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The DC-9 of Ustica
Was Shot Down
by a Missile

by Rino Di Stefano

Change Language / Cambia Lingua: English - Italiano

This is the first article published nationally in Italy where it was saying very clearly that the DC-9 exploded in 1980 in the Ustica sky was shot down by a missile of a military fighter. The day it was published, two years after the disaster, aroused a lot of controversy and in the Italian Parliament asked seven questions to the government to know why Italian people have not been informed about what British and American experts found. Even Luzzati, the chairman of the committee appointed by the Department of Interior to investigate on the tragedy, called a press conference to explain the reasons of his silence. Rai, the Italian state national broadcasting, forced by the public opinion that wanted to know, bayed the television program from BBC and broadcasted in the first-time band of the evening, but trying to minimize its content. At last, after 32 years and seven months, the Italian Supreme Court of Cassation said that the plane crash was caused by a missile in a “war-like-scenario" and the State must pay damages to the victims’ families because the safety of the passengers had not been guaranteed. The sentence n. 1871 has been registered on Monday January 28, 2013. Two years ago, on September 12, 2011, the judge Paola Proto Pisani of the Third Section of the Court of Palermo sentenced the Italian State to pay €100 million to the relatives of the 81 victims of the Ustica massacre. In particular, the Minister of Defense will pay €500 thousands to each family of the victims "because it has always interfered with the verification of the truth." The rest of the money will be paid by the Minister of Transport because it didn't guarantee the security of DC-9 Itavia and hided news and documents by "diversionary actions and destruction of official records."  The Italian Supreme Court of Cassation said finally the last word in this unbelievable Italian story. Anyhow, from the penal point of view, the Italian people are still waiting  for the guilty of the Ustica massacre. On Wednesday, January 10, 2007, Italy's highest appeals court upheld an acquittal handed down in 2004 of two former Italian Air Force generals who had been accused of giving false information about the disaster, which occurred on June 27, 1980. The court's decision means the case is closed and the question of who and what was responsible for the crash will likely never be answered.
Another sentence has been ruled on October 22, 2013 by Italy's Supreme Court which found that a missile was the definite cause of that mysterious airplane crash. The petition for the trial was made by Luisa Davanzali, the heir to Aldo Davanzali, who owned Itavia and died in 2005. The private commercial airline, charged by a presumed structural collapse of the airplane, went bankrupt six months after the plane disaster. The Italian Supreme Court sentence said the hypothesis about the plane was downed in 1980 by a "missile shot by an unknown airplane" appears "by now consecrated" even "in case law". Because of that, the Court ruled a new civil trial to assess the responsibility of the Italian Defense and Transport Ministries in Itavia's bankruptcy.
In other words, there is still a long way to be done toward justice in the Ustica massacre, one of the most unsolved mysteries of Italian history.


(Il Giornale, Published on Friday, August 27, 1982)

