The year 2008 in pictures

It’s only when you get to the end of the year that you get the full picture of what has happened in the previous 12 months. Images collected during worlwide travels, flights and base visits, used to illustrate the most different stories dealing with the World of Aviation, provide a means to get a snapshop on the most important topics discussed on this site in the 2008. A sort of “debrief at a glance”.


During the first part of the year I often spotted in Fiumicino airport to take pictures of the civilian aircraft taking off from “Leonardo Da Vinci” airport. There are a lot of other interesting things to see at Fiumicino in that period: the first Alitalia aircraft wearing the brand new company’s livery and, in particular, the B767 (B764). In that period I’m also interested in taking pictures of the Emirates B.777-300 since I’m discussing a lot about the safety of the “Triple Seven” fleet following the British Airways 038 crash landing in London Heathrow. The analysis of the possible root causes of the crash landing of the BA038 will be updated and reviewed each time a new report is issued or new details surface. During the year Aviation Safety will be always discussed and most important emergencies analysed: the (many) Qantas emergencies (, the Lufthansa 044 wingstrike ( and the Spanair crash in Madridimg_0044 ( just to name but few that had an extensive coverage.

At the end of February, I spent a few days in New York City and wrote a detailed Trip Report about my experiences on board one of those B767-300 still wearing the old colour scheme: Trip report: Rome Fiumicino (FCO) – New York JFK (JFK) Round-Trip

In March I went Frosinone airbase, to write a report on the 72° Stormo that will be published in 2009 on RID (Rivista Italiana Difesa). During the visit, I fly on board an NH-500E of the 208° Gruppo and to take part, along with another helicopter of the same type, to a mission inside the Frosinone (Aerodrome Traffic Zone). The flight provides an interesting opportunity for some air-to-air photography.

In April I visited the Exhibition held in Rome, inside an anti-aircraft bunker, whose title was “L’aeroporto che non c’è” (whose translation could be more or less “the airport that doesn’t exhist”) that dealt with the project of the Magliana water airport. crw_7587The exhibition provided many interesting details about the Aeronautica Militare in the ’30s and about the airport that was to be built in Rome in a large area located in the SW of Rome (an area comprising the current EUR and Magliana districts), in the period between 1930 and 1940, the Fascism had planned to erect an intercontinental seaplane station equipped also with a “normal” runway needed to serve “normal” aircraft.

The Spring Flag exercise provided an interesting opportunity to fly on board Italy’s Air Force One: Inside the Italian Air Force One: discover the A319CJ. The

A319CJ right wing

opportunity was provided by the Italian Air Force Press Office that organized a Media Flight to bring journlists and photographers to Decimomannu to attend the Media Day of the most important Italian exercise.

Spring Flag was indeed interesting. Media Day aside (with the interesting tactical event and subsequent mass fly-by) this website extensively covered the event, with a photographer (Giovanni Maduli), spending many days in the airport and reporting directly from there. All the related posts can be read by clicking the following link:

F-2000As I wrote in one of the related posts, Sardinia island (and most of Italy), during the Exercise was interested by cloudy weather that had a significant impact on the planned sorties. Just to have an idea of the rate of cancellations let’s have a look at some figures: the Coalition forces, based in Deci flew 212 out 373 missions, the 63% of the planned sorties. F-2000 nozzlesThe Opfor based in Trapani were less affected by the meteorological conditions and flew 119 sorties out of 137 planned, the 87%. Even for this reason, one of the Exercise’s lessons learned is that next year the Spring Flag could take place a little later, most probably in May. Despite the bad weather that affected also the Media Day, I was able to take some interesting pictures. As I wrote in the debrief: SF08 was a Joint, Interdepartmental, International Exercise, integrated with some Government Agencies and with the Red Cross. In two week, medium-scale air operations were conducted from two DOBs (Deployable Operating Base), Decimomannu and Trapani. This is one of the main differences between the SF07 and this 2008 edition: in order to create a more realistic scenario, the aircraft crw_7866were not all based on the same airport, so the Red Air was stationed in Sicily, while the Blue Forces were in Deci. Because of the current financial crisis, this year’ SF did not host the field hospital, kitchen and all the logistic assets that during 2007 edition were based in Decimomannu. Unlike last year, when JFACC (Joint Force Air Component Command) managed all the air ops, this year the JFACC split in a DCAOC (Deployable Combined Air Operations Center), deployed to Bari-Palese airport, that managed the coalition forces, and CAOC5 that from its usual homebase in Poggio Renatico, managed the oSMIpposing forces (”opfor”). 52 Italian and 23 foreign assets (and 1.968 people) attended the exercise, performing all range of missions; among the most interesting sorties the SF08 encopassed also Intelligence gathering missions, Combat SAR (CSAR), Slow Mover Interception (SMI) and Urban CAS (Close Air Support). In order to test the handling capabilities of the airport, an ATOC (Air Terminal Operation Center) was established in Deci and operated for 8 days with 12 people providing check-in and boarding services and handling some 600/800 passengers per day.

