Shoot downs of Passenger Jets by Military Forces.

This page kindly provided by Tom Shoemaker.




On June 27, 1980, at approximately 9 PM, Itavia (Aero Transporti Italiani) Flight 870, a DC-9-15, crashed into the Tyrrhenian Sea near the island of Ustica, about 80 miles southwest of Naples. All 81 persons aboard the aircraft were killed as it experienced severe damage in flight, broke up, plummeted to the sea, and then sank into several thousand feet of water.

Almost from the moment Flight 870 was confirmed as lost, its destruction was considered to be a highly unusual aircraft accident.The leading theories to account for the accident were the detonation of an on-board bomb or the impact and explosion of a guided missile. Analysis of the accident moved at a slow pace, not only because of the great depth at which the wreckage was located, but also due to missing or unavailable records and tapes which were known to exist....yet delivery of those items to the investigators could somehow not be arranged. Radar tapes of the area of the crash have only recently been made available, for example. Some investigators also felt representatives of the American and French naval forces known to have been in the area of the Tyrrhenian Sea on June 27, 1980, were less than fully cooperative in assisting them.

In 1987 an Italian court opened its own investigation of the unsolved disaster, and arranged for the recovery of a majority of the aircraft's wreckage which included the flight data recorder.That investigation continues at the present time, almost 17 years after the accident.

One persistent allegation has been that American or French naval aircraft launched an air-to-air missile at a Libyan fighter aircraft detected in the area. The target aircraft had not responded to initial challenges, and flew into a position that placed the Itavia DC-9 between itself and the allied aircraft. The radar returns from the Libyan jet became those of the civilian airliner as it positioned itself inside the larger plane's radar silhouette. The missile then locked on to the larger aircraft and brought it down, according to this theory.

The photograph at the top of this page was made and provided by Mr. Luigi Di Stefano, a technician who has worked for nine years investigating the Itavia accident as part of the Italian Magistrate's official inquiry. It shows the DC-9 mock-up, comprising approximately 65% of the entire structure of the aircraft. The photograph clearly indicates the position and size of the damage which blew the aircraft apart. It appears the hole immediately behind the forward door is matched by a similar structural gap on the opposite side of the fuselage.

As part of Mr. Di Stefano's analysis, he constructed a graphic which exhibits the initial damage believed to have been sustained by the DC-9 prior to the subsequent complete structural failure of the craft. That graphic appears at the bottom of this page, published here with the permission of Mr. Di Stefano. Examination of these images along with the facts that the investigation is still ongoing after almost seventeen years and continues to generate new facts, lends some credence to the hypothesis that perhaps a missile did destroy Itavia Flight 870

Among the freshest of leads in the story of the crash near Ustica was NATO Press Release 96-117, issued on August 29, 1996. It states, in its entirety, " The Secretary General in consultation with the Italian Authorities and in the spirit of cooperation, establishes an ad hoc committee in order to facilitate the contacts between the Italian Judicial Authorities and NATO with regard to the Ustica incident. On August 27, 1996, the Italian Judicial Authorities have had at NATO headquarters preliminary discussions in order to define the best methods of work.". Exactly what the Italian Judicial Authorities think they can obtain from NATO at this time, and precisely why NATO wishes to work on a 1980 civilian aircraft crash mystery is not explained by the press release.

Another fascinating lead is the persistent rumor that French military involvement in the "incident" over Ustica along with American involvement of some sort during and after it explains the surprisingly low profile the French government assumed almost immediately after the TWA 800 "incident": a posture that government appears to have maintained for seven months.

Perhaps the clearest meaning that can be derived now from the Itavia Flight 870 investigation is that the case remains active and unsolved after almost two decades, and the pursuit of the truth about the mysterious deaths of 81 persons still matters to a significant number of the people of Italy.Perhaps among the similarities of the "Ustica incident" to the TWA 800 crash, the one that will matter the most in the long run is the ability of the American investigators to retain their focus on the truth as well as their Italian counterparts seem to have done.


UPDATE (June 20, 1997):


A 17-year-old mystery over the crash of an Italian plane that killed 81 people made headlines again on Wednesday (note:June 18) when national media said recently released radar records showed it was downed by a missile. But the Italian air force's top officer at the time of the June 1980 crash off Sicily contested the newspaper versions, saying the crash was probably caused by a bomb.

Italian media have long suspected a cover-up over the crash of the DC-9 jet of the now-defunct Itavia airlines, which remains one of Italy's enduring unresolved mysteries. All major daily newspapers said on Wednesday that the plane was shot down in an air battle involving Libyan, U.S., French and Italian air force fighters.

They said that radar monitoring recently released by NATO showed that at least seven fighter aircraft were in the vicinity when the jet plunged into the sea off the island of Ustica. They said the radar showed one or two Libyan MiGs had tried to evade detection by flying close to the airliner. Three Italian F-104 warplanes and a U.S. Corsair and a French fighter pursued the Libyan jets and a battle ensued, according to the reports.

Prime Minister Romano Prodi, who comes from the central city of Bologna where the DC-9 took off from, told reporters that his government "had done its duty and nothing more" in seeking to clarify the June 27, 1980 mystery. The centre-left government, voted into power in 1996, last year made a fresh appeal to NATO's secretary-general Javier Solana to release radar charts and all documents that could help throw fresh light on the case.

Daria Bonfietti, a senator who is also president of the victims' families association, said the reports strengthened a hypothesis her group had always held. "It seems to me to strengthen the hypothesis of a war scenario that we have always upheld and definitely calls into question the fabrication that the Italian air force has knowingly sustained through all these years," she said. She accused the air force and former political establishment of a deliberate and prolonged cover-up. "

Source : Reuter , in South News, June 20, 1997 <HTTP://>


UPDATE (June 24, 1997):


Paging Oliver Stone, your conspiracy is ready to depart from Rome. Virtually all of Italy's major media outlets claimed that an errant missile from a nearby dog fight between Libyan, U.S., French and Italian warplanes downed the Itavia DC-9 lost near the island of Ustica."

Source:...article snippet from AVWEB magazine <HTTP://>

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