sábado, 18 de mayo de 2013


Text and Photos : José Manuel Serrano Esparza

The worldwide famous Infante of Orleans Foundation, devoted to both the preservation of historical airplanes in flight condition and to maintain alive the History of Spanish Aviation, began its path when a group of professional pilots highly competent in sporting aviation, who had already created the Historical Airplanes Section of the José Luis Aresti Aeroclub in 1984, 

decided to consolidate it establishing the FIO in 1989, aiming at getting the most comprehensive feasible collection of aircraft which have performed a significant role in the development of Spanish aeronautics.

Amazingly, by dint of huge and strenuous effort, deep knowledge and experience, infatuation for the sublime classical planes and the flight in pure state, thousands of hours of toil and many more things, this group of men deeply loving aviation and its legendary background plucked up courage and after some years of steady activity, fighting tooth and nail with high doses of enthusiasm, striving for thoroughness in a lot of different sides to fulfill their dream, turned the Infante de Orleans Foundation into one of the foremost organizations of its scope existing in the world, something which has kept on throughout XXI Century hitherto.

All of them (Carlos Valle, Avelino González, Manuel Valle, Pedro Valle, Jaime Larrea, Juan Crespo, Luis Cabré, Ramón Ortega, Leto Martín, Augusto Núñez, Jorge Ester, José M. Palenzuela, Jaime Larrea, Fernando Adrados, Francisco Gil, Santiago Blanco, Fernando Iglesias, Felipe Aresti, Álvaro Oviedo and many others) are highly experienced professional pilots or top-notch mechanics featuring outstanding know-how and expertise in the sphere of traditional mechanics.


Therefore, throughout 25 years, the Infante de Orleans Foundation has become one of the international benchmarks in its domain 

Carlos Valle, President of the Infante de Orleans Foundation, posing with pilots and mechanics of the FIO along with a lot of visitors of every age who have set up a great family sharing their love for aviation and classical airplanes in flight throughout decades of exhibitions.

and has thrilled the hundreds of thousands of people who have visited Cuatro Vientos Airdrome on every first Sunday of each month (date in which flight exhibitions are held) from late eighties of the XX Century to watch fly these jewels of the aviation history, vast majority of which are equipped with gorgeous piston engines in a number of sizes, configurations and powers, having written many of the most glorious pages of Aviation History.

Felipe Aresti, José Luis Aresti´s son, piloting the Bücker Jungmeister, one of the most beautiful aerobatic and sporting airplanes ever made. It features a Siemens 160 H.P engine. This aircraft was piloted throughout many decades by the internationally famous José Luis Aresti (1917-2003), one of the best pilots in history, head of the Spanish team and organizer of the III Aerobatics World Championship held in 1964 - which was born by Tomás Castaño - , holder of the Paul Tissandier Diploma 1955, FAI Bronze Medal 1961, and President of the Aerobatics Commission since 1967, having also been the creator of the Aresti Aerocryptographic Dictionary used by the IAF to identify the different figures in aerobatics competitions.

                                                                                         Two Bücker Jungmanns flying together.

These wonderful vintage planes oozing beauty, class, elegance, charm and history to spare have been the main actors of unforgettable displays, land and aerial alike, which have made the spectators feel spellbound once and again.

                                                          Boeing PT-17 Stearman, equipped with a Continental W-670 225 H.P engine.

They are professional pilots with remarkable background and thousands of flight hours, often handling much modern and sophisticated planes, who have proved to have a great penchant for flying the FIO vintage airplanes for decades.

And the same can be applied to the Infante de Orleans Foundation top-notch mechanics (frequently handling components of much more updated aircraft engines, fuselages, cockpits, landing gears, rudders, etc), who likewise devote thousands of hours of their lives to the deep study and research of old manuals of classic aircraft with the goal of keeping them flawless and in perfect condition to fly,

constantly paying attention among many other things to the flawless working of the piston-engined powerplants.


From its very inception, the Infante de Orleans Foundation had a cornerstone: the salvation of very valuable and historical airplanes from plunder and junking, simultaneously managing to get them in perfect flight condition, it all with a further and not less significant goal: the spreading of Spanish aeronautical culture.