On Apr 26 I went to Grazzanise for the 90th Anniversary of the 21° Gruppo. During the celebration, the ItAF Tiger Sqn presented a new Special Colour (New Italian Special Colour to celebrate the 21° Gruppo 90th Anniversary) and organizeAB212ICO Speciald an interesting tactical event that ended with the spectacular release of flares by two AB.212ICOs of the 4 ships formation (that was led by the AB.212ICO Tiger Special Colour). I wrote a detailed report on the event that was published by Rivista Aeronautica on the 03/08 issue. You can read the article (in Italian) by clicking on the following link: I 90 anni delle Tigri. You can also read an article on the Squadron activities in Afghanistan, published on June 2008 issue of Air Forces Monthly, at the following link: Burka Tigers.

On Apr 26, during the Reunion, I tested for the first time my Sigma 80-4AB212ICO calendar00mm f/4.5-5.6 EX APO OS DG with a Sigma 1.4x teleconverter specially modified (by me) to work calendario-2009with the AF (Autofocus). I’m pretty satisfied of the results and I’m very proud that one of the pictures I took that day in Grazzanise (a close up on a turning AB.212ICO) was used in the official Italian Air Force calendar (it is the picture used for November 2009) and represents the only picture in the calendar (front cover aside, shot by K. Tokunaga) from an “external” photographer. To read more about this year’s calendar of the Aeronautica Militare, visit this link on the ItAF website.

At the beginning of May I visited Trapani, where I took part in a SMI (Slow Mover Interception) F-16 air-to-airmission of the 37° Stormo on board a Siai 208M of the 637th Squadriglia Collegamenti and witnessed an interception from the “zombie” point of view: Air to Air with the Trapani-based Italian F-16s. The Siai was intercepted and escorted by 2 F-16s of the 10° Gruppo that provided a unique photo oppportunity. During the stay in Trapani I also attended a training sortie with an HH-3F “Pelikan” of the 82° Centro SAR of the 15° Stormo. We flew as “Palma 01″ a so-called “SAR mare” a search and rescue mission above the sea. The mission was extremely interesting: we performed a couple of instrumcrw_8565ental procedures under GCA control, then we performed some instrumental approach to the sea to simulate the approach procedure to the hovering position during a night SAR mission and then landed on the Favignana helipad. Before returning to Trapani in VFR, we made a couple of recoveries from the ground using the winch.

