Aerolinee Itavia Flight 870

Aerolinee Itavia Flight 870

Infobox Airliner accident|name=Aerolinee Itavia Flight 870
Image_caption=Recovered_parts_of_Itavia_Flight_870Pratica di Mare Air Force Base
Date=June 27, 1980
Type=unknown in-flight explosion
Site=Tyrrhenian Sea near Ustica, Italy
Aircraft Type=McDonnell Douglas DC-9-15
Origin=Guglielmo Marconi Airport
Destination=Palermo International Airport
Operator=Aerolinee Itavia
Tail Number=I-TIGI
Survivors =0

Aerolinee Itavia Flight 870, also known in the Italian media as the Ustica Massacre ("Strage di Ustica"), was an Italian flight that suffered an in-flight explosion while in route from Bologna, Italy to Palermo, Italy. It was a regularly scheduled flight from Guglielmo Marconi Airport in Bologna, Italy to Palermo International Airport in Palermo, Italy. The flight departed 2 hours late at 8.08 pm CET on June 27, 1980. At the controls of the McDonnell Douglas DC-9-15 that evening were Captain Domenico Gatti and First Officer Enzo Fontana.

The aircraft (registered I-TIGI), which left Guglielmo Marconi Airport bound for Palermo International Airport, crashed at 8.59 pm CET into the Tyrrhenian Sea near the island of Ustica, Italy about 80 miles (130 km) southwest of Naples, Italy. All 81 people on board were killed (2 flight crew members, 2 flight attendants, and 77 passengers).

Two Italian Air Force F-104s were scrambled at 9.00 pm CET from Grosseto Air Force Base to locate the accident area and to spot any survivors but they failed due to lack of visibility. In July 2006 the re-assembled fragments of the DC-9 aircraft were returned to Bologna from Pratica di Mare Air Force Base near Rome. On June 23, 2008, Italy announced that they have reopened the case of Flight 870.

Official explanation

After years of investigations, no official explanation or final report have been provided by the Italian government. In 1989 the Parliamentary Commission on Terrorism, headed by Senator Giovanni Pellegrino, pronounced itself content concerning the disappearance of Flight 870, which thus became known as "Ustica Massacre" ("Strage di Ustica").

The definitive sentence asserted: "The DC9 incident occurred following a military interception action, the DC9 was shot down, the lives of 81 innocent citizens were destroyed by an action properly described as an act of war, real war undeclared, a covert international police action against our country, which violated its borders and rights."

" "L'incidente al DC9 è occorso a seguito di azione militare di intercettamento, il DC9 è stato abbattuto, è stata spezzata la vita a 81 cittadini innocenti con un'azione, che è stata propriamente atto di guerra, guerra di fatto e non dichiarata, operazione di polizia internazionale coperta contro il nostro Paese, di cui sono stati violati i confini e i diritti." On January 10, 2007, the Cassazione Court of Italy conclusively closed the case, fully acquitting two former Italian Air Force Generals, Lamberto Bartolucci and Franco Ferri, of any wrongdoing.

In June 2008, Rome prosecutors reopened the investigation into the crash after former Italian President Francesco Cossiga said that the aircraft had been shot down by French warplanes. [ [ Italy Reopens Probe Into 1980 Plane Crash: Media,] Reuters, 22 June 2008]

On July 7 2008 a [ claim] for damages was served to the French President.

Alternative theories

Speculation at the time and in the years since has been fueled in part by media reports, military officials statements, and ATC recordings, including radar images and trails of debris; particularly, trails of objects moving at high speeds.

A terrorist bomb

After the series of bombings which hit Italy in the 70's, a terrorist act was quite naturally the first to be proposed. It must be considered that the flight was delayed outbound from Bologna by almost three hours, so apparently the timer would have been set to actually cause an explosion at Palermo airport, or on a further flight of the same plane.

Missile strike during training exercise

This involves NATO forces accidentally downing the DC-9 during an international exercise involving Italian, U.S., and French jet fighters. Aviation Week and Space Technology reported that damage had been found consistent with a continuous-rod warhead, which would have had to come from a surface-to-air missile.

Missile strike during military operation

Major sources in the Italian media have alleged over the years that the aircraft was shot down during a dog fight involving Libyan, U.S., French and Italian Air Force fighters in an attempted assassination by NATO members on an important Libyan politician, maybe even the leader Muammar al-Gaddafi, who was flying in the same airspace that evening. Gaddafi has denied being in the area of the accident that evening. This version was supported in particular by investigative magistrate Rosario Priore in 1999 [,,1825348,00.html The Mystery of Flight 870] , "The Guardian", July 21, 2006 en icon] . The judge Priore said in his concluding report that his investigation had been deliberately obstructed by the Italian military and members of the secret service, in compliance with NATO requests .

