Twenty-six years ago, Itavia Airlines flight 870 took off from Bologna bound for Palermo with 81 passengers and crew aboard.
An hour into the flight, it disappeared from the radar screens. The last message received from the pilot was a routine call to ground control, informing them that he was about to start his descent, followed by an exclamation of surprise that was abruptly cut short.
A few hours later, wreckage from the DC-9 was spotted in the Tyrhennian Sea off the island of Ustica, near Sicily. There were no survivors.
The cause of the tragedy remains one of the Italy's most enduring mysteries and there was a painful reminder recently that the case has still to be resolved when the stricken plane made its final journey back home to Bologna.
The aircraft crashed into the Tyrrhenian Sea near Ustica, Italy at about 1900hrs GMT while on a flight from Bologna to Palermo. Many theories as to the cause of the accident have been entertained, including the possible involvement of Italian and Libyan fighter jets, which were operating in the area around the time of the accident. Another theory hypothesizes that United States forces, while targeting the Lybian fighter jets in the area, may have accidently downed the DC-9.
Aerolinee Itavia Flight 870, also known in the Italian media as the Ustica Massacre ("Strage di Ustica"), was an Italian flight that suffered an in-flight explosion while in route from Bologna, Italy to Palermo, Italy. It was a regularly scheduled flight from Guglielmo Marconi Airport in Bologna to Palermo International Airport in Palermo. The flight departed 2 hours late at 8.08 pm CET on 27 June 1980. At the controls of the McDonnell Douglas DC-9-15 that evening were Captain Domenico Gatti and First Officer Enzo Fontana.
The aircraft (registered I-TIGI), which left Guglielmo Marconi Airport bound for Palermo International Airport, crashed at 8.59 pm CET into the Tyrrhenian Sea near the island of Ustica about 80 miles (130 km) southwest of Naples. All 81 people on board were killed (2 flight crew members, 2 flight attendants, and 77 passengers).
Two Italian Air Force F-104s were scrambled at 9.00 pm CET from Grosseto Air Force Base to locate the accident area and to spot any survivors but they failed due to lack of visibility. In July 2006 the re-assembled fragments of the DC-9 aircraft were returned to Bologna from Pratica di Mare Air Force Base near Rome. On 23 June 2008, Italy announced that they have reopened the case of Flight 870.