Alitalia Flight 112: Italy’s Deadliest Single-Aircraft Disaster

On Friday, May 5, 1972, Alitalia flight number 112 crashed into Mount Longa in Sicily, Italy killing 108 passengers and seven crew, becoming Italy’s deadliest single aircraft disaster. The aircraft, an 11-year-old Douglas DC-8-43, named “Antonio Pigafetta,” was a regularly scheduled flight from Leonardo da Vinci Airport in Rome (FCO) to Palermo International Airport (PMO) in Palermo, Sicily.

The flight from Rome to Palermo takes just over an hour. Image: GCmaps

Captain Roberto Bartoli contacted Palermo air traffic control at 21:10 while the plane was still 74 nautical miles from the airport. At around 22:20, three miles short of the airport, the plane crashed 300 feet below the summit of Mount Longa sliding along the side of the mountain before breaking up.


Some people thought the plane was on fire before the crash

Witnesses in the nearby town of Carini said that they thought the plane had been on fire before it crashed. Most of the 108 passengers were Sicilians who were returning to Scilly from Rome so that they could vote in the upcoming Italian national elections. The Italian passengers on the flight included film director Franco Indovina and Cestmir Vycpalek, the son of the then-coach of Turin’s Juventus football team. The only foreigners thought to be aboard the flight were a Belgian stewardess, a French couple, and three people from the United Kingdom.

The crash was blamed on pilot error

After an investigation into the crash, it was determined to have happened because the pilots did not follow the ground controller’s instructions. The flight was labeled as being pilot error and a controlled flight into terrain (CFIT).

However, some of the victims’ relatives did not believe the official storyline of what had happened. A sister of one of the victims, Maria Eleonora Fais, found after several years a report by Vice-Chief of Police Giuseppe Peri that suggested that a bomb had exploded onboard the plane.

Peri accused a Right-wing subversive group of planted the bomb after being aided by the Mafia. At the time of the crash, the political mood in Italy was shifting to the right, with right-leaning parties expected to do well in the election. The National Association of Italian Pilots (ANPAC) also took their dead colleague’s side, refusing to believe they had made any mistakes.

Coincidentally the crash occurred on the anniversary of Alitalia’s first-ever passenger flight in 1947 when a Fiat G.12 Alcione, piloted by Virginio Reinero flew from Turin to Catania and then on to Rome.

The Linate Airport disaster

The deadliest aviation in Italy happened at Milan’s Linate Airport (LIN) on Monday, October 8, 2001. Known as the “Linate Airport disaster,” a Scandinavian Airlines System (SAS) McDonnell Douglas MD-87 collided on takeoff with a Cessna Citation CJ2 business jet. SAS flight number 686 was taking off in thick fog for Copenhagen while the Cessna was headed to Paris.

After getting lost in the fog, the Cessna had wandered onto the runway just as the MD-87 took off. All 114 passengers and crew were killed on the SAS plane, with the Cessna’s two pilots and two passengers suffering the same fate. The MD-11 was airborne briefly before crashing into a luggage handling facility, killing four ground workers. The Linate Airport disaster remains Italy’s most deadly aviation accident.

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