Published in June 2015 issue
By Enrique Perrella
The Eternal City’s aviation background dates back to 1916, when the current “Giovan Battista Pastine” airport—also known as Rome-Ciampino (CIA)—was opened to the public. The airport’s main activities were devoted to servicing airships and military operations, just until after World War II ended in the late 1940s.
Ciampino, located near the city center, remained the only airport of Rome until January 1961. The airport experienced a strong traffic growth and its single-runway, along with its terminal’s small size, forced the Italian government to build a much bigger airport at an area where both climate and space where better.
The location for the new airport was narrowed down to the vicinities of the Fiumicino town, nearly 30km outside of the city’s walls right on the Western coastline. The airport, named after Italian artist Leonardo da Vinci, also adopted the town’s name and is nowadays referred to as Rome-Fiumicino Leonardo da Vinci International Airport, baring the IATA code FCO. FCO was officially opened in 1961, with two runways placed perpendicularly. At this point, CIA was left only for charter and private flights. Up until 2013, low cost carriers such as Ryanair and Wizair were the airport’s main tenants, but noise abatement and pollution regulations forced all commercial aviation operations to migrate to FCO.
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The first airliner to land in FCO was a Trans World Airways (TWA) Lockheed Constellation, coming in from New York – JFK in 1961. During the 1960s, the airport became the main gateway to Rome and Italy, competing with Milan’s Malpensa (MXP).
Following a heavy investment by the country’s flag carrier, Alitalia in the early 1960s, a new maintenance center for the airline’s DC-8s, hangars, and offices were built within the airport. Later on, in 1973, a third runway (16L/34R)—parallel to 16R/34L—was built, along with an additional hangar capable of hosting Alitalia’s newest Boeing 747s.
Overall, FCO became a world-class airport with a leading infrastructure, hosting several American, African, and Asian carriers throughout its years of existence, thus offering the aviation community a myriad of interesting airliners which will happily go down history lane.