|1957 MB 326 Impala
|One Rolls Royce Viper 20 engine with 1547 kilo of power thrust
|35 feet 6 inches
|12 feet 2 inches
|1,139 statute miles
|Estrella Warbirds Museum
This Italian Aermacci was one of three known MB 326 Impala's in the United States. We acquired it as an "end of life" aircraft from the National Test Pilot School located in Mojave, California. The NTPS is the only civilian test pilot school in the United States. It is organized as a not-for-profit educational institute under California state law and is governed by a Board of Trustees. NTPS is one of the seven test pilots schools worldwide recognized by the international Society of Experimental Test Pilots (SETP), giving pilot graduates of NTPS instant initial acceptance into their Society.
During the 1950's, before the introduction of the turboprop, many countries operated small jet trainers with a similar performance to their full-sized aircraft. Some nations started to develop aircraft like the Fouga Magister, the T-37, the Jet Provost, and the Aero Vodochody L-29. Italy, still recovering following the end of World War II, could not afford the development of a supersonic interceptor or bomber, and developed light fighters and trainers which proved to be a low cost solution.
The MB-326 was designed by Ermanno Bazzocchi at Macchi. Bazzocchi considered many configurations, but chose a single engine design. The airframe was a robust and light structure, metallic, simple, inexpensive and powered by an efficient engine, the Armstrong Siddeley Viper. This engine was designed as a short-life unit originally destined for target drones, but showed itself to be far more reliable. The airframe and engine combination led, in 1953, to the MB-326 Project.
The factory located at Macchi produced over 7,000 planes. Approximately 700 of them were the MB-326's. The first MB-326 prototype flew in December of 1957 with 794 kg of static power thrust. The second prototype and the 15 preseries examples ordered by the Italian Air Force were equipped with a Viper 11 with 1134 kg of thrust. Project engineer Ermanno Bazzocchi made the structure with the capacity to sustain +8 G's and -4 G's with a pressurized cockpit with two pilots placed in tandem position with ejectable seats. This excellent plane was used for all the training steps and entered into full service with the Italian Air Forces in 1962 with a total of 85 first serial production.
The MB-326 had the capacity to carry external loads placed in eight points under the wings, each point with the capacity to carry rockets, bombs and other weapons. The version MB-326B was produced for Tunisia, Ghana, and civilian companies like Alitalia, the largest airline in Italy, that employed a version without armament (MB-326D). Australia was one of the largest countries that ordered the MB-326H. Macchi sold to Royal Australian Air Force and to the Royal Australian Navy, assembled in Italy or under license with the Commonwealth Aircraft Corporation.
Atlas Aircraft Corporation in Transvaal, developed multiple aircraft for South Africa, under the Macchi license. These were named the "Impala Mk 1." Numerous others were manufactured for Argentina, Brazil and Ghana Air Forces.
The last Italian MB-326 served with the 9th Wing in Grazzanise Air Force Base.