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5 May 2019

Montagna Longa air disaster

Italy’s deadliest plane crash


The tail fin of the ill-fated Alitalia Flight 112 after the aircraft broke up on a ridge of Montagna Longa
The tail fin of the ill-fated Alitalia Flight 112 after the
aircraft broke up on a ridge of Montagna Longa
Italy was in shock on this day in 1972 after an Alitalia Douglas DC-8 en route from Rome to Palermo crashed into a mountainside on its approach to the Sicilian airport.

Alitalia Flight 112, which was carrying 115 passengers and crew, was 5km (3 miles) from touching down at Palermo International Airport at around 10.24pm when it struck a 935m (1,980ft) crest of Montagna Longa, part of the Monti di Palermo range.

The aircraft slid along the ground for some distance but broke up after striking a series of rocks, spreading burning kerosene over a wide area. The wreckage ultimately covered an area of 4km (2.5 miles). Witnesses in the nearby town of Carini described seeing the aircraft on fire before it crashed.

The crash remains Italy’s deadliest accident involving a single aeroplane. Only the 2001 disaster at Milan’s second airport, Linate, when an airliner and a business jet collided on the ground, killing 114 passengers plus four people on the ground, claimed more casualties.

Montagna Longa is part of the Monti di Palermo range
outside the Sicilian capital of Palermo
Most of the passengers on board Alitalia Flight 112 were Italians, returning to Sicily from Rome to vote in the national elections. They included the film director Franco Indovina and Cestmir Vycpalek, the son of the then-coach of the Juventus football team.

By an unfortunate coincidence, the crash took place on the 26th anniversary of the very first Alitalia passenger flight in 1947.

The official inquiry into the crash blamed human error, blaming the pilots for not following the guidelines of the air traffic controllers.

However, ever since the crash a story has persisted that the aircraft crashed after a bomb exploded on board. This is based on a report from the Vice-Chief of Police in Palermo which came to light many years after the accident. The report described an explosion on board, which was blamed on a Right-wing subversive group aided by the Mafia.

This version of events was to an extent supported by the National Association of Italian Pilots (ANPAC), who doubted the possibility of a mistake by the pilots of Alitalia Flight 112 due to their long experience, but has never been officially accepted.

At the top of Montagna Longa, there is a cross in memory of the 115 victims.

Castello di Carini is an example of  Norman military architecture
Castello di Carini is an example of
Norman military architecture
Travel tip:

The town of Carini, which is situated 21km (13 miles) northwest of Palermo, is famous primarily for its Norman castle, the Castello di Carini, which was built by Sicily’s first Norman feudal lord Rodolfo Bonello, work on which began in the ninth century. Within the castle is a large courtyard and a residential structure which includes a 15th century ballroom. Carini is also home to one of Sicily’s largest shopping centres, called the Zona Industriale.

Palermo airport handles more than 5.75 million passengers every year
Palermo airport handles more than 5.75 million
passengers every year
Travel tip:

Palermo’s international airport is situated at Punta Raisi, just outside Carini, some 22km from the city. Established in 1985, the airport handles around 5.75 million passengers per year. The airport was given the name Falcone Borsellino Airport in memory of the two leading anti-mafia judges Giovanni Falcone and Paolo Borsellino who were murdered by the Sicilian Mafia in 1992.  Around 30 airlines fly to 16 domestic destinations from Palermo and more than 50 international destinations.

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