.900 triplane.

Here is the emblematic flight in numbers: 106 days, 18,000km (11185mi) traveled, 112 flight hours at an average speed of 160 km/h (99mph – 86kts).

Arturo Ferrarin commemorative livery. Photo: Monica De Guidi

The departures


The departures, staggered among them, began on January 8, 1920, but none of these bombers went beyond Syria. Things did not get better for the five SVA that left on March 11.

The only possibility to complete the challenge rested upon the two SVA 9 that took off on February 14 to relay the formation of the biplanes that would soon follow them.

The relay airplanes were supposed to check the landing sites, arrange supplies, and make contact with local authorities.

It is in this context that Arturo Ferrarin, a pilot from Vicenza, who during the conflict was part of the 82nd and 91st Hunting Squadrons, the glorious Squadron of the Aces, entered the scene.

Photo: Monica De Guidi

The arrival


On May 31, the two SVA arrived in Tokyo before Masiero and about an hour after Ferrarin. Waiting for them were Two hundred thousand people eager to see the first airplanes fly from Europe.

To celebrate the feat, 42 days of celebrations were decreed in Japan, culminating with the official reception of the Italian aviators at the Imperial Palace.

In memory of this record flight, Ferrarin’s SVA was placed in the Imperial Arms Museum in Osaka.

Ansaldo S.V.A. Im 5 Historical Museum at Vigna di Valle Air Force. CC BY-SA 3.0.

Aircraft characteristics


The Ansaldo SVA Italian reconnaissance aircraft was a wood and canvas airplane. The cockpit was open and the crew was exposed to the wind and bad weather.

The radiator was not adequate for the high tropical temperatures while the trolley was without fairings on the wheels, useful in case landing on difficult terrain.

There was no radio on board, the speed remained sensorial, and the pilot conducted the navigation only with the help of a watch and a compass.


Parts of this articles were originally published in difesaonline.it.