The media also reported that radar monitoring released in 1997 by NATO showed that at least seven fighter aircraft were in the vicinity when the jet plunged into the sea off the island of Ustica. According to these sources, the radar shows one or two Libyan MiG-23 had tried to evade detection by flying close to the airliner. Three Italian Air Force F-104s, one U.S. Navy A-7 Corsair II and a French fighter pursued the Libyan MiG-23 and a battle ensued.

On July 18, 1980, 21 days after the crash, a Libyan MiG-23 crashed on the Sila Mountains in Calabria, Italy, according to eye witnesses and official reports. Media rumors reported that the plane may actually only have been discovered at that time, and that the pilot's body was decomposed, originated allegations that the MiG may have been shot down at the time of the Flight 870 incident.

ATC transcription

*20:00 local F/O Itavia 870, ready for start-up. [Flight IH870 is running about two hours late due to small technical problems and heavy weather that has disrupted normal air traffic over Italy that day]
*TWR 870, cleared to start. When ready, cleared also for taxi.
*F/O Roger.
*20:05 TWR 870, clearance.
*F/O Go ahead.
*TWR Itavia 870 is cleared to Palermo via Firenze, Amber 14; climb and maintain flight level one-niner-zero. Read back and call when ready for take-off.
*F/O 870 is cleared to Palermo, via Firenze, Amber 14, level 190. We'll call you ready.
*20:07 F/O 870 is ready for take off.
*TWR 870, cleared for take-off.
*20:08 TWR 870, airborne at 08, call Padova center, good-bye.
*F/O With Padova, bye.
*20:11 F/O Padova, good evening, Itavia 870.
*Padova ACC Itavia 870, continue as cleared and report Firenze.
*F/O We'll report Firenze. [Control was procedural. IH870 reached Firenze VOR at 20:20]
*20:20 F/O Over Firenze, Itavia 870.
*Padova ACC Contact Rome Radar, 124.2, good-bye.
*F/O Rome, 124.2, good-bye, 870.
*F/O Good evening Rome, Itavia 870.
*Rome (North -East sector) ACC Good evening to you too, 870. Squawk 1136. Cleared to Palermo, via Bolsena, Puma, Latina, Ponza, Amber 13
*F/O 1136 is coming and 870 is cleared to Palermo via Bolsena, Puma, Latina, Ponza, Amber 13 and we're approaching 190...
*Rome ACC Climb initially to 230.
*F/O Up to 230, 870. [IH870 is cleared to FL230 and not to an higher level because at FL250, a few miles ahead, another Itavia aircraft, flight IH779 from Bergamo to Rome Ciampino, is about to start descent. The radar controller asks to the DC-9 crew if they have a visual.]
*F/O Rome, 870, with the traffic in sight, is turning left again, crossing 245.
*Rome ACC Roger, direct to Bolsena.
*F/O Direct to Bolsena, 870.
*20:27 Rome ACC [due to some scalloping of the Firenze VOR, IH779 and IH870 are now about 8 miles left of the Amber 14's centerline] Itavia 779, proceed direct to Campagnano [VOR] , 160 heading from present position. Also 870 take 160 heading.
*F/O 160 for 870.
*20:34 Rome ACC 870, call Rome 125.5. Bye.
*F/O 125.5.
*F/O Rome, good evening. 870 is over Bolsena.
*Rome (Terminal) ACC Radar contact, as cleared.
*20:39 Rome ACC 870, 124.2, good evening. [IH870 is over Puma reporting point and is turning left to Latina VOR]
*F/O Thank you, bye.
*F/O This is 870, good evening, Rome.
*Rome ACC 870 ?
*F/O Good evening, 870 maintaining 290, over Puma.
*Rome ACC Roger, proceed Latina, Ponza.
*20:44 F/O Rome, 870.
*Rome ACC Itavia 870, for Ponza 123.35.
*F/O Bye.
*F/O 870, good evening, Rome.
*Rome (South Sector) ACC Good evening, 870; maintain 290, report Amber 13, Alpha.
*F/O Yes...neither Ponza is working ? We've found a graveyard this evening; coming from Firenze we didn't find one beacon working properly.
*Rome ACC In fact, everything is a bit out, Ponza too. What's your heading now ?
*F/O We've 195.
*Rome ACC Well, maintain 195. You'll go some mile south of Ponza.
*Rome ACC I don't know if you want to keep this heading. Otherwise you can go left, 15-20 degrees.
*F/O OK, we put 210.
*20:48 F/O This is 870: is it possible to get 250 ? [IH870 requests a lower level due turbulence]
*Rome ACC Affirmative: you can start descent now.
*F/O Thanks: leaving 290.
*20:51 Rome ACC 870, you've left Ponza three miles to the right, so approximately to Palermo it's good this heading.
*F/O Very kind, thanks, we're approaching 250.
*Rome ACC Perfect, anyway call me when receiving Palermo [VOR] .
*F/O PAL [VOR] is already on the air and coming well. And we got the Ponza DME.
*Rome ACC Good, so normal navigation to Palermo. Maintain 250, call me over Alpha.
*20:56 F/O It's over Alpha, 870.
*Rome ACC Affirmative, slightly to the right, about four miles. Radar service terminates here. Call 128.8 for further (instructions)
*F/O Thank you for everything and good-bye.
*F/O Rome, Itavia 870. 115 miles to PRS [Raisi VOR, near Palermo] , maintaining 250.
*Rome ACC Roger, Itavia 870. An estimate for Raisi ?
*F/O We estimate Raisi at 13.
*Rome ACC 870, roger. Cleared to Raisi VOR, no delay expected. Call back for descent.
*F/O To Raisi, no delay. We'll call you for descent, 870.
*Rome ACC That is correct.
*20:59:45 [Last transponder answer from the IH870 is recorded at the far southern end of the Ciampino civil radar range. IH870 is recorded at FL250, about 50 miles north of Ustica island]
*21:04 Rome ACC Itavia 870, when ready, cleared to 110, report leaving 250 and passing 150. [No answer]
*Rome ACC Itavia 870, Rome [No answer]
*Rome ACC Itavia 870, Rome, do you read ? [No answer. Two other traffic are requested to relay the calls to IH870, but no answer is ever received from the DC-9.] [ATC transcript as published in Italian by VOLARE, n.40, year IV. English translation provided by Enrico Zaffiri.]

