for 5 years abandoned in Fiumicino and no one knows what to do with it -

for 5 years abandoned in Fiumicino and no one knows what to do with it -

Of Leonard Berberi

In August 2018, the government terminated the contract for the use of the four-engine aircraft taken from Etihad. But since then the 67-metre-long jet has stopped in front of the hangars. And now it should be dismantled

Danilo Toninelli, then Minister of Transport, was almost thrilled: We have grounded Renzi's flying ego. Elisabetta Trenta, then defense minister: From today the aircraft symbol of arrogance in power no longer exists!. Luigi Di Maio, then Foreign Minister: This is the example of the arrogance of the power that was sent home on March 4th. Giuseppe Conte, then Prime Minister: Less waste of public money, less useless spending. A sacrosanct decision, anything but symbolic. The year was 2018 and the first summer of the yellow-green government powered by the 5-star Movement had decided to immediately intervene on one of the obsessions of the pentastellata electoral campaign: the dissolution of the lease (and sub-lease) contract of an Airbus A340 -500 to be used as a state aircraft and maliciously renamed Air Force Renzi. Even if Renzi never got on it.


But five years - and four governments - after the symbol of arrogance is still there, in front of the former Alitalia hangars at Fiumicino airport deteriorating, to occupy useful space and to remember that the dossier is anything but closed. This is confirmed by field checks and satellite images. Meanwhile Etihad - owner of the aircraft - is no longer an investor in Alitalia, the former national airline no longer flies, a pandemic has broken out in the world, for over a year there has been a war at the gates of Europe, Italian premiers and ministers continue to use the older and smaller Airbus A319s. And among the insiders the question looms: Who's got to take care of what's left of the aircraft? Apparently no one.

The parties involved

The Courier he consulted hundreds of pages of public and confidential documents, he heard about ten people informed about the dossier and has tried in recent months to understand what will become of the A340 from the direct protagonists - the special commissioners of Alitalia and the top management of Etihad in Abu Dhabi - without to get official answers. On the subject, to tell the truth, even Atitech, the Italian jewel of maintenance that took over the Alitalia hangars, and Aeroporti di Roma, the management company of the Fiumicino (and Ciampino) airport, prefer not to pronounce themselves. still a delicate topic, no one wants to expose themselvesexplains an Etihad executive who, like others, requests anonymity because he is not authorized to speak about it with the press.

The choice

But let's take a step back. In Rome they are looking for an aircraft capable of covering long distances without having to make intermediate stops for refueling. The Airbus A319s — still used by the Air Force — cannot, for example, fly from Rome to Asia or South America without a technical stopover. A four-engine aircraft, the Airbus 340-500, from Etihad Airways was thus chosen which in the meantime entered Alitalia with 49% and is trying to relaunch the Italian carrier. However, the State cannot sign a leasing contract with a non-EU company and so on two chords are born. The firstnumber 808, signed between Alitalia and the Ministry of Defense on 17 May 2016 (during the Renzi government). It is a sub-charter and also includes various ancillary services such as maintenance, pilot training, on-board entertainment. Total: 168 million euros in eight years. then there the second contract — which would actually be the first in logical sequence — between Alitalia and Etihad signed on 9 June 2016 in Dublin. In front of the notary Graham C. Richards the two parties agree to charter only the plane for 75.55 million dollars (68.3 million euros at the exchange rate at the time, ed), of which 25 million are used to free the A340 from a mortgage of 2007 between Etihad and Union Three Leasing Limited, a financial company in the Caymans, as confirmed by a five-page document of which the Courier got copy. Rome, according to other documents, pays just over 814,000 dollars for the painting and the transfer flight and another 3.12 million in initial costs.


