Accident 870 flight. Itavia DC-9 1980 in the city
Accident 870 flight. Itavia DC-9 1980 in the city

Accident 870 flight. Itavia DC-9 1980 in the city 


            27 June 1980 of the year. In the rays of the setting sun, the Itavia flight 870 flew at an altitude of 8700 meters above the Mediterranean Sea. Captain Domenic Kukatti and the co-pilot Enzo Fontana calmly led their DC-9. It was a simple, short flight. On board were 77 passengers. Flight from Bologna to Palermo had to take a half hour.


            Already half way through the pilots faced a problem. There were no signals from the navigation beacons, which usually lead the plane to its destination. Without lighthouses, pilots needed instructions from the controller, so they contacted them. Ground staff slightly rejected the 870 flight from the normal course. The plane began to turn and, unexpectedly, got into a zone of turbulence.


Expert: Severe turbulence is similar to the road, where a lot of holes. But planes are often faced with it in varying degrees. No wonder.


Itavia DC-9

Itavia DC-9


            The pilots hoped that the low altitude would provide passengers with a calmer flight. When they came down a little lower, the bumpiness was gone. There was another good news: earned the navigation beacons of Palermo. The flight crew thanked the dispatchers for their help and ended the conversation. After that, communication was expected just before the landing of the aircraft.


            A few seconds after this flight 870 «Itavia» fell apart and disappeared from the radar! Manager tried to contact the plane, but to no avail. Airliner fell into the Mediterranean Sea.


Judge: For the manager it is beyond reality. He just can not believe what he sees. Such cases are very rare.


            By morning, the search and rescue teams of Italy thoroughly investigated the waters of the Mediterranean Sea in the area where the last connection was with the aircraft. Meet and relatives were told that the flight was gone and no one knows what happened to him. Soon, search engines confirmed the worst fears. The plane fell, and there were no traces of survivors. Onboard was a 81 man. They all died.


            The news of the crash of the 870 flight excited the whole world. The fact that the modern aircraft fell from the sky so suddenly defied explanation. This event was covered by the famous journalist Andrea Turgatory.


Journalist: In 1980 year I worked in the most authoritative newspaper of Italy.


            On the night of the disaster, he received an astounding phone call.


Journalist: I got a call from a manager in Rome. He said he could not talk long. But he said that I could not believe what they say the investigators on the case. Manager said that in fact the plane was hit by a rocket.


870 flight accident


            Amazingly, the dispatcher claimed that the plane was caught in crossfire during an air battle between the armed forces of NATO and Libya.


Journalist: In the Mediterranean region tense situation. It was almost a war.


            In fact, in 1980, the Mediterranean region was a hot spot. Only the sea separated Italy from Libya, the outlawed country. Could a political confrontation between Libya and the West lead to the death of the 870 flight and its passengers?


            Andrea Turgatori believed that he was about to reveal the secret of this incident, however, in fact, it took more than 30 years to clarify all the circumstances of the crash. Two days after the tragedy, the journalist wrote an article on the front page of a newspaper that shocked all of Italy.


Journalist: I was the first who said there was a chance to hit missiles in flight.


            He put forward the version that the French fighters were engaged in an air battle with Libyan aircraft. And, perhaps, the Libyan aircraft were hiding behind the DC-9. The Italian government ignored media reports about the rocket that shot down an 870 flight and launched an official investigation into the crash. The Italian Air Force held a press conference at which they said that the theory of the journalist was incorrect.


            On the site of the tragedy worked search groups. Most of the wreckage rested on the bottom of the sea, and therefore the investigators had little information.


Expert: The first investigators did not have a lot of information. There was very little debris.


            In this regard, they turned to the dispatchers who were on duty on the night of the tragedy. Unfortunately, the controllers had no idea what could have happened. They also did not notice any signs of concern for the crew. The pilots did not even get in touch to report the crash. It all happened very quickly.


            A collision in the air could explain the situation. In addition, the controllers could not accurately roll - whether there were other aircraft near the flight 870 or not. Their radar tuned to airliners could have overlooked smaller aircraft. Some evidence was needed. The investigators did not have evidence that the plane hit a rocket. But they could not prove the opposite.


Expert: The investigators also read newspapers, they wrote that DC-9 It was shot down. Maintain impartiality was difficult.


DC-9 was shot down


            The commission began by investigating other accidents with aircraft of this type. There was also a search for clues in the history of operation of the aircraft. Investigators learned that over the past 10 years on other DC-9 already happened breakage. If the Itavia aircraft collapsed due to metal fatigue or design defects, thousands of lives were in danger. Unfortunately, all these studies have not shed light on the causes of the crash. In each emergency situation, the pilots received a warning and had a chance to land the plane safely.


            After that, the experts proceeded to study the found fragments that did not sink. Investigators carefully labeled the location of each item. If the DC-9 fell into the water whole, it would have collapsed from a blow. In this case, the wreckage would be concentrated in a small area. But if it fell apart in the air, then the wreckage should be scattered over a large area. Pieces of the aircraft were found on an area of ​​more than 200 square kilometers. This is a very important discovery. The plane fell apart in the sky.

