NH90 crashes into Bracciano Lake during an airshow

On Jun. 1, 2008, at 15.15LT, an NH90 helicopter, serialled MM81519 EI-202 of the 1 Gr Sq of the Italian Army based in Viterbo crashed in the Bracciano Lake causing the death of Cap. Filippo Fornassi. The other 2 POB (People On Board) were rescued and survived the injuries.

The aircraft was at the end of its display in the Ali sul Lago airshow in front of the Italian Air Force Museum, at Vigna di Valle airport.

I was attending the show when I saw the helicopter performing a fiesler with an apex at low altitude: as soon as the aircraft’s nose was diving towards the lake, I understood that the pilot could not recover the chopper before touching the water. The helicopter touched the surface of water and broke up in many pieces before ditching. Many amateur videos of the accident, are available on Youtube too.

I took the following pictures during the accident (images are copyrighted and have a watermark because they can’t be used for any purpose without prior permission).







About David Cenciotti
David Cenciotti is a journalist based in Rome, Italy. He is the Founder and Editor of “The Aviationist”, one of the world’s most famous and read military aviation blogs. Since 1996, he has written for major worldwide magazines, including Air Forces Monthly, Combat Aircraft, and many others, covering aviation, defense, war, industry, intelligence, crime and cyberwar. He has reported from the U.S., Europe, Australia and Syria, and flown several combat planes with different air forces. He is a former 2nd Lt. of the Italian Air Force, a private pilot and a graduate in Computer Engineering. He has written five books and contributed to many more ones.


  1. Anyone who thinks this is because of the helicopter is an idiot. This was complete incompetence of the pilot. If you look at the youtube video you will see the pilot doing the most ridiculous maneuvers above a lake with people. Yes; Thats Right; There were actually people on the lake while he was flying. That alone should have canceled the whole show. Demonstrations above the public are illegal. And the maneuvers he did were much to low as well. Especially such a role over. How stupid are these pilots and organizers. Enough have died during air shows already. You don`t even take such risk if you have 5 braincells. And yet they take such risk. Again; Just look at the video. This is complete incompetence of both the pilot and the Organization of this show.

    • George,
      I wouldn’t talk about “incompetence”, but just about pilot error. Incompetence deals with poor knowledge or training; in this case NH90 crew was much competent, skilled and with a large experience, also in combat environments. The problem is that everybody, even the most experienced pilot can misjudge or make an error, otherwise the “human factor” would not be the main reason of aviation accidents. Dealing with the position of the boat, my picture was taken with a 400mm lens, with a 1.4x teleconverted with a Canon EOS Digital (1.6x) meaning that the zoom factor is extreme. In my picture the paddle boat seems to be nearer that it actually was. It was at least 10 meters aside. For sure it was within the display area.

    • George, YOU are clueless. It has been PROVEN that the helicopter had a failure. There were flashes of light coming from the cockpit just prior to the crash.

      In re to the “ridiculous maneuvers”, it’s an AIRSHOW YOU TOOL, that’s what pilots do during air shows.

      • Joe,
        it is absolutely false. It was proven that the flashes of light were not coming from inside the cockpit but were simply sunlight reflexes on the windshield.

  2. David,

    the people in the yellow boat, did they survive?? It looks so close. Even if they were 10 meters away from the impact, there looks like an aweful lot of debris flying all over teh place. Did the crew survive?

    • Hi Chris,
      the people in the yellow boat survived with minor injuries. Some burns and cuts caused by the debris. Two of the three crew member survived, one drowned and died.

    • Nice of you to show such enthusiastic appreciation for pictures of someone’s death… weirdo.

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