The package of agreements, Toninelli explained in his post on Facebook providing other numbers, envisages four very high cost items: first leasing (81 million), then maintenance (31 million), handling (12 million) and pilot training (almost 4 million), for a total cost that would reach around 150 million in eight years with no internal reconfiguration of the aircraft. From reading the material available, it emerges that for the rental of the Airbus A340 Alitalia gave Etihad $512,198 each month, but received $590,889.60 from the Directorate of Aeronautical Armaments and Airworthiness (Armaereo), the sector of the Ministry of Defense that also deals with state aircraft. In any case too much for the then M5S-Lega government which decides to stop everything. On 22 August 2018, the extraordinary commissioners canceled the agreement with Etihad. On 31 August it was up to the dicastery to do the same with Alitalia.


After 88 institutional flights - not always with ministers or undersecretaries on board - the A340-500 is to be flown back to Abu Dhabi by Etihad. But this doesn't happen. The satellite images collected over the years show the aircraft - 67 meters long - moving over time in front of the two hangars now owned by Atitech (which took over the maintenance branch of Alitalia). In the early days he spent several days indoors, but for some years now outdoors, exposed to all weather conditions. Meanwhile Etihad addresses (Italian) courts to challenge unilateral termination of lease agreement as well as any presupposed, connected or consequential act, including the suspension document of the sub-lease agreement. The Terza Ter section of the Lazio TAR rejected the precautionary request in January 2019. Almost four years later — on December 7, 2022 — the Quarta Bis section of the same Regional Administrative Court pronounces a decree declaring the judgment extinguished. Also because, we read, the appellant party (i.e. Etihad, ed) filed on 11.16.2022 a declaration of supervening lack of interest as a result of the outcome of the jurisdiction regulation pursuant to art. 41 cpc.

The contract numbers

Until the stop of the two contracts Alitalia paid Etihad $36,968,836 in cash, of which $8.84 million in leasing alone. But the Abu Dhabi carrier, according to a prospectus viewed by Courierreports that the Italians had already stopped paying seven months of installments, those of the period January-July 2018, for a value of 4,473,031 dollars. To these must be added, according to the Emiratis, 33,292,857 for the remainder of the lease (until December 2023), interest accrued on late payments and maintenance costs (meanwhile interrupted) and those related to return the aircraft to airworthiness conditions. In 2016, the papers still read, the net worth of the A340-500 was $58 million. Today, according to the specialized companies consulted, the specimen has a booking value of zero. The aircraft was assembled at the Airbus plant in Toulouse, France, and flew for the first time on March 30, 2006. On June 9 of that same year, it was delivered to Etihad. Then it was entrusted to the Italian Air Force in July 2016 to transform it into the state aircraft. The A340-500 - which in the meantime had taken the I-Taly license plate - is operational until 7 June 2018, according to the tracking platforms. Six days after the inauguration of the new government of Giuseppe Conte. Then he no longer turned on the transponders.

The crux of dismantling

According to available information the A340 can no longer fly, having lost all certification required by law. Anyone who knows the condition of the fuselage and interior believes that should be dismantled. But the operation is not simple. Demolition requires specialized personnel, a suitable site, specific equipment and compliance with environmental regulations and procedures. For example: all materials considered dangerous, toxic and radioactive such as remaining kerosene, oil, hydraulic fluids, de-icing liquids, batteries must be safely removed from the aircraft. And all of this costs hundreds of thousands of euros. Who has to take care of it? The dossier has no longer been a government affair since the summer of 2018, having interrupted the agreement with Alitalia. Nor is it a question of Aeroporti di Roma since - according to what filters - the four-engine aircraft are not in their areas of relevance. certainly a problem for Atitech which however cannot touch the plane even if it has it in front of the hangar taking up space and hindering maneuvers. Officially the company does not speak, but those who work at Fiumicino say they do not know how to manage the thing which is becoming more and more of a problem given the many Alitalia planes that are still. The commissioners of the former national airline have been working on a solution for some time, but it is not known which one since since September they have never provided official answers to the Courier. No comment also from Etihad. All silent on an Airbus that was supposed to bring Italy to the world. Instead it rots on an asphalt surface on the outskirts of Fiumicino.

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May 28, 2023 (change May 28, 2023 | 1:01 pm)

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