Inside the Italian Air Force One: discover the A319CJ

Have you ever wondered what’s the internal set up of the Italian Air Force One? Have you ever guessed if the seat of the Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi is comfortable?

On Apr 17, I had the opportunity to sit on that important (and comfortable) chair since I flew in one of the 3 A319CJ of the 31° Stormo, the unit within the Aeronautica Militare undertaking VIP transportation missions (among the important persons carried by the aircraft of the 31 Stormo there’s also Pope Benedict XVI, who often use the SH-3D of the 93° Gruppo). The opportunity was provided by a Media Flight organized by the Italian Air Force Press Office to bring journlists and photographers to Decimomannu to attend the Media Day of the Exercise Spring Flag (for more info and pictures search “Spring Flag” in this site using the search field in the upper right hand column). Along with other media representatives, I boarded the aircraft serialled MM62174 (the other two A319CJ of the ItAF are the MM62209 and MM62243) of the 306° Gruppo, parked in the 31° Stormo apron at Ciampino airport, Rome, and made two flights (to and from Deci) lasting slightly less than 1 hour each.

Immediately after boarding through the front stairs I gave a quick look at the “glass” cockpit with retractable HUD (Head Up Display), MFDs (Multi-Function Displays) and all the other features of a commercial A319, IFF and radio equipment aside. The standard crew is composed by 2 pilots (“I-2174” flight had Gen. Parma, former Cdr of the 31° Stormo and current Cdr of the Comando delle Forze per la Mobilità e il Supporto, on the left seat in the cockpit), 2 flight engineers, 2 stewards.

I was given the possibility to take a seat in the VIP area, a sort of internal “business class” made of 8 seats. These are large and ergonomic and they are located in front of desks equipped with telephones and have large LCDs on the opposite wall. Next to the “business class”, there’s also a sort of President’ Suite with two large seats (each with an embedded telephone, modem/fax), LCDs, a sofa and a private restroom; everything inside this private area is lacquered. This is where a strategic meeting between the Prime Minister and its closer co-workers would take place.

The “economic class” is divided from the business class by means of a corridor that runs inside the fuselage more or less above the root of the right wing and has plenty of windows on the starboard engine. The seats in the back are obviously smaller and there are 8 rows with 5 seat each (2 on the left and 3 on the right of the corridor).

Even if the aircraft is used for State Flights, carrying the most important representatives of the Italian Government, the A319CJ, whose Mission Design Series is VC-319A, can be also used as an Air Ambulance to perform Hospital flights, MEDEVAC and CASEVAC. In fact, with its fleet of A319, Falcon 50 (VC-50A) and Falcon 900EX (VC-900A) and EASY (VC-900B), the 31° Stormo provides also short, medium and long range

Emergency transportation with at least one aircraft ready for departure H24 365 days per year (recently the aircraft of the Stormo have rescued Italian citizens in Australia, USA and Argentina). Just to have an idea of the effort of the wing in its two main tasks, let’s have a look at figures of the last year: in 2007, the VC-319A, flew 1.364 sorties (2.483 flight hours); the VC-50A, 1311 sorties (1083 fh); the VC-900A, 2136 sorties (1510 fh); the VC-900B 1484 sorties (957 fh) and the SH-3D (VH-3D), 250 sorties (247 fh).

Boarding the A319CJ of the 306° Gruppo:

My seat (on the left, next to the window):

Looking to my left:

Looking to my right:

The display in front of my seat showing the flight progressing to destination:

The right wing as seen from the corridor’s window:

The corridor window and the corridor between “business” and “economy”:

The Presidential Suite:

Inside the cockpit:

Rome, as seen from the aircraft performing the ILS procedure in Ciampino:

I wish to thank Col. Amedeo Magnani of the Italian Air Force Press Office for providing the opportunity to fly with the A319CJ.

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.