Air Force

ANSALDO A1 BALILLA


Ansaldo Balilla #39 Ansaldo Balilla Ansaldo Balilla Ansaldo Balilla #2K Ansaldo Balilla

Ansaldo Balilla Ansaldo Balilla Ansaldo Balilla Ansaldo Balilla #44 Ansaldo Balilla

Ansaldo Balilla

Source: Italian manufacturer 'Ansaldo'

Acquired: 1923, 1925

Type: single-seat fighter

Engine: 220-hp SPA 6A, six-cylinder liquid cooled

Dimensions
Length: 6.84 m
Wing Span: 7.685 m
Height: 2.53 m

Max Speed: 220 km/hr

Range: 550 km

Maximum Ceiling: 6,000 - 7,000 m

Known Serial Numbers: 1K, 2K, 3K, 12K, 28, 34, 35, 39, 44, 45, 47, 49

Notes

  • The Balilla is a 1917 design by Giuseppe Brezzi.
  • This design of aircraft was first demonstrated in Latvia on June 7, 1923 at the Air Show. The plane was piloted by an Italian, Lovandino. By August Latvia had already acquired and was flying its first four Balillas.
  • Markings: The markings and colour schemes of the Balillas seem to have had a number of variants. Some of them certainly appear to have retained their factory finish (dark plywood fuselage with clear doped linen flying surfaces), others may have received the usual Latvian green, some of those still retaining a lighter coloured rudder.
  • Armament: Two Vickers 7.9 mm synchronized machine guns.
  • The Italian aircraft were phased out in the early 1930s, being replaced by the Gladiators, Hinds and SV-5s. In total, over the course of their service lifetimes, the twelve Balillas were involved in two fatal accidents.
  • #1K
    • Original serial number 318
      Date Personnel Duration Notes
      October 10, 1924 R.Gulbis 75 min training flight
      October 14, 1924 R.Gulbis 60 min training flight
      October 16, 1924 R.Gulbis 60 min training flight
      October 20, 1924 R.Gulbis 45 min training flight
      November 6, 1924 R.Gulbis 60 min training flight
      November 10, 1924 R.Gulbis 60 min training flight
      November 14, 1924 R.Gulbis 30 min training flight
      January 16, 1925 R.Gulbis 30 min gunnery practice with gun camera
      January 22, 1925 R.Gulbis 35 min gunnery practice with gun camera
      January 24, 1925 R.Gulbis 65 min gunnery practice with gun camera
      February 12, 1925 R.Gulbis 45 min training flight
      February 13, 1925 R.Gulbis 45 min training flight
      February 18, 1925 R.Gulbis 30 min gunnery practice with gun camera
  • #2K
    • Original serial number 319
    • In 1924 this aircraft was assigned to the fighter division (along with the other Balillas). However, in 1925 this was the only one transferred to the reconnaissance unit.
    • [See Photo above]
      Date Personnel Duration Notes
      April 26, 1925 R.Gulbis 45 min Formation flying
      May 1, 1925 R.Gulbis 60 min Formation flight over Riga
      August 27, 1925 R.Gulbis 25 min training flight over Riga
  • #3K
    • Original serial number 320
  • #12K
    • Date Personnel Duration Notes
      February 5, 1925 R.Gulbis 120 min Formation flying
  • #28
    • Original serial number 321
    • Initially, when the first Balillas were purchased, this was the only one designated for general use. The others were to be kept in top condition with only selected pilots permitted to fly them. The pilots thus designated were V.Jakubovs, J.Prieditis, A.Zarins and J.Rimsa. These restrictions were in place only until Sept.7, 1923, when all the Balillas were made available for general use.
    • 1926 - after major repairs/overhaul this aircraft was test flown (Bergmanis) and returned to service.
    • June 29, 1927 - Balilla no.28, piloted by Sgt. Robert Bemchens crashes at Spilve. The airplane crashed and was totally incinerated..
      Date Personnel Duration Notes
      September 20, 1924 R.Gulbis 20 min training flight
