CANT Z.506

The CANT Z.506 Airone (Italian: Heron) was a triple-engine floatplane produced by CANT from 1935. It served as a transport and postal aircraft with the Italian airline "Ala Littoria". It established 10 world records in 1936 and another 10 in 1937. During World War II it was used as a reconnaissance aircraft, bomber and air-sea rescue plane, by the Italian Regia Aeronautica and Regia Marina, Aeronautica Cobelligerante del Sud, Aeronautica Nazionale Repubblicana and the Luftwaffe. The military version revealed itself to be one of the best floatplanes ever built. Despite its wooden structure it was able to operate in very rough seas. A number of Z.506S air-sea rescue aircraft remained in service until 1959.

CANT Z.506
Class Aircraft
Type Utility
Manufacturer Cantieri Aeronautici e Navali Triestini
Origin Italy
Country Name Origin Year
Italy 1935
Country Name Operational Year Retirement Year
Germany View
Italy 1936 1959 View
Poland View
Spain View
United Kingdom - UK (Great Britain) View
ManufacturerName Production From Production To Quantity
Cantieri Aeronautici e Navali Triestini 354 View

The CANT Z.506 was designed as a 12 to 14-seat transport twin-float seaplane, powered by three 455 kW (610 hp) Piaggio Stella IX radial engines. It was derived from the larger and heavier Z.505 seaplane. The Z.506 entered production in 1936 as the Z.506A, powered by more powerful 560 kW (750 hp) Alfa Romeo 126 RC.34 nine cylinder radial engines, giving a maximum output of 780 CV on take off and 750 CV at 3,400 meters. The fuselage had a wooden structure covered in tulipier wooden lamellas. The wings were built with a structure of three box-type spars linked by wooden wing-ribs covered by plywood. The floats were made of duraluminium, covered in chitonal and were 12.50 meters long. The armament consisted of a 12.7 (0.5 inch) Breda-SAFAT machine guns in the dorsal position and three 7.7 mm (0,303 inch) machine guns, one in the ventral position and two on the sides of the fuselage. The CANT Z.506 had a crew of five.

It was produced at the "Cantieri Riuniti dell 'Adriatico" and "Cantiere Navale Triestino" (CRDA CANT) factories in Monfalcone and Finale Ligure respectively. The aeroplanes were in such demand that the Piaggio company also produced CANT Z. 506s. under licence. The Z.506A entered service with the Ala Littoria air company flying around the Mediterranean.

While flown mostly by Mario Stoppani, the Z.506A set a number of altitude, speed and distance records for its class between 1936 and 1938, including speeds of 191.539 mph (308.25 km/h) over 3,107 (5000 km) and 198.7 mph (319.78 km/h) over 1,243 miles (2000 km), and 200.118 mph (322.06 km/h) over 621 miles (1000 km). It subsequently flew 3,345.225 miles (5383.6 km) in a closed circuit. It carried a load of 4,409 lb (2000 kg) to 25,623 ft (7810 m.) and 11,023 lb (5000 kg) to 22,693 ft (6917 m).

A military version appeared after 15 civil aeroplanes had entered service with Ala Littoria. It was developed as the Z.506B. This military version was powered by three 560 kW (750 hp) Alfa Romeo 127 RC 55 engines and entered service in 1939. This version was also a record breaker. A larger version of the Z.506A was built in 1937 as the Z.509. The last CANT Z.506B was built by Piaggio in January 1943. Total production was more than 320 aircraft.

The Airone saw more than 20 years of service. The Z.506B was first used as a reconnaissance aircraft and torpedo bomber in the Spanish Civil War. When Italy entered the war, on 10 June 1940, 97 aircraft were operational with two Stormi da Bombardamento Marittimo (sea bombing units) and some Squadriglia da Ricognizione Marittima. 31°Stormo B.M. "autonomo" with 22 planes was based at Cagliari-Elmas airport, in Sardinia; 35° Stormo B.M., with 25 Z.506 in Brindisi, Puglia. It was used extensively in 1940-41 in France and Greece. On the outbreak of World War II, four Squadriglie for air-sea rescue missions were formed in Orbetello. These were the 612a in Stagnoni, with aircraft marked DAMB, GORO, BUIE, CANT (the prototype) and POLA, and the 614a in Benghazi, with DUCO, ALA, DODO and DAIM. The two other sections with two aircraft each were based in Torre del Lago and in the Aegean Sea at Leros. The latter was later transferred to Rhodes.

The Z.506 had its baptism of fire on 17 June 1940, the day after some French bombers had attacked Elmas base, killing 21 airmen and destroying some Cant. Z.501s. On the evening of 17 June, four 506Bs from 31° Stormo attacked targets in Northern French Africa, each dropping two 250 kg and three 100 kg bombs. The type also took part in the Battle of Calabria. In the war against Greece it was used against coastal targets and the Corinth canal. It played an important part in the conquest of many Greek islands, including Corfu, Cephalonia and Zante. Due to its vulnerability against fighters, it was restricted to use by 'recce' units (Squadriglie da Ricognizione).[9] Later in the war, it was used in maritime patrol and air-sea rescue missions. The 506 was often forced to land in Spain, due to engine failure, combat damage or a lack of fuel. A special air-sea rescue version, the Z.506S Soccorso, was produced; it was used in small numbers by the Luftwaffe.

Role Patrol aircraft
Manufacturer CANT
Designer Filippo Zappata
First flight August 19,1935
Introduction 1936
Retired 1959
Primary user Regia Aeronautica
Number built Z.506B 314 + 2 prototypes
Z.506C 40
Developed into CANT Z.509

General characteristics

  • Crew: 5
  • Length: 19.24 m (63 ft 1.5 in)
  • Wingspan: 26.50 m (86 ft 11.3 in)
  • Height: 7.45 m (24 ft 5.3 in)
  • Wing area: 86.26 m² (928.53 ft²)
  • Empty weight: 8,750 kg (19,300 lb)
  • Max. takeoff weight: 12,705 kg (28,010 lb)
  • Powerplant: 3 × Alfa Romeo 126 R.C.34 radial engines, 560 kW (750 hp) each


  • Maximum speed: 350 km/h (190 kn, 220 mph)
  • Range: 2,000 km (1,100 nmi, 1,200 mi)
  • Service ceiling: 7,000 m (23,000 ft)Armament
  • Guns:
    1 × 12.7 mm (0.50 in) Breda SAFAT machine gun
    3 × 7.7 mm (0.303 in) machine guns
  • Bombs:
    1,200 kg (2,600 lb) of general ordnance or
    1 × 800 kg (1,800 lb) torpedo

End notes