At the end of May I extensively followed the Giornata Azzurra 2008, the most important Italian airshow held each year at Pratica di Mare airbase. Among the most photographed aircraft, the mock up of the Lockheed JSF (Joint Strike Fighter), the UAE Mirages, C130J Giornata Azzurrathe Turkish NF-5 and also the new Punto Abarth of the Frecce Tricolori. Other interesting aircraft were the ROF Mig-21 and AN-26, the Italian SIGINT platform G-222VS, the last ItAF B707 (that in spite of its last operative flight, was still flying some sorties from Pratica di Mare), the NH-500E with rockets and in MEDEVAC configuration. The air display was focused on the tactical event that particularly interesting as it involved HH-3F, AB.212ICO, AMX, C-27J, C-130J, Tornado and F-2000 of the Italian Air Force in a simulated blitz to F-16 GA 2008take an airport located at the border between two fighting countries in a virtual out-of-area scenario. The simulated action saw the Tornado and AMX formations, covered by F-2000 Eurofighters in sweep role, attacking the airport in order to neutralize the enemy air defenses. Then the airport was taken by the Italian Special Forces carried by 2 HH-3F and 1 AB.212 and prepared for the arrival of the C-27J and C-130J carring the personnel, materials and equipments needed for the logistical support of the Forward Operating Base. The base was then readied for the arrival of the other allied aircraft operating under the UN flag while the transport aircraft departed again full of humanitarian aids, escorted to destination by AMXs and F-2000s.
All the posts dealing with the Giornata Azzurra can be read by clicking here:

On Ju 1 I witnessed the tragic accident involving the NH90 of the Esercito Italiano (Italian Army) which crashed into the surface of Bracciano Lake, causing the death of Capt. Filippo Fornassi. To read more about this picture and the accident, visit the following link:
NH90 crash

On Jun 20, I visited the Spotter Day for the 90th Anniversary of the 23° Gruppo, in Cervia. The highlight of the event, that was attended by many Italian and foreign visitors (for more details click hereSpecial Colour Cervia: Spotter Day 90th Anniversary 23° Gruppo – Cervia 20.06.08 was the F-16ADF MM7251 painted in a special colour scheme; the first and probably only F-16 “Special Colour” in ItAF service. To read my article on the event, published on the 04/08 issue of Rivista Aeronautica click the following link: Spotter Day per i 90 anni del 23° Gruppo.

During the Summer, I often went to Fiumicino, in order to witness the increase of air traffic caused by the transfer of the 70% of the Alitalia flights from Milan Malpensa (MXP) to Rome Fiumicino and by the Summer season’ schedule that always bring more aircraft to the Leonardo Da Vinci. After discussing a lot during the year about the safety issues of the B747-400 and B777 fleets (,B777 Emirates I often go to Fiumicino to watch some wide-bodies arriving or departing from Rome airport and visually assess their status. Among the interesting details I noticed spending more or less an hour on Sunday Aug. 3 next to the airport’s fence, was the red “Emirates” writing below the fuselage and the URL of the company’s website applied to B777-300 “A6-EMN” (that I had never spotted before in “Fiume”).

Cavour On Nov 9, during the Armed Forces Day celebrations I went to Civitavecchia to visit the brand new Italian aircraft carrier Cavour (see also: On board the Cavour aircraft carrier). The aircraft carrier was next to the Amerigo Vespucci, the famous tall ship of the Marina Militare based in Livorno and used for training purposes. An interesting public tour brought all the visitors on the flight deck on the top/flag bridge (to visit the Primary Flight Control inside the “Tower”), and in the large hangar of 2.500 sqmt capable of recovering 12 helicopters or 8 AV-8B+ (or JSF in the future) or mix of the two types, where a static display of AB-212ASW, EH-101 and Harrier had been arranged.pict1464

In November, I had also the unique opportunity to visit the Tishreen War Panorama Museum, located in Damascus, Syria. Built to celebrate the Yom Kippur War that took place in the October 1973 (”Tishreen” means “October” in Arabic), during which Syria fought along Egypt against Israel to conquer the Sinai peninsula and the Golan Heights lost in the Six Days War in 1967, the Museum hosts both Syrian equipment (aircraft, tanks, cannons) and Israeli “hardware” captured during the 1973 war and in 1982 war in Lebanon.

December was dedicated to the in-depth study of the whole year, that produced this photostory and the article about the accidents that involved Italian military helicopters: 2008: a bad year for Italian military helicopters.
Obviously, this was just a quick look to the year 2008. To read what’s behind each image (and to see much more pictures) the best way is to go to the “Archive of the previous month” menu on the right hand coloumn and, by selecting desired month, to access all the posts written in that month. Otherwise, you may also use the search box located on top of the right hand coloumn.

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.