An international inquiry by British and American experts found that the DC-9 Itavia in service between Bologna and Palermo exploded in the island of Ustica sky 15 seconds before 9 p.m. of June 27, 1980 with 81 people aboard, was shot down by a remote-controlled air-to-air missile left by a fighter.
The DC-9 Itavia pulled down at Ustica The inquiry results, that don't leave any doubt about how the disaster occurred, have been published during the television program Panorama broadcasted on the first channel of British BBC at 8,30 p.m. of Monday, July 26. Tom Mangold, the journalist who made the program, has developed the story in all its details explaining those The path done by DC-9 Itaviaaspects that Italian public opinion has never known.
As a matter of fact, while in England there are no doubt about how the DC-9 exploded, in Italy inquiries opened by the magistracy and the department of Interior are still far from solution. Judge Giorgio Santacroce and Carlo Luzzati, chairman of the Alghero Airport, both in charge of the two inquiries, like to talk about their conclusions only when investigations will be at the final step. Until then, let see what are so far the foreign experts conclusions.
First of all we know that few months ago Luzzati went to the prestigious Rarde (the real institute for research and development of weapon systems) in London asking for examination of some rivet heads took out from the jet seats and passengers bodies. Since the DC-9 fuselage was riveting from inside, it's clear that rivets had been throwing against people in the nacelle because of an explosion outside the plane. Besides Luzzati asked to the British experts to examine even some piece of metal took out from passengers bodies that for sure didn't belong to the plane. Italian technicians found out more evidence that leave outThe radar track of the DC-9 Itavia the bomb hypothesis. Inside the plane seats they found some piece of plastic coming from the area reserved for the crew, just behind the cabin. That's the point where explosion occurred, so in a place where hardly a terrorist could put an explosive device. But there is something else. By Douglas Higgs, the Rarde head, a small piece of crystal found in a body shows up that explosion occurred for sure outside the plane because that crystal belonged to the protection plane inside one of the window and it blew up in the direction of passengers.
But the most astonishing news came up when Luzzati and his staff went to Washington to examine tapes recorded by airfield control radar in Rome some minutes before and some minutes after the DC-9 disaster. The Us Department of Civil Aviation gave all tapes to engineer John Macidul. What Mr. Macidul found destroyed the already weak hypothesis of the bomb and instead confirmed that explosion has been produced by something else. The American expert found three different radar tracks near DC-9. The first one shows up behind and at the right side of the plane one minute and 34 seconds before the explosion; the second comes up after 29 seconds and at only 15 miles from the plane; the third instead shows up 12 seconds after explosion, about 5 miles and an half on the right side of DC-9. Macidul, who is also a previous Usaf fighter pilot, didn't have any doubt and wrote down that those radar tracks are the motions of a single flying object. In his official report Macidul concluded: " A not identified object crossed The recovered rests of the DC-9 Itaviathe incident area from west to east at very high speed and about at the same time of the accident. The plane and the not identified object (that was at the west side of the accident area) was coming out from the sun and it was flying in the direction of the plane which was in front of the sun, in direction of the object".
By these information, Macidul didn't hesitate to confirm that the "not identified object" quoted in his report was just a modern fighter plane without a precise identity. Nato Force, to avoid any possible charge, denied any military manoeuvres in the airspace and at the moment when DC-9 exploded. By the way there would be no need to defence if the unknown jet was by chance near the plane. At this point remain only one possible hypothesis: an intentional attack with the precise will to shut down the line plane.
Is it possible that an enormity of this kind could be occurred? The question has been forwarded to John Transue, previous head of the air field of the American Department of Defence and actually counsellor of the Pentagon. By all the radar information he got (height, speed, relevant distance, a missile speed, optimum ray of fire) Transue reached to these easy conclusions:
A picture of the attack endured by the DC-9 Itavia1) The not identified object has all the features of a modern fighter jet.
2) Its method of approach to DC-9 is a clear attack manoeuvre.
3) When the fighter was near DC-9 it threw a missile that hit the right side of the plane.
4) The attack was intentional. This kind of missile air-to-air are radar controlled. When one gets going, pilot must hits the centre of the target by his radar and follow the missile until it gets the enemy plane. To do this, a pilot is busy for all missile fly, and this means from 30 to 40 seconds. Of course an operation like this remove any hypothesis of incident.
At this point we have two questions: who is the author of an atrocity like that? And why the Italian government, knowing all that, has always been silent? To the first question it's not easy to answer. In the inquiry there is a mention to a possible act of Libyan terrorism, even if Gheddafi carefully denied all accusing voices.
As for the Italian government silence, old or new it can be, there are no excuse. Even now taking a long time for a very disagreeable inquiry it looks like the government is trying to cover up the inexplicable murder of 81 people.

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The Caravelle plane crash in 1968

The DC-9 Itavia case was not the first civilian plane crash without explanation in the Mediterranean Sea. Already twelve years before, exactly on September 9, 1968, a twin-engine aircraft Caravelle, running in the Aiaccio-Nice line, with 98 people aboard (13 were children) crashed in a ball of fire into the sea in front of the Azure Coast. There were no survivors and, even in that case, an official enquiry by the French authorities ended with no conclusion, assuming a possible fire aboard. Nevertheless, many eyewitnesses revealed that a military missile stroke the plane just before it was landing at the Nice airport. If you like to read something more, click on

Press Review

Date: Thu, Jan 11, 2007

Ustica disaster: a massacre with no one guilty

ROME, Jan 11 (Reuters) - A Rome court has definitively closed the case of a mysterious plane explosion that killed 81 people in 1980 and has divided Italians ever since.
Italy's highest appeals court on Wednesday upheld an acquittal handed down in 2004 of two former air force generals who had been accused of giving false information about the disaster, which occurred on June 27, 1980.
The court's decision means the case is closed and the question of who and what was responsible for the crash will likely never be answered.
On Thursday, La Stampa newspaper of Turin, reflecting the opinion of many Italians, said closing the case left Italy's judicial system burdened with "a massacre with no one guilty".
The prosecution in the 2004 trial said the plane went down in a "war-like scenario".
But numerous investigations in the past 26 years have failed to determine whether the plane, a DC-9 of the now-defunct domestic airline Itavia, was blown apart by a bomb or a missile.
It broke up over the southern Mediterranean near the small southern island of Ustica, whose name has since become synonymous with the mysterious incident.
During investigations, documents disappeared and air traffic voice recordings were found to have either been erased or tampered with. Media reports based on radar monitoring data said fighter aircraft from several NATO nations were in the area at the time of the crash, possibly following a Libyan MIG that was trying to evade radar control by flying close to the civilian plane.
Another theory was that the plane entered a military exercise area and was hit by a missile launched by a fighter that had mistaken it for an enemy intruder.
Most Italians believe the cause of the crash, which has been the subject of one film and numerous books, was covered up for security or military reasons.