                                                                   British Klemm Swallow II, featuring a Cirrus Minor 90 H.P engine.

This way, little by little, through very hard work and perseverance, year after year, this highly competent professional human group deeply involved in sporting aviation, was able to turn the FIO in one of the most important worldwide organizations within its sphere, a true feat deserving the highest accolades, above all if we bear in mind that they accomplished it with very few means and steady constrained budgets, making a great variety of things focusing on innovation and adaptability as significant strengths, most times working in a craftsmanship way, to such an extent that already in mid nineties of XX Century, the Infante of Orleans exhibitions of classic aicraft in flight held on the first Sunday of each month was internationally famous, with massive attendance of both Spanish and foreign visitors from different countries pining for 

                                                                                                         Boeing PT-17 Stearman.

                                                          De Havilland DH-60 Moth, featuring an A.D.C.D.H ´Gipsy III ´ 120 H.P engine.

the unforgettable experience and relish of watching these amazing and historical planes (many of them appearing in mythical movies like North by Northwest, Out of Africa, etc) fly.

But to achieve it was always the result of exceedingly uphill endeavours, and if it´s difficult to reach the top, even more difficult is to remain within it, and the key factors in the FIO great success have been:

- The great verve and experience provided by the pilots and mechanics of the FIO team.

- A constant and very painstaking overhaul and care of every aircraft in the collection.

 - The restoration of the airplanes of the collection, tackled by FIO with exceptional levels of thoroughness and knowledge, using the best available materials. These works include the reinforcement of frames, new fabrics manufacture, painting with new colours, renewing of both main and tail wheels, adjustment of the front cover of engines, replacement of old components in engines, strengthening of propellers or replacement of them by new ones, crankshaft revision, dissassembly and revision of structures, and many others. 

In this sphere, the work of experts like José María Valles Alaminos, one of the driving forces of the FIO Center of Restoration and Maintenance of Airplanes, has been a major pillar of the organization.

The Infante de Orleans Foundation CRM carries out its restorations with the highest standards of quality, returning each vintage plane to its original condition.

- A lot of ground tests to verify the integral working, including the first start-up and taxiing.

- A steady tuning of the piston engined powerplants of the different aircraft of the collection.

- The intensive study of old books and manuals on specific planes of the collection, delving into the methods and techniques necessary to keep them in ideal condition.

- The invaluable and praiseworthy labour developed for decades by some top class aviation scholars and historians.

En Vuelo, the informative bulletin of FIO, in spite of its reduced number of 24 pages, is currently a highly respected magazine in the international sphere of publications devoted to vintage aircraft in flight condition, standing out because of its excellent articles on very interesting airplanes and episodes belonging to the golden era of aviation, written by the aforementioned experts, and including very lavish content, superb pictures and old posters, which have made up gorgeous monographs like the 8 pages one titled ´Fleet 2 ´ by Javier Permanyer Fernández, ´Impressions of a Transatlantic Trip´ by Felipe E. Ezquerro dealing on the first Super Constellation aircraft making the route Madrid-New York in August of 1954, the highly detailed ´The Center of Restauration and Maintenance of Airplanes of FIO´ written by José María Valles Alaminos, including very good pictures taken inside the Infante of Orleans Foundation workshops, etc.

This informative bulletin, which is to practical effects a small full-fledged professional magazine, also boasts a great level of quality as to photographic reproduction and paper, great accuracy of colors, and is sent free to the FIO protecting members.

like Javier Permanyer Fernández, Felipe E. Ezquerro, Enrique Fernández Coppel, Cecilio Yusta Viñas, Carlos Lázaro Ávila, Canario Azaola, José Sánchez Méndez and others, with many articles and lectures which have helped a great deal to divulge the historical and technological significance of the vintage airplanes, along with their most relevant breakthroughs.

- The excellent pictures made by excellent and recognized photographers of airplanes like Ismael Abeytua, Javier Guerrero, Guillermo Blume, Paco Rivas, Luigino Callaro and others, whose work has also been important for the FIO.