      September 24, 1924 R.Gulbis 70 min training flight
      September 29, 1924 R.Gulbis 90 min training flight
      October 6, 1924 R.Gulbis 60 min training flight
      July 10, 1925 R.Gulbis 30 min training flight in vicinity of Daugavpils
      June 16, 1925 R.Gulbis 15 min aerobatic training
  • #34
    • 1926 - after major repairs/overhaul this aircraft was test flown (Bergmanis) and returned to service.
      Date Personnel Duration Notes
      February 6, 1925 R.Gulbis 30 min training flight
      February 17, 1925 R.Gulbis 30 min training flight
      March 5, 1925 R.Gulbis 30 min aerobatics practice
      March 13, 1925 R.Gulbis 30 min aerobatics practice
      April 23, 1925 R.Gulbis 25 min training flight
      June 3, 1925 R.Gulbis 15 min aerobatics training
      June 3, 1925 R.Gulbis 60 min gunnery practice with gun camera
      June 4, 1925 R.Gulbis 60 min aerobatics training
      June 4, 1925 R.Gulbis 30 min aerobatics training
      June 5, 1925 R.Gulbis 30 min aerobatics training
      June 9, 1925 R.Gulbis 30 min aerobatics training
      June 28, 1925 R.Gulbis 130 min transfer flight to Daugavpils training camp
      June 28, 1925 R.Gulbis 60 min Familiarization flight re: Soviet border
      July 1, 1925 R.Gulbis 15 min training flight
      July 3, 1925 R.Gulbis 30 min training flight
      July 4, 1925 R.Gulbis 90 min training flight near Daugavpils
      July 5, 1925 R.Gulbis 75 min training flight
      August 10, 1925 R.Gulbis 30 min Formation flying over aerodrome
      August 12, 1925 R.Gulbis 60 min Formation flying over aerodrome
      August 12, 1925 R.Gulbis 65 min Formation flying over aerodrome
      August 19, 1925 R.Gulbis 45 min training flight
  • #35
    • 1926 - after major repairs/overhaul this aircraft was test flown (Kleins) and returned to service.
      Date Personnel Duration Notes
      July 8, 1925 R.Gulbis 30 min training flight near Daugavpils
      July 10, 1925 R.Gulbis 30 min training flight near Daugavpils
      August 18, 1925 R.Gulbis 15 min engine test
      August 19, 1925 R.Gulbis 50 min Formation flight over aerodrome
      August 25, 1925 R.Gulbis 35 min Riga - Majori - Riga
      August 31, 1925 R.Gulbis 60 min training flight
      September 2, 1925 R.Gulbis 60 min training flight
      September 3, 1925 R.Gulbis 30 min training flight
      September 8, 1925 R.Gulbis 60 min training flight
      September 9, 1925 R.Gulbis 50 min training flight
      September 9, 1925 R.Gulbis 40 min training flight
      September 10, 1925 R.Gulbis 30 min training flight
      September 14, 1925 R.Gulbis 30 min training flight
      September 15, 1925 R.Gulbis 60 min training flight
  • #39
    • [See Profile above]
  • #44
    • [See Photo above]
  • #45
  • #47
  • #49
    • January 29, 1930 - Balilla no.49, piloted by vltn. Dimitri Gotsalk, crashes at Spilve. The plane was seen to spin from a height of 600-700 m, in both directions, apparently with no control from the pilot. The pilot did not survive.


Sources

- Andersons, Edgars Latvijas Brunotie Speki un to Prieksvesture
- Atputa No.45 (Sept.11, 1925)
- Briedis, Emils Latviesa Stasts
- Bruvelis, Edvins Latvijas Aviacijas Vesture
- Humberstone, Richard (ed) Latvian Air Force 1918-1940
- Irbitis, Karlis Of Struggle and Flight
- Jane, Fred T. Jane's All the World's Aircraft 1919
- Latvijas Kareivis 1927-06-30
- Latvijas Kareivis 1927-07-01
- Latvijas Kareivis 1927-07-02
- Latvijas Kareivis 1927-07-03
- Windsock Datafile #88 (Ansaldo A.I Balilla)
- Additional information (dates of flights) taken from R.Gulbis' log book

Profile courtesy of Arvo Vercamer

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