© Reuters

Date: Tue, Sep 13, 2011

Italy court fines government €100M in Ustica crash

Associated Press

ROME (AP) — An Italian court has ordered the government to pay €100 million ($137 million) in civil damages to relatives of 81 people killed in a 1980 aircraft disaster that remains one of Italy's most enduring mysteries.
The government said Tuesday it would appeal the decision of the Palermo civil tribunal, which on Monday held Italy's transport and defense ministries liable for having failed to guarantee the security of the flight.
The Itavia DC-9 airliner crashed June 27, 1980 en route from Bologna to Palermo near the tiny Mediterranean island of Ustica. The cause remains a mystery. Among the theories are that there was a bomb on board or that the airliner might have been caught accidentally in the crossfire of a military aerial dogfight.
Attorney Daniele Osnato, who along with a handful of lawyers represented about 80 relatives of the victims, said justice had finally been rendered in the case.
In addition to determining that the ministries had failed to protect the flight, he said, the tribunal also determined they were responsible for concealing the truth and destroying evidence.
Government officials on Tuesday called the judgment "unacceptable" given that Italy's highest criminal court in 2007 upheld the acquittals of two retired air force generals who had been accused of withholding information about the crash. In 2004, charges against two other former generals were dismissed.
Italy's air force expressed clear disdain for the decision, noting in a statement Tuesday that it was made by a single judge in a civil court whereas its generals had been absolved by Italy's highest criminal court for lack of evidence.
The aerial dogfight theory was given credence by Judge Rosario Priore, who originally indicted the generals. Priore had theorized that a missile from a U.S. jet fighter or from another NATO plane accidentally hit the Italian domestic jetliner while trying to shoot down a Libyan plane. A month after the crash, the wreckage of a Libyan jet was found in southern Italy.
French, U.S. and NATO officials have long denied any military activity in the skies that night.

© Associated Press

Date: Mon, Jan 28, 2013, 17:46 GMT+01:00

Italian supreme court rules against State in Ustica crash

Must pay damages to families of 81 victims

(ANSA) - Rome, January 28 - A fatal domestic plane crash in Italy over 30 years ago was caused by a missile, and the State must pay damages to the families of all 81 victims for not guaranteeing the safety of the skies, Italy's supreme Court of Cassation ruled in civil proceedings Monday. The ruling, which faulted civil and military radar systems, is the first definitive sentence since criminal proceedings were inconclusive. Dossiers, books and even a film called The Rubber Wall have been produced over the years about the mystery-shrouded night of June 27, 1980 when a domestic airliner, belonging to the now-defunct Itavia line, crashed into the Mediterranean on its way from Bologna to Palermo.
International panels who examined the wreckage in the past had arrived at differing conclusions: One said the plane had been hit by a missile, while another thought a bomb had been planted aboard the craft - another terrorist act similar to what was carried out with even greater loss of life at Bologna train station later that summer.
Magistrates and victims' relatives have suspected that the plane may have become caught in a dogfight between NATO planes and a Libyan jet whose wreckage was found in the southern Italian highlands some months after the Ustica crash.
Italy has repeatedly asked NATO, and in particular the United States and France, for full cooperation in clearing up the incident.
According to reconstructions of the event contained in fictitious accounts, the Libyan jet hid under the Itavia jet and a NATO missile hit the wrong target.
Whatever the truth of the matter, it may only come out when NATO records are declassified in years to come, many of the theorists say.
Italy's many conspiracy theorists have also pointed to a suspiciously high mortality rate among air force staff and other people linked to the case, with four committing suicide by hanging.
Another died of a heart attack at the age of 37.
In 2007, two former air force generals were definitively acquitted on charges of covering up the truth about the crash.


Date: Tue, Oct 22, 2013, 18:33 GMT+02:00

Italy: Missile caused Ustica plane crash in 1980
top court confirms

Rome, 22 Oct. (AKI) - A missile caused an aeroplane to crash into the Mediterranean more than thirty years ago off the Sicilian island of Ustica killing all 81 people on board, Italy's highest court ruled on Tuesday.
The disaster on 27 June 1980 when an Itavia airlines DC9 aircraft crashed into the sea during a commercial flight from Palermo to Bologna, has long remained one of Italy's most baffling mysteries.
"Significant attempts at a cover-up" had taken place over the crash which may have contributed to the bankruptcy of Itavia six months after the disaster, the Court of Cassation said.
It ordered a new civil trial assess the responsibility of the Italian defence and transport ministries in Itavia's bankruptcy.
In January the top court found that it was caused by a missile fired in error at the plane due to faulty civil and military radar systems and gave final approval to 1.2 million euros in compensation the families of three victims of the crash.
The State must pay damages to all 81 victims' families for failing to ensure the safety of the skies, the court ruled.
The main theories on the cause of the crash have included an air-to-air missile fired by a military plane, a collision with a military plane, terrorism and a strucutural fault in the aircraft.

© Adnkronos International English

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