A full-hearted fight for getting very representative planes in the History of Aviation, 

                                                                       Bücker Jungmann, equipped with a Tiger 125 H.P engine.

                                               North American T-6 Texan, featuring a Pratt & Whitney R. 1340 Wasp 550 H.P engine.

Comper C.L.A.7 Swift, equipped with a very reliable 7 cylinder Pobjoy R 75 H.P engine. In 1933 the Spanish pilot Fernando Rein Loring accomplished one of the greatest feats in the History of Aviation, flying from Madrid to Manila in a trip of thirteen stages, covering a total of 15,615 km. This single-seat braced high-wing monoplane built of fabric covered spruce wood frames was designed by the British military pilot Nick Comper, an expert in the manufacture of very light and small airplanes featuring long range. Rain Loring´s Comper Swift had an empty weight of 280 kg, while its maximum takeoff was 447 kg, with a range of 1,600 km and a top speed of 210 km/h.

                                                                                                           Stinson L-5 Sentinel.

 something which becomes a treat for all enthusiasts of vintage airplanes.

     Regarding this, the obtaining by the Infante de Orleans Foundation of a Polikarpov I-16 Mosca 

       Polikarpov I-16 Mosca piloted by Carlos Valle, President of FIO. This stunning monoplane features a tremendous Shvetsov M-62 nine cylinder, air-cooled 1,000 H.P radial engine, an optimized version of the Wright R-1820 Cyclone (that had been made in Russsia under licence as the Shvetsov 25 775 H.P), adding a two-speed centrifugal type supercharger and a more efficent induction system, along with an increase in power up to 1,000 H.P

                                                              Back view of Polikarpov I-16, piloted by Carlos Valle, during a turn on the left.

 after a lot of years of efforts, was truly a milestone, and this legendary fighter (which became highly famous during the Spanish Civil War), piloted by Carlos Valle (President of the Infante de Orleans Foundation) has turned into the flagship of the collection and one of the most valuable and spectacular vintage aircraft currently in flight condition in the world, bearing the CM-249 badge belonging to the Republican ace José María Bravo, head of the 3rd Squadron.

     And above all, the FIO has followed from its birth tremendously stringent security protocols (always going far beyond the official regulations in this regard), searching for the maximum safeguard of the people attending the exhibitions.

 Javier Permanyer, a recognized authority on aviation topics, has been for many years the man explaining the main traits and history of every airplane of the FIO collection before each exhibition. With his comprehensive knowledge about all kind of aircraft and periods, listening to him is a real treat for any enthusiast of aviation, with the added bonus of his steady effort to teach things in a way that everybody can understand them


To see fly the vintage airplanes of the Infante de Orleans Foundation during its monthly exhibitions is a real treat for any lover of aviation, and people attending them do experience a heart shivering and an unutterable thrill on watching their majestic shapes prancing in the air driven by piston engines whose sound has to be heard to be believed.

     Anyone having ever listened to the amazing music generated by engines such as the Wright Cyclone SR-1820-F3 775 H.P of the Polikarpov I-16 Mosca, the Continental W-670 225 H.P of the Boeing  PT-17 Stearman, the Prat & Whitney R-1340 600 H.P of the North American T-6 Texan, the Siemens 160 H.P of the Bücker Jungmeister, the Kinner 125 H.P of the Fleet 2 and many others  can confirm it. 

                                                     Detail of the Continental W-670 225 H.P engine of the Boeing PT-17 Stearman.

                                                                                                       Boeing PT-17 Stearman
                                                   Lateral view of the Siemens 160 H.P engine and propeller of Bücker Jungmeister.

Bücker Jungmeister and Bücker Jungmann flying together. Beauty in pure state.

Polikarpov I-16 Mosca flying at full power pushed by its tremendous Wright Cyclone 775 H.P engine and piloted by Carlos Valle, the man who after a lot of years striving for getting this jewel, could see his dream come true. It´s impossible to express with words the fabulous experience of watching this unique airplane fly, and the sound of that powerplant ...

                                                                                                      North American T-6 Texan
A very young fan of Aviation inside the cockpit of a North American T-6 Texan beside its pilot of the Infante de Orleans Foundation.  

