Fiumicino Airport (FCO). Photo: Ra Boe.

MIAMI – Today in Aviation, Italy’s Rome-Fiumicino Airport (FCO) celebrates its 60th anniversary. On August 20, 1960, Rome–Fiumicino International Airport “Leonardo da Vinci” began its operations.

While the airport had various uses since August 20, it was not officially opened until January 15, 1961. Its construction was part of the replacement plans for Rome’s Ciampino Airport “Giovan Battista Pastine” (CIA).

During the 1960 Olympic Games to be celebrated at the city, FCO helped CIA by relieving air traffic as the later was a smaller airport. Since then, FCO has become the first airport in the city followed by CIA.

Aerial View of FCO. Photo: Ra Boe.

Design Planning

Unlike CIA, FCO opened its operations as a civilian airport. As such, it was the first airport in Rome that suffered major infrastructure modifications.

The first design plans were proposed by engineer Riccardo Morandi and architects Andrea Zavitteri, Amedeo Luccichenti, and Vincenzo Monaco. As a result, a merged project between these proposals received the green light in 1958.

Once construction began, it took 21 months to finish the airport. During this time, workers discovered remains of Roman ships below the site grounds.

Terminal 1 at Fiumicino Airport in 1964. Photo: Fortepan.

1960-1970: First Operations

The airport was ready by 1960, but it became fully operational in 1961. During its opening day, the first commercial flight arrived at the airport from New York. The aircraft used was the TWA Lockheed Constellation.

In its first decade, FCO only had two runways. However, national carrier Alitalia (AZ) invested in the airport by constructing hangars and maintenance centers. Later, FCO would become the airline’s home and main hub.

TWA 707-331 and Alitalia DC-8s at Fiumicino Airport in 1969. Photo: Vintage Airliners.

1970-1990: Expansion with Aeroporti di Roma

With the beginning of the new decade, this principal Roman airport inaugurated a third runway in 1973. Additionally, FCO had a new hangar built for the Boeing 747.

Then, in 1974, Aeroporti di Roma (ADR) operator was founded. The company would later become the principal concessionaire of FCO and CIA.

In the next two decades, the airport grew in airlines, routes, and passengers. However, it also faced two terrorist attacks with tragic results.

In 1973, a Boeing 707-321B operated by Pan American World Airways (Pan Am) was hijacked and 30 passengers died. Then, in 1985, FCO suffered an attack with assault rifles and hand grenades, resulting in 13 people killed.

How Terminal 3 at FCO looks today. Photo: Aeroporti di Roma.

1990-2010: Major Innovations

Over the following next two decades, FCO went through major innovations in its infrastructure and systems.

In the 90s, ADR upgraded its terminal with more gates in service at Pier A, Pier B and Satellite C. Then, ten years later, it reorganized Terminal A (with Pier A), Terminal AA, Terminal B (with Pier B) and Terminal C (with Satellite C) buildings.

In the 2000s, FCO opened a cargo terminal and Terminal 5. This decade also saw ADR adding improvements in FCO’s baggage handling and instrument landing systems.

As part of other related changes, the airport renamed its depots and closed Terminal 2 to expand Terminal 1. Currently, Terminal 5 remains closed due to an extensive renovation.

FCO runways in 2008. Photo: Ra Boe.

Into the Next Decades

For its upcoming projects, ADR announced in 2018 the Masterplan Fiumicino Nord for FCO. it involves the construction of four new terminals and two new runways by 2030.

In addition, the new plans introduce environmentally-friendly cogeneration systems for the airport to be installed in the coming years.

While FCO expects to see 100 million passengers per year in the future, it welcomed around 44 million passengers in 2019.

Featured image: Fiumicino Airport. Photo: Ra Boe.