Failure or Omen? White smoke escaped from the Pope’s helicopter just after Benedict XVI’s final flight

White smoke escaping through a small chimney visible from St. Peter’s Square is traditionally used to announce the world the election of a new pope following a successful vote by the conclave.

Let’s see it from this point of view and let’s believe it is a good premonition but, as some readers have noticed, the white helicopter used by Benedict XVI’s on his final flight from Vatican City to the papal summer residence sent some white smoke from the right hand engine just after landing at Castel Gandolfo, at 17.24 LT on Feb. 28, 2013.

Videos circulating online show the white Italian Air Force VH139 (a VIP version of the AgustaWestland AW139 used during the London 2012 Olympic Games opener) landing on the helipad of the papal summer villa located 15 miles to the southeast of Rome, after the 19-minute ride.

As the chopper blades come to a stop, white smoke shortly comes out from the engine 1 area.

Pope AW139 smoke

What may have caused the smoke?

Even if white smoke is usually caused by oil leaks in engine, sources familiar with AW.139 procedures say smoke can be caused by some fuel burning after a quick engine shut-down executed without a prior cool-down procedure.

“A normal procedure that can be used in certain conditions to accelerate the engine shut-down,” that could have been used on Feb. 28 to stop the rotor as some cars had entered the Castel Gandolfo helipad coming a bit too close to the papal chopper.

Nothing special then, unless we think to the lightning that struck the top of the Vatican’s St Peter’s Basilica, just hours after Pope Benedict XVI resigned…. :-)

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.