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CANT Z.501 Gabbiano (Gull) - Kingdom of Italy, 1936

Detailing the development and operational history of the CANT Z.501 Gabbiano (Gull) Reconnaissance Flying Boat Aircraft.

 Entry last updated on 5/31/2017; Authored by Staff Writer; Content ¬©

  CANT Z.501 Gabbiano (Gull)  
Picture of CANT Z.501 Gabbiano (Gull)

The CANT Z.501 Gabbiano was a serviceable floatplane for Italian interests in World War 2, though hardly an offensive-minded weapon.

The CANT Z.501 Gabbiano (meaning "Gull") was a flying boat aircraft developed in Italy and shared a resemblance to the successful American Consolidated PBY Catalina series. By the time of the World War 2, the design should have been on its way out but was pressed into further service in the reconnaissance role. In the end, the system forged on through the global conflict eventually seeing the end of its operational life by 1950.

First flown in 1934 as a prototype, the Z.501 was a design of famous Italian aviation engineer Filippo Zappata in an attempt to replace the aged Savoia-Marchetti S.78 series. Design was of a traditional type, with a large wing assembly mounted on struts up high and away from the fuselage, which featured a boat-like hull. The engine was mounted in the wing structure and was of a single type - an Isotta Fraschini Asso XI R2C.15 12-cylinder liquid-cooled inline engine of 900 horsepower. A crew of four or five personnel were called upon to operate the various positions and systems of the aircraft which included a bow gun position, an engine nacelle gun position and a dorsal fuselage gun position. The machine guns were supplemented by the 1,411lb bombload.

In combat, the Z.501 were pressed into service mainly for their reconnaissance capabilities but also served in search and rescue sorties. In either case, the aircraft performed superbly thanks to the type's long range capabilities and loitering times. Losses of the system were high as is expected with these slow flying boat types but the aircraft saw action against French and British forces nonetheless and also took part in the Spanish Civil War before that. Aircraft production in wartime necessitated the need for speed and as such many were sent off the production lines in less than stellar operating condition. If the Z.501 had a blotch on its otherwise adequate operating record it was in the wooden fuselage construction which had a tendency to break up in rough waters. As an aircraft, the Z.501 fared better than as an ocean-going craft. In terms of combat performance, the Z.501 was nothing to speak of - finishing the war without a single air-to-air kill.

The Z.501 did go on to break several distance endurance records during its production run.

CANT Z.501 Gabbiano (Gull) Specifications

Service Year: 1936
Type: Reconnaissance Flying Boat Aircraft
National Origin: Kingdom of Italy
Manufacturer(s): Cant - Italy
Total Production: 200

Structural (Crew, Dimensions, Weights)

Operating Crew (Typical): 4 to 5
Overall Length: 46.92 feet (14.3 meters)
Overall Width: 73.82 feet (22.50 meters)
Overall Height: 14.44 feet (4.40 meters)

Weight (Empty): 8,488 lb (3,850 kg)
Weight (MTOW): 15,543 lb (7,050 kg)

Power / Performance (Engine Type, Top Speed)

Engine: 1 x Isotta Fraschini Asso XI R2C.15 12-cylinder liquid-cooled inline engine developing 900 horsepower.

Maximum Speed: 148 knots (171 mph; 275 kph)
Maximum Range: 1,296 nautical miles (1,491 miles; 2,400 km)
Service Ceiling: 22,966 feet (7,000 meters; 4.35 miles)
Rate-of-Climb: 820 feet-per-minute (250 m/min)

Armament / Mission Payload

1 x 7.7mm machine gun in bow position
1 x 7.7mm machine gun in engine nacelle position
1 x 7.7mm machine gun in dorsal position

Up to 1,411 lb (640 kg) of bombs.

Global Operators (Customers, Users)

Kingdom of Italy; Romania; Spain

Model Variants

Z.501 - Base Series Designation

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