Tag Archives: Alitalia

That Time An Alitalia B747 (Escorted By Italian Air Force Tornado and AMX) Wowed The Crowd At An Air Show Near Rome

In 1996, an Alitalia B747-200 Jumbo Jet accompanied by two ItAF combat aircraft performed a remarkable display during Ostia Air Show.

Ostia, on the Tyrrhenian coast, few kilometers to the west of Rome, has hosted 13 editions of the Ostia then Rome International Air Show: the first one in 1988 and the last in 2014.

Located between an international airport (Rome-Fiumicino) airport and a military airfield (Pratica di Mare airbase), the air show has often attracted interesting aircraft, including large airliners and fast jets. As happened in 1996. On Jun. 2, 1996, the Ostia Air Show included a really unique display: an Alitalia B747-200 performed some flybys escorted by an Italian Air Force Tornado IDS and an AMX belonging to the 311° Gruppo of the Reparto Sperimentale Volo (ItAF’s Test Wing) from “Pratica”.

The B747 trailed by an AMX and a Tornado. (All photos: Author)

Unfortunately all I could find about that airshow (that I attended) are the three photographs (hence the poor quality) that you can find in this post. You can still get an idea of the sight (by the way if some of our readers have better photographs or a video, please let us know).

The somehow crappy photos taken from the beach by this author show the Alitalia Jumbo (a type that had already taken part, alone, to the 1991 edition of the airshow) flying alongside the Italian combat jets (noteworthy, the Tornado IDS was still wearing the Desert livery applied to the fleet that took part in Operation Locusta – the Italian contribution to Desert Storm in 1991 – from Al Dhafra, in UAE).

By the way, between 1970 and 2004, Alitalia operated a fleet of 21 B747s: 2x -100 and 19x -200 examples.

The B747 turning over the sea while performing a gear-down passage.

As already said, the airshow often featured airliners along with combat aircraft. Watch what this ATI MD-82 did in 1992 (I was there as well):

All photos: Author


Mystery surrounds video showing Alitalia flight escorted by two German Eurofighters

A quite unusual sight for the passengers of an Alitalia Airbus 320 from Amsterdam escorted by two German Eurofighters for about 20 minutes.

A video of two German Eurofighter Typhoon fighter jets escorting an Alitalia flight has emerged after some passengers reported that their plane, on a scheduled flight from Amsterdam to Rome Fiumicino, had been flanked and escorted by German warplanes.

Indeed, the footage, filmed with a smartphone shows the two Typhoons shadowing the civil plane.

Based on Flightradar24.com logs, the civil liner, an Airbus A320 registration EI-DSM, took off from Schipol at about 12.20 PM LT, climbed at 35,000 feet and crossed the German airspace flying more or less over Dusseldorf, Cologne, the west of Frankfurt and Stuttgard.

According to Fabio Guccione, owner of a travel agency in Palermo, who talked to several media outlets: “Someone asked the hostess to have information from the pilots about the reasons of the “escort”. But after a few minutes the flight attendant came back saying that the captain did not want to say anything.”

Civilian planes are escorted by interceptors when they lack diplomatic clearance to cross a sovereign airspace, for bomb threats, radio failures and, generally speaking any time the local Air Defense, usually after coordinating the intercept with nearby radar centers and ATC agencies, decide to perform a so-called VID (Visual Identification) of a plane to verify its identity, adherence to the filled FPL (Flight Plan) etc.

Sometimes, air defense radars ask (through the relevant ATC agency) flights passing through their sector whether they would be willing to be intercepted for training purposes; still, such requests are addressed to other military aircraft and not to civil planes, whose passengers could be scared by the sight of two (usually) armed combat planes.

Image credit: Eurofighter

H/T to Giuseppe Stilo for the heads-up


What happens if a drone hits your plane midair? Here’s a detailed analysis

On Mar. 4, 2013, at approximately 1:15 p.m. LT, the pilot of Alitalia Flight AZ608, a Boeing 777 registered “EI-ISE”, flying from Rome Fiumicino to New York John F. Kennedy international Airport, spotted a small, unmanned aircraft while on approach to runway 31R at JFK.

The Alitalia B777 was about three miles from the touchdown point at an altitude of approximately 1,500 feet and the drone, described as a four-propeller, black-colored remotely controlled aircraft about 4-feet in diameter, came within 200 feet of it.

Here below you can find the video that embeds the audio of the near miss. Noteworthy, AZ608 used the radio callsign Alitalia 60U “Heavy”.

Whereas the FBI is investigating the incident and looking to identify and locate the aircraft and its operator (flying such dangerous toy next to a major airport is at least insane), it may be interested to analyze what happens when a drone hits a commercial plane configured for landing.