            Attempts to prove that there was a collision in the sky did not lead to anything. The rocket version was becoming more and more plausible. To clarify, investigators began a thorough analysis of radar data. They sought help from experts from the National Transport Safety Committee (NTSB). At some point in the study, the experts were able to see more than the dispatcher saw on the night of the crash. There were no signs of a collision in the air. However, they noticed three unidentified radar signals to the west of the 870 flight. An expert from the NTSB came to a frightening conclusion: it could well have been a fighter. An unidentified object was coming from the west, and the pilots of the airliner could not notice it.


Investigator NTSB: This unidentified object came out of the sun. This is a standard technique fighter pilot. I told Italian colleagues that DC-9 probably shot from another aircraft.


            Three weeks later, new circumstances emerged. The wreckage of a Libyan fighter jet was found in the mountains of Italy. This fact strengthened the rocket version. The investigators had only circumstantial evidence of a missile strike, but in general, very many took it as a fact. A few days later, a metal splinter was found in the body of one of the passengers on the plane. Investigators needed to find out where he came from. To do this, they went to Washington.


Investigator NTSB: Metal Shard was the size of the handle, slightly curved.


  DC-9 2 was shot down          The features of the metal suggested that the shard had fallen into the cabin outside. After a while, investigators discovered that the shard was part of the chassis design. This was further proof that a rocket hit the plane.


            Also, experts sent the debris to the laboratory for analysis. They were interested in whether there were remnants of explosives on them. The result was positive. There was an explosion. But this did not prove that the plane was hit by a rocket. TNT could be in the bomb.


            After 5 weeks after the crash, another tragedy occurred. At the train station in Bologna, a bomb exploded. Killed 85 people. The incident was accused by terrorists. Therefore, the assumption followed that they could have blown up the 870 flight. The Commission is at an impasse. They had indirect evidence of a rocket hit and a bomb explosion. But they couldn't say for sure.


Journalist: Commission of the Ministry of Transport worked 2 years. Finally, they stated that the crash was caused by the explosion. But they could not tell whether it has occurred outside or inside the plane.


            Such a conclusion caused public outrage. Nobody wanted the investigation to end. The pressure took effect. After 5 years after the first inconclusive investigation, the Italian government agreed to start a new one.


            In May, 1987, as a result of a search operation, was able to detect a voice recorder. It was a very important clue. Listening to the recording, the experts heard how, before the break in the recording, the captain said: “Look!”. Maybe he was talking about the approaching rocket?


Expert: It was another guess. Maybe the captain said second pilot on the rocket. But maybe he just pointed to some device. For example the attitude indicator. It could be wrong.


            During the operation, hundreds of debris were raised from the seabed. They were collected in a hangar near Rome. Gradually the contours of the plane began to emerge. The experts needed to put together a puzzle. After a while, investigators found the wreckage, which had holes in it. Their edges were concave inward rather than outward. This confirmed the rocket version. The tension was building. People wanted to know exactly what happened on the plane. 


            In 1989, a report was released, stating that the explosion was caused, presumably by a rocket fired from another aircraft. It seems the case was closed. However, less than a year later, something incredible happened. Two Italian investigators withdrew their findings that the plane was shot down by a rocket. The Italian government demanded a third investigation. The question should have been closed once and for all. For this gathered international commission.


            Investigators immediately embarrassed the fact that it turned out to collect so few debris. Soon a new search operation was approved. Using the computer program, the investigators calculated where it was necessary to search for debris and, soon, they had another 40% of the aircraft. The location of the debris on the bottom could tell which of them fell off first. They found out that the explosion was in the rear of the aircraft, and not in the front, as was supposed. The plane fell nose down. This explained where in the body of the passenger were fragments. It happened while hitting the water.


            Then, the investigators turned to the radar and determined that the points that had previously been taken for fighters could be fragments of DC-9, feeding from the sky. The investigation has stalled again. But soon the study of the wreckage of the fuselage eliminated the likelihood of a rocket hitting the front of the aircraft.


DC-9 was shot down


Expert: The farther we went, the more reinforces the idea that the plane bomb exploded. Probably in a closet in the back of the plane.


            To be sure, they conducted an investigative experiment, during which an explosion in the DC-9 toilet was reproduced. The explosion led to characteristic damage. They were almost identical to those in the fallen plane.


Expert: We were absolutely sure that it was a bomb and knew where she was planted.


            It became clear that a bomb explosion led to the separation of the pylon of one of the engines, and then the entire tail section of the aircraft. After 10 seconds, the plane fell apart and fell into the sea. It was a conclusion based on physical evidence.


            Despite the enormous efforts of investigators, most Italians still believe that the 870 flight hit a rocket. As a result, the Italian Supreme Court ordered the government to pay 100 million dollars to the families of the victims. Also, the Italian government did not even try to find out who planted the bomb. At this point the case was closed. 


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