Superga air disaster
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|Date||4 May 1949|
|Summary||Controlled flight into terrain due to low visibility|
|Site||near Turin, Italy|
|Aircraft type||Fiat G.212 CP|
|Operator||Avio Linee Italiane|
|Flight origin||Lisbon, Portugal|
The Superga air disaster occurred on 4 May 1949 when the Fiat G.212 of Avio Linee Italiane (Italian Airlines), carrying the entire Torino football team (popularly known as the Grande Torino) crashed into the retaining wall at the back of the Basilica of Superga, which stands on the hill of Turin. There were 31 victims.
The Avio Linee Italiane (Italian Airlines) Fiat G.212CP was carrying the team home from Lisbon, where they played a friendly with S.L. Benfica in honour of the Portuguese captain Francisco Ferreira. In the incident the whole Torino team lost their lives, winners of five consecutive championships from the 1942–43 to 1948–49 season, almost all part of the Italian national football team. Club officials and carriers also perished in the accident, as well as the crew and three well-known Italian sports journalists: Renato Casalbore (founder of Tuttosport); Renato Tosatti (the Gazzetta del Popolo, father of Giorgio Tosatti) and Luigi Cavallero (La Stampa). The task of identifying the bodies was entrusted to the former coach of the national team, Vittorio Pozzo, who had transplanted almost all of Torino in the national team.
The full-back Sauro Tomà, who injured his meniscus, did not take part in the trip to Portugal; nor did the reserve goalkeeper Renato Gandolfi (the third goalkeeper, Dino Ballarin, brother of Aldo, took his place), the commentator Nicholas Carosio (blocked by the confirmation of his child), Luigi Giuliano (captain of Torino Primavera and more recently in a permanent position in the first team, was blocked by influenza) and the former coach of the Italian national team and journalist Vittorio Pozzo (Torino preferred to assign the place to Cavallero). Invited to join the team for the friendly by Valentino Mazzola, Tommaso Maestrelli, despite playing for A.S. Roma, did not take the flight because he could not renew his passport at the police headquarters. Even the president of Torino, Ferruccio Novo, did not take part in the trip because of influenza.
Torino were proclaimed winners of the 1948–49 season and the opponents, as well as Torino, fielded their youth teams in the remaining four games. The day of the funeral nearly a million people took to the streets of Turin to give a final farewell to the players. The shock was such that the following year the Italian national team travelled to the 1950 FIFA World Cup in Brazil by ship.
|“||The twilight lasted all day, a melancholy to die for. The sky came apart in the mist and the fog blotted Superga||”|
— Settimana Incom, Newsreel
The three-engined Fiat G.212, with aircraft registration I-ELCE, of Avio Linee Italiane, took off from Lisbon at 9:40 on Wednesday, 4 May 1949. The commander of the aircraft was Lieutenant Colonel Meroni. The flight landed at the airport in Barcelona at 13:00. During the stopover, while the aircraft was refuelled, the Torino team met for lunch with Milan that was directed to Madrid.
At 14:50 I-ELCE set off for the Turin-Aeritalia Airport. The flight's route was to take it over Cap de Creus, Toulon, Nice, Albenga, and Savona. Above Savona, the plane veered north, in the direction of the capital of Piedmont, where it was expected to arrive in about thirty minutes. The weather in Turin was bad. At 16:55 the airport of Aeritalia communicated the weather situation to the pilot: clouds almost touching the ground, showers, strong south-west wind gusts, and very poor horizontal visibility (40 meters).
The tower asked for the pilot's position. After a few minutes of silence at 16:59 came the reply: "Quota 2,000 meters. QDM on Pino, then we will cut at Superga". At Pino Torinese, which is located between Chieri and Baldissero Torinese, southeast of Turin, there was a VDF radio station (VHF direction finder), to provide a QDM (magnetic course to be taken on a head on approach as a radio aid) on request.
On approach, the plane lined up with the runway Aeritalia about 9 miles away, at 305 meters above sea level, with Pino at 290 degrees off its bow. Just north of Pino Torinese was the Basilica of Superga, situated on a hill at 669 meters above sea level. One theory for the deviation is that, due to the strong left crosswinds, the plane could have suffered a drift to starboard, which shifted from the axis of descent and lined up, instead, with the hill at Superga. Recent investigations have also suggested the possibility that the altimeter had malfunctioned and locked at 2000 meters, which led the pilots to believe that they were at that altitude instead of the 600 meters height which the plane was actually at.
At 17:03, the plane made a turn to the left, put in horizontal flight and aligned to prepare for landing, when it crashed into the back of the embankment of the Basilica of Superga. The pilot, who likely believed that the Superga hill was off to his right, instead would have seen it suddenly emerge directly in front of him (speed 180 km/h, visibility 40 meters) and would not have had the time to do anything. The wreckage did not give any indication of an attempt to go-around. The only part of the aircraft which remained partially intact was the empennage.
At 17:05, Aeritalia Torre called I-ELCE, but received no response. Of the 31 people on board, there were no survivors. The current remains of the aircraft include a propeller, a tire, scattered pieces of the fuselage, and the personal bags of Mazzola, Maroso and Erbstein, which are preserved in a museum in Grugliasco near Turin. The Museo del Grande Torino e della Leggenda Granata, hosted in the prestigious Villa Claretta Assandri of Grugliasco, was opened 4 May 2008, the anniversary of the tragedy. Eight of the 18 players (2 coaches and journalist Renato Casalbore), who perished in the accident, are buried at the Monumental Cemetery of Turin.
- Valerio Bacigalupo
- Aldo Ballarin
- Dino Ballarin
- Milo Bongiorni
- Eusebio Castigliano
- Rubens Fadini
- Guglielmo Gabetto
- Ruggero Grava
- Giuseppe Grezar
- Ezio Loik
- Virgilio Maroso
- Danilo Martelli
- Valentino Mazzola
- Romeo Menti
- Piero Operto
- Franco Ossola
- Mario Rigamonti
- Julius Schubert
- Club officials
- Arnaldo Agnisetta, manager
- Ippolito Civalleri, manager
- Egri Erbstein, trainer
- Leslie Lievesley, coach
- Ottavio Corina, masseur
- Renato Casalbore, (founder of Tuttosport)
- Luigi Cavallero, (La Stampa)
- Renato Tosatti, (Gazzetta del Popolo)
- Andrea Bonaiuti, organiser
- Roberto Thoeni, L'ultimo urlo per il grande Torino, Abaco Editori
- Dino Buzzati, in La nera di Dino Buzzati, Oscar Mondadori
- Vincenzo Baggioli (a cura), Il Torino. Oltre la vita!, Milano, I.P.L.
- The 1943–44 and 1944–45 seasons were not played because of World War II
- Giampaolo Ormezzano; Giovanni Tortolini (1990). 1990, l'anno dei Mondiali. Milano: di.e.di.
- TG-R "Leonardo": possibili cause della sciagura di Superga: l'ipotesi dell'altimetro guasto||
- Memorial museum page (in Italian)