Image credit: WGBH via KPBS.org

Anything hitting a plane configured for landing, hence slow and close to the ground, can theoretically cause a disaster.
Even if the drone was relatively small (at least if compared to pro-ones, i.e. Predator, Reaper and other famous UAVs) the extent of the damage could be quite large.

Let’s see some of them:

  1. FOD (Foreign Object Damage) in one of the engines: the Boeing 777 is a two-engine liner. Let’s imagine the drone was sucked by one of the two engines. The most obvious result would be loss/reduction of thrust if not engine fire
  2. Impact with wing and/or flight control surfaces: depending on the extent of the damage, an impact with the wing could cause a chunk of it falling apart, or debris damaging some of the control surfaces, with consequent reduction of lift generated by the wing, instability and/or inability to move the control surface (imagine drone parts being stuck between ailerons, flaps, etc.)
  3. Front impact/cockpit incursion: debris could damage or destroy the windshield, entering the cockpit injuring or killing the pilots (once again this depends on the size of the drone and the airspeed at the time of the midair collision)
  4.  Impact with another part of the airframe: if the drone hit other, less critical parts of the plane, it could damage sensors, antennas and other equipment that feed the flight data computer, resulting in a lack of information to the aircrew.
  5. Distraction: if you see a drone coming close to your plane you’ll probably switch your attention towards it with a consequent loss of situational awareness. This can be dangerous, especially if it happens at very low altitude, at night, in poor weather.

Summing up: a lot of bad things can happen, but it all depends on the drone’s size and point of impact. Hence, better you fly your RC-model far away from airports if you don’t want to cause or be part of an aviation incident….or disaster.

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8.9 magnitude quake hits Japan triggering devastating tsunami that cancels Sendai airport

On Mar.11, 2011, at 14.46LT (05.46 UTC), an 8.9 magnitude earthquake (followed by more than 30 aftershocks, the strongest measuring 7.1) with epicenter offshore 373 kilometers from Tokyo triggering a 10-metre tsunami that pounded the country’s east causing hundreds of deads and several hundreds more missing. As a consequence, air travel across Asia and Pacific were heavily impacted. Although there are no reports of damages affecting the JAL fleet its service it’s experiencing big disruptions. ANA (All Nippon Airways) has canceled 131 flights and diverted 24, affecting 32.700 passengers. The disruption involved also all the other airlines flying daily scheduled service to Japan. Alitalia canceled the scheduled service with AZ784 from Rome to Tokyo Narita departing at 15.00LT on Mar. 11 and the related return flight (AZ785) scheduled for Mar. 12. The AZ786 Milan-Tokyo was also rescheduled for Mar. 12 (dep. 08.00LT) with return scheduled for Mar. 13. The AZ 792 Rome-Osaka flight, scheduled at 15.15LT on Mar. 11, flew normally (departing at 15.30LT). Other companies, like Air France and British Airways, were compelled to rearrange their schedules and cancel some flights, while Finnair cancelled all its flights to Japan.
Even though some 13.000 passengers were stranded at Narita and another 10.000 were stuck at Haneda airport, airports infrastructures sufferend minor damages and were able to resume limited operations a few hours after the earthquake. The worst affected was Sendai airport that was completely flooded by a devastating tsunami wave that struck the airfield (located next to the sea) at 15.46LT.
The effects of the quake go well beyond Japan as a tsunami warning was issued for 50 areas of the Pacific including Russia, Canada and Hawaii, and Central American countries like Guatemala, El Salvador and Costa Rica.

Below video and image of Sendai airport being hit by the tsunami raise some questions: at least some planes should have been on the ground when the airport was flooded but none can be seen in the footage. The earthquake hit at 14.46LT and the tsunami hit at 15.57LT: did a 1 hour and 11 minutes warning offer enough time to get rid of all planes presumed to be at Sendai airport?

Introducing the IFE on Alitalia domestic routes

As frequent travelers know many airlines keep their IFE (In Flight Entertainment) system switched off on domestic/short range routes because – using Mary Kirby’s (aka RunwayGirl) words – “Some carriers decide that the costs do not outweigh the gains, even after installs”. Basing on my personal experience, the Italian flag company was among those who didn’t give their travellers the pleasure of personal televisions on domestic and short range networks until Giovanni Maduli sent me the following picture he took on an Alitalia A320 flying from Cagliari to Rome with an operative IFE. The system provides each passenger with a moving map or a selection of channels broadcasting movies, sports, children’s shows and fashion: a pleasant surprise.