The Aircraft: Siai Marchetti SF260

The Siai Marchetti SF260 is a relatively rare aircraft in the USA. In the rest of the free world it is a well known military aircraft. Presently, over 20 foreign countries use variants of the SF260 as their primary military trainer. It was designed in the sixties for the purpose of introducing military pilots to an aircraft with fighter jet like characteristics in primary training. It is a fast (190 knot cruise), maneuverable aircraft with a small wing and a thin airfoil which makes it less forgiving at low airspeeds. With flaps and landing gear retracted, it stalls at 80 knots- usually with a significant break to the right. The 260’s proportions are very nearly perfect; it possesses an enticing combination of beauty and menace, much like Sigourney Weaver wielding a howitzer. At a gross weight of 2,430 pounds, the SF260 is featherweight for its 260 hp Lycoming engine- sort of like dropping a Corvette engine into a Chevette. The airplane is clean; both the wing roots and the tip-tank/wing junction are faired, and the cowling fits as snugly as a pair of blue jeans right out of the dryer. The windscreen is steeply raked, and the sliding canopy fits with military precision. Because of the Marchetti’s speed potential, and the fact that such a beefy powerplant resides in a small airframe, it is a handful and things happen very quickly. It takes an experienced pilot to fly one of these unique aircraft, especially in an airshow environment.