North American T-6 Texan, Polikarpov I-16 Mosca and HA-200 Saeta flying together.

Polikarpov I-16 Mosca and HA-200 Saeta, the latter being the only jet till now in the FIO Collection, piloted by Santi Blanco, Fernando Adrados, Manix Iglesias and Ladislao Tejedor Romero (May he rest in peace).

North American T-6 Texan.

Pitts S-2A. It features a four-cylinder, direct drive, horizontally opposed, air cooled Lycoming 0-360 225 H.P engine.

Pitts S-2A.

On the other hand, the FIO flight exhibitions are often visited by guest stars, id est, pilots who provide their airplanes and skills helping to make the displays even more exciting and interesting. Among them can be highlighted:

 HA-220 Super Saeta with camouflage painting, one of the jewels of the Fundaciò Parc Aeronautic de Catalunya and piloted by Jaime Capllonch. Equipped with two Turbomeca Marboré VI jet engines delivering 480 kg thrust each. It was overhauled by Maestro Pacheco, who also adjusted the powerplants.

Antonov AN-2 Annushka, the biggest single engine biplane ever made. Featuring a Shvetsov Ash 62 IR 1000 H.P radial engine, it is an exceedingly sturdy and reliable plane excelling in STOL capabilities enabling it to operate in a wide range of contexts, as well as offering an astounding ability to work at low and very low speeds, thanks to its automatic system of slats stretching through springs, in such a way that there isn´t barely any stall speed. 

Antonov AN-2. The flight of this large Russian aircraft is really sumptuous, specially when it moves in the air at the exceedingly low speeds it is able to handle with utter security. In order to properly realize what means to watch the Polikarpov I-16 Mosca fly, it could be interesting to know that it is driven exactly by the same engine as the Annushka.

Sukhoi SU-31, equipped with a 400 H.P Vedeneyev M-14PF engine and piloted by Ramón Alonso, Aerobatics World Champion in 2007, held in Armilla (Granada), and in which Cástor Fantoba got a highly praiseworthy fourth position. The Spanish aerobatics team had also a historical performance, attaining the silver medal in the teams competition thanks to the great performances by Ramón Alonso, Cástor Fantoba and Juan Velarde, managing to accomplish the feat of beating the Russian squad (which was the great favourite). This definitely consolidated  the Spanish aerobatics within the world elite, something which was also attained through the remarkable performances by other great pilots like Sergio Pla, Juan Socias, Anselmo Gámez and the great Alex McLean (May he rest in peace) who became one of the best international aerobatic champions competing highly successfully in the Red Bull Air Race World Series between 2003 and 2009, having also been twice Spain Champion of Aerobatics and once European Champion.

Sukhoi SU-31 piloted by Ramón Alonso.


   This is another aspect in which the FIO excels, manufacturing year after year very charming king size calendars exuding elegance, good taste and excellent pictures made by excellent and recognized aviation photographers like Ismael Abeytua, Javier Guerrero, Guillermo Blume and others.

     The 2013 one, featuring vintage aesthetics everywhere and providing the main technical data regarding each depicted airplane, was really beautiful, and FIO goes beyonf itself each year in this regard.

One of the pages of the FIO 2013 Calendar with a picture of the Beechcraft made by Ismael Abeytua.

Another of the pages of FIO 2013 Calendar with a photograph of the legendary HA-200 Saeta made by Ismael Abeytua.


      As well as implementing its labour spreading the History of Spanish Aviation and preserving classic aircraft in perfect flight condition, the Infante de Orleans Foundation has been and goes on being a catalyst of vocations in future pilots and mechanics, besides being a cultural source of knowledge whose technological and historical heritage can be highly useful for their professional background.

Carlos, a great enthusiast of Aeronautics since he was almost a baby, holding his model airplane by the Polikarpov I-16 Rata of the FIO. Being only    6 years old, he was able to make a wooden kit of the HA-200 Saeta. 

Great Video made by Squadron 69 Members

Copyright Text and Photos: José Manuel Serrano Esparza