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  • CANT Z.506 Airone (Heron) Maritime Reconnaissance / Bomber Floatplane

    The Italian CANT Z.506 series of floatplane aircraft was one of the few mounts to manage a useful existence before and after World War 2.

     Updated: 5/31/2017; Authored By Staff Writer; Content ¬©www.MilitaryFactory.com

    Cantieri Riuniti dell'Adriatico ("CANT") was responsible for the excellent Italian floatplane design that was the CANT Z.506 Airone ("Heron") series of the 1930s. The aircraft emerged from a commercial development which set about rewriting world aviation speed and distance records concerning aircraft of this class. The Z.506 began life as a commercial airliner shuttling persons over Italian Mediterranean routes before being adopted into service with the Italian Navy prior to and during World War 2 as a maritime patrol and bombing/torpedo platform. The aircraft managed an existence in the post-war world as well, her qualities proving useful in the at-sea rescue role.

    The CANT Z.506 offered up a very unique design appearance making her one of the more recognizable aircraft of the period. This was primarily due to her tri-motor configuration in which engine nacelles were affixed to both wing leading edges as well as the fuselage nose. The fuselage was well-streamlined from nose to tail, the latter capped by a conventional single-rudder tail unit. The fuselage sat atop a network of reinforced struts which attached it to a pair of long-running floats allowing for sea-based landings and take offs. The design was clean and well thought out for the period, combining a wooden understructure with canvas-and-wood skinning techniques which made it strong, light and cost-effective - only the floatplanes were actually constructed of more expensive metal. First flight was recorded on August 19th, 1935 with the prototype (powered by 3 x Piaggio P.IX radial piston engines of 610 horsepower each) giving rise to the original commercial model designated as the "Z.506A". The aircraft was formally introduced in 1936.

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    CANT Z.506 Airone (Heron) Technical Specifications

    Service Year: 1936
    Type: Maritime Reconnaissance / Bomber Floatplane
    National Origin: Kingdom of Italy
    Manufacturer(s): CANT / Piaggio - Italy
    Production Total: 324

    Structural (Crew Space, Dimensions and Weights)

    Operating Crew: 5
    Length: 63.12 feet (19.24 meters)
    Width: 86.94 feet (26.50 meters)
    Height: 24.25 feet (7.39 meters)

    Weight (Empty): 19,290 lb (8,750 kg)
    Weight (MTOW): 28,010 lb (12,705 kg)

    Installed Power and Standard Day Performance

    Engine(s): 3 x Alfa Romeo 126 RC.34 9-cylinder air-cooled radial piston engine developing 750 horsepower each.

    Maximum Speed: 226 mph (364 kph; 197 knots)
    Maximum Range: 1,706 miles (2,745 km)
    Service Ceiling: 26,247 feet (8,000 meters; 4.97 miles)

    Armament / Mission Payload

    1 x 12.7mm Breda-SAFAT heavy machine gun in dorsal turret.
    2 x 7.7mm Breda-SAFAT machine guns in beam fuselage positions.
    1 x 7.7mm Breda-SAFAT machine gun in ventral position.

    Up to 2,600lbs of conventional drop bombs OR 1 x 1,800lb torpedo.

    Global Operators / Customers

    Kingdom of Italy; Nazi Germany; Poland; Spain; United Kingdom

    Model Variants (Including Prototypes)

    Z.506 - Base Series Designation; original one-off prototype model.

    Z.506A - Civilian variant

    Z.506B - Military variant; deeper fuselage; provision for comventional drop bombs or single torpedo; raised cockpit deck.

    Z.506S - Dedicated at-sea rescue variant

    Z.506 (Landplane) - One-off seaplane converted to landbased role for endurance record.

    Z.509 - Dimensionally larger variant of the Z.506 for Ala Littoria lines; three examples produced.