Bruno De Michelis was born in Italy in 1947 and has made Australia his home since 1979. These are the only simple, straightforward facts that can be stated about this polymath, multidisciplinary Renaissance man.

The uses to which he has put his (nearly) six decades are best summarized by saying that his vocations, from a very early age, were craft design and music - performing on several instruments, composing, teaching and conducting as a professional - but he was able, most of the time, to proceed with his many technical avocations as well.

Foremost among the latter is aviation, which he took up in miniature very early, so early that he was designing flying model airplanes - successful ones - at the ripe age of six. He also built kites, balloons and model airships. At 19 he took flying lessons and obtained a license, but was not able to pursue his interest in conventional aviation any further because of his (at that stage) demanding musical career, which took him to work in several countries around the world until 1996.  

Hang-gliders were next to be tried, and at 29 he learned to fly those in Scotland, soon afterward designing, building and successfully testing his own machine (the first with sail battens in Europe), capable of an L/D of 7.5 : 1. That success led to more projects, both for his own use and for customers. In 1994 he built a power-pack for paragliders that allowed a climb rate of 295 meters per minute, plus several successful trikes and paraplanes.

His flair for aerodynamics found other uses, notably in several fully covered motorcycles (first project: 1978; last: 1997). His work in this field earned praise from veteran riders, including police, and favorable comments in the press. A further project was the design and construction of a recumbent tricycle, on which a retired champion cyclist reached over 70 km/h in 1996.

High speed surface craft were an early fascination that smoothly developed into work on ground-effect vehicles - hovercraft and wing-in-ground effect machines (dubbed ekranoplans in Russia). After testing his design with models, he built his first hovercraft at age 24 - a single-seater that hovered but suffered from instability. After moving to Australia he designed and built, for customers as well as for his own use, many completely successful hovercraft, one of which reached over 100 km/h with 50 hp. Another "hover" project was the design and construction of air-pad movable seating arrangements for an Australian theater, in Melbourne. This system, in use for several years, allowed to adopt the full theatre as a modifiable stage, with all the relative advantages.

In 2002 the author re-sized and built for a customer a four-seat replica of a mahogany power boat of  the '30s. He duly modified the hull's shape and the resulting (very elegant) 14 footer managed to reach a speed of 67 km/h with a 25 hp outboard motor.

His first dynamic ground-effect project, undertaken in his twenties, was the design, construction and successful testing, (together with two other young engineers) of a Lippisch-style WIG for operation on inland bodies of water in Europe; that project was partially declassified only recently by the sponsoring agencies.

Since that time he has continued his research into water-based aircraft in general, one product of which is his comprehensive history of Russian and Soviet marine aircraft and ekranoplans, recently published.

                                                           Francois-Marc de Piolenc

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