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After an original idea by Paul Freeman.
First published 7 Nov 2010. This collection of airfields is © 2010 - 2017 RonaldV
it

Cortina d'Ampezzo

20-12-2010


449

46°34'29"N 012°06'54"E

runway: 17/35 - 1380x..m - asphalt

Cortina d'Ampezzo airfield (Aeroporto di Cortina d'Ampezzo, ICAO: LIDI) was an airfield 125 kilometers north of Venice.
The airfield was built between 1958 (starting just after the Winter Olympics) and the opening in 1962. The airfield was not large enough for airliners, but with STOL aircraft a regular service was set up by Aeralpi from the beginning.
Cortina was not an easy airfield to fly to and from. The narrow valley, the falling winds, strong gusts ascending and descending, and obstacles on the two approaches made great knowledge of not only flying but also of the mountain a necessety. With new Swiss Pilatus Porter STOL aircraft two experimental seasons (in August-September 1962 and January-March 1963) were carried out. The Porter was a robust high-wing monoplane, able to take off in 130 meters and stop at 100 meters at the airport.
To test demand for the flights and for propaganda reasons, 1,620 paying passengers were carried on the routes Venezia-Cortina, Bolzano-Cortina and Cortina-Milano in 600 flights. Encouraged by the test, the promoters began Aeralpi, with public and private funding.

The president of the Officine Aeronavali, Mr Umberto Klinger, was a strong proponent of the airfield. Klinger was literally in love with the Pilatus and had even entered into an agreement for its assembly and construction in Italy. He managed to have the Inspectorate General of Civil Aviation grant permission to operate from Cortina with the Porters. Using some Porters and a few pilots, Aeralpi operated the winter seasons of '63-'64 and '64-'65. Even the press talked of a succesful initiative.
In 1965 a new General manager was appointed and with him came Count Cesare Acquarone, son of the last Minister of the Italian Royal Household of Vittrio Emanuele III. Count Acquarone expanded the airline, introducing 2 Shorts Skyvans and five Twin Otters into the fleet. Deliveries began in 1966 and in addition 5 Turbo Porters were introduced. Getting qualified crews to fly the challenging airport proved harder. A challenging scheme was set up to have younger pilots always teamed up with very experienced pilots. At the same time, the network was expanding, with routes to Asiago, Belluno, Jesolo, St. Moritz, Venice, Bologna and Trieste. In some cases Aeralpi served as an extension of Alitalia flights, thus creating the first de-facto codesharing agreement in Italy. Occasional charters were flown as far away as Zagreb and Rome.
In 1967, Aeralpi covered 600,000 km in 3120 hours of flight, carrying 19400 passengers and 9200 kg of cargo. Flying in the mountains remained not easy, because there were still no specific flight schools.

cortina-gruppoAeralpi.jpg
Aeralpi crew posing in front of a Twin Otter at Cortina in the late 1960s (fiorenzadebernardi.it).

Despite the difficult operating environment, Aeralpi had only one incident during a flight online: on 11 March 1967 Twin Otter I-CLAI took off from Cortina Pass carrying three passengers and two pilots. Flying in bad weather it found itself in a dense fog and, without any external reference, impacted with a hill near Fadalto. Although it caused the death of Aldo Tait, director of flight operations who was on board as a passenger, the incident did not stop Aeralpi. A completely non-aviation related incident did however.
On 4 January 1968 the murder of Count Acquarone, Aeralpi's largest shareholder, took place in his villa in Acapulco (Mexico). Left without financial support, national aviation company Aeralpi disappeared from the scene in a few months. The last commercial flight to Cortina took place in June 1968. Then began the sad series of flights one way to return the aircraft to the company's creditors.
Airport Cortina closed to traffic because of a few accidents involving small planes: resulting in one death. The airfield became a public park, without removing the track, so perhaps some pilot landed there by mistake.

Aeroporto-Fiames-Cortina-400x248.jpg
Aeralpi the hangar at Cortina, presumably 1970s

In December 1975 the New Aeralpi inaugurated a regular service with three air taxi: a flight to Bolzano from Cortina cost 10,000 lira, 15,000 from Venice, 25,000 from Milan. Unfortunately, on 31 May 1976 another crash claimed the lifes of six and the airport was closed for good. It later became a heliport operated by Elidolomiti, but only for a short period.
Several companies have since tried to have the airfield reopened, but to no avail. Today the runway is what you can see: a large parking facility for motor homes and caravans. The platform in front of the hangar serves as a helipad for elifriuliaroma.com.

cortina-runway-view.jpg
Mountain view onto the former runway (fiorenzadebernardi.it).

cortina-runway-today.jpg
Motorhomes and caravans parked at the runway (fiorenzadebernardi.it).