On Sunday, while the Ferrari Show was in full swing on track with its exhibition of Scuderia Ferrari’s 488 GTE and 488 GT3 single-seaters, enthusiasts got a simultaneous treat in the skies from the aerial display team of Aeronautica Militare Italiana (the Italian Air Force), stationed in the Italian town of Grosseto. The red machinery from Maranello and the Air Force fighters from Grosseto are intrinsically linked by their use of the Prancing Horse emblem, which was the symbol adorned by Italian aviation ace Francesco Baracca.
The silver-coloured horse on a red background, facing left with its lowered tail, was originally the heraldic crest of the “Piemonte Reale Cavalleria” (Piedmonte Royal Cavalry) one of the most prominent corps of the Italian army, to whom Francesco Baracca lent his services at the end of the 19th century.
It was precisely this love of horses that led Baracca, over the following years, to adopt, the same symbol on his aeroplanes, albeit in varied forms. The black prancing horse appeared for the first time on a plane flown by Baracca in early 1917 and would became the definitive emblem on the fuselage of the aircraft of the 91st Squadron, piloted by the man himself. In June 1918 Francesco Baracca failed to return from a war flight mission and his remains were discovered several days later. Later, when they met, Baracca’s mother donated her son’s insignia to a young Enzo Ferrari. Ferrari imposed the black horse onto a canary yellow background, in a tribute to the traditional colour of Modena.
The Prancing horse made a reappearance on the tails of 91st Squadron planes in the 1920s and subsequently become the official emblem of the 4th Squadron of the Regia Aeronautica (Italian Air Force). The Prancing Horse continues to be displayed on the tail rudder of Aeronautica Militare’s current Eurofighter.
Today’s exhibition at the Mugello circuit pays tribute to Aeronautica, the Italian Air Force, as it celebrates the 90th anniversary of Scuderia Ferrari.