Conspiracy theories

There are many conspiracy theories surrounding this event. They are based on the series of events following the air crash. For example, the vessel that carried out the search for debris on the ocean floor was French, but only US officials had access to the aircraft parts they found. Several radar reports were erased and several Italian generals were indicted for obstruction of justice 20 years later.

Some of the Italian Air Force officials who might have known about the disaster's background died suddenly. []

*August 3 1980: Col. Pierangelo Teoldi, was nominated to become Commander of Grosetto AFB, but had not yet assumed command as of date of death - Car accident.
*May 9 1981: Maurizio Gari, Poggio Ballone air defense radar controller - heart attack at age 37.
*March 20 1987: Licio Giorgieri, Italian Aircraft Registry Commander - killed by a communist terrorist group. (see )
*March 31 1987: Mario Alberto Dettori, Poggio Ballone air defence radar controller - suicide by Hanging.
*August 12 1988: Ugo Zammarelli, Cagliari Italian Army Intelligence's Service Cagliari Section (see ) - hit and run by motorcycle.
*August 28 1988: Mario Naldini and Ivo Nutarelli, Italian Air Force strike pilots crossed Flight 870s path on June 27th over Tuscany - mid air collision during the 1988 Ramstein Air Show.
*February 1 1991: Antonio Muzio, Lamezia Terme control tower Marshal - murdered, culprits unknown.
*February 2 1992: Sandro Marcucci, Italian Air Force 46a Aerobrigata Pisa pilot - air crash during a wildfire firefighting operation.
*February 2 1992: Antonio Pagliara, Otranto air defence radar controller - car accident.
*January 12 1993: Roberto Boemio, Chief of Staff, 3a Air Region, Italian Air Force - knifed during a robbery.
*November 2 1994: Gian Paolo Totaro, Italian Army Major medic - suicide by hanging.
*December 21 1995: Franco Parisi, Otranto air defense radar controller - suicide by hanging.
*April 4 2002: Michele Landi, IT consultant for the Italian government and for the same Procura that was on the Itavia 870 case - suicide by hanging (soon after he revealed he had come in the possession of information regarding the incident) []


In Bologna on June 27,2007 the Museum for the Memory of Ustica was opened. The museum is in possession of parts of the plane, which are assembled and on display. Almost all of the external fuselage of the plane was reconstructed. In the museum there are also objects belonging to those on board that were found in the sea near the plane.
Christian Boltanski was called to produce a site specific installation.The installation is composed by:
* 81 pulsing lamp hanging over the plane
* 81 black mirrors
* 81 loudspeakers (behind the mirrors) Each loudspeaker describes a simple thought/worry (I.E. "when i will arrive i will go to the sea")All the objects found are contained in a wooden box covered with a black plastic skin.A small book with the photos of all objects and various information is available to the visitor upon request.


See also

* Gulf of Sidra incident (1981)
* Gulf of Sidra incident (1989)
* Strategy of tension
* Anni di piombo
* Operation Gladio
* Bologna massacre
* Korean Air Flight 007
* Iran Air Flight 655
* TWA Flight 800
* Avianca Flight 203
* Aer Lingus Flight 712
* Accidents and incidents in aviation
* List of accidents and incidents on commercial airliners

External links

* [ Official Site of the Association of the Relatives of the Victims of the Accident]
* [ AirDisaster.Com Accident Synopsis of Flight 870]
* [ Accident details] at []
*imdb title|id=0102487|title=Il Muro di gomma, film about the accident
* [,,1825348,00.html The mystery of flight 870] - Guardian Newspaper.
* [ (Video) The truth about Ustica's disaster (6/27/1980)]

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