The nimble SIAI-Marchetti SF-260 has sold in modest numbers to civil operators worldwide but is one of the most successful postwar two seat piston military trainers.
The SF-260 was designed by famed Italian aircraft designer Stelio Frati (who was responsible for a number of renowned light aircraft designs) in the early 1960s. It was originally flown in 185kW (250hp) Lycoming O-540 powered form by the Aviamilano company as the F-250. However until its takeover by Aermacchi in 1997 SIAI-Marchetti undertook all production (initially under licence, before later assuming full responsibility for the program) of the aircraft as the 195kW (260hp) O-540 powered SF-260. The second aircraft to fly was the first built by SIAI-Marchetti and the first powered by the more powerful version of the O-540. This second prototype first flew in 1966.
The initial civil production models were the SF-260 and SF-260A, and a number were sold in the USA as the Waco Meteor. In 1974 production switched to the SF-260B with improvements first developed for the military SF-260M, including a stronger undercarriage, a redesigned wing leading edge and a taller fin. The B was soon followed by the further improved SF-260C, with increased span wing.
While the SF-260 has been further developed into E and F forms these have been sold to military operators only. The 260kW (350shp) Allison (now Rolls-Royce) 250-B17D turboprop powered SF-260TP meanwhile has been built since the early 1980s, but it too has been sold only to military customers. Nevertheless Italian civil certification was awarded in October 1993, opening the door for possible civil sales.
In civil use the SF-260 is now regarded as something of a classic thoroughbred. Its clean aerodynamic lines, retractable undercarriage and relatively powerful engine guarantee spirited performance.
In 1997 Aermacchi took over SIAI-Marchetti and continues to market the aircraft as the F-260, with low rate production continuing against military orders.
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