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Bugatti Bellissimo! Unique Replica Racer Makes First Flight

  • Bugatti Bellissimo! Unique Replica Racer Makes First Flight
    Wednesday, August 19, 2015, the painstakingly recreated Bugatti Model 100P made its first flight.
  • Bugatti Bellissimo! Unique Replica Racer Makes First Flight
    The original, never-flown Model 100P on display in EAA’s AirVenture Museum.

August 20, 2015 – Wednesday, after five years of dedicated and meticulous work by EAA member Scotty Wilson and his team, and 77 years after Ettoré Bugatti and Louis de Monge conceived of the idea, the Bugatti replica flew for the very first time.

According to an account on the project’s Facebook page, they’d “intended this flight to be limited to a short hop down the runway to check power required/power available and to check control responsiveness in all three axes.” After a 3,000 foot takeoff roll (conservatively using just 80 percent power), the airplane lifted off at 90 knots and climbed to an altitude of 100 feet.

In 1938, famed automobile manufacturer Bugatti and talented designer de Monge began construction of an unusual airplane designed to fly at speeds of up to 500 mph in hopes of winning a race known as the Deutsch de la Meurthe Cup. Work progressed in Paris, France, through 1940, when the war that was consuming Europe forced Bugatti to hide the airplane in a barn in the French countryside. It remained hidden for 30 years, then was restored and ultimately donated, having never been flown, to EAA for display in our museum in 1996.

The airplane is remarkable, especially for its time. An inline twin with two contra-rotating propellers and a sleek V-tail, the design boasts streamlining that still looks futuristic, more than 75 years on. Wilson, EAA 572551, of Tulsa, Oklahoma, was pretty taken with it himself; so much so, in fact, that he decided to build one. In late 2010, he put a team together and, after several days of painstaking research on the original here in Oshkosh, set about building a replica.

According to Wilson’s firsthand account of the rest of the short first flight, “The plane responded as expected to all power changes and control inputs. Maximum airspeed was 110 knots. I reduced power for landing but the airplane floated much more than we anticipated. I landed further down the runway than planned but with sufficient distance to stop the plane. Unfortunately, I lost the right brake and the airplane departed the left side of the runway at slow speed. Due to heavy rains the night before, the ground was soft and the airplane tipped upward on its nose, damaging the spinner and both props.”

Wilson went on to say, “Such is the nature of flight testing a new design. The relevant news is we successfully flew the Bugatti 100P for the first time. The plane flew beautifully.”

We’re confident that the team will have the damage repaired and that flight testing will resume shortly. Here’s hoping that we’ll all get to see this magnificent machine fly here in Oshkosh one day.

Read more about the history of the original Bugatti Model 100P.
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