The real Ustica Mystery
Av Göran Lilja
On 27 June 1980 Itavia Flight IH870, a DC 9 on a scheduled flight from Bologna to Palermo, disappeared over the Tyrrhenian Sea. There were no survivors. With very little evidence available at the time the accident investigation could only conclude that an explosion, inside or outside the airliner, was the only possible reason for the disaster. Media and the public favoured the latter option, in practical terms meaning a missile fired against the DC-9. This was expressed as ‘The Ustica Mystery.’ It led to a criminal case against the Italian military and to allegations against several states, including the USA and France.
What became known as the Misiti Commission was formed in 1990. After four years it concluded that the real reason for the disaster was a bomb onboard the aircraft. A total acquittal in court of all defendants did not change the public notion. The accusations still prevail in the debate.
This story challenges that popular notion and explains the work of the Misiti Commission. It also covers some reflections about various political and terroristic scenarios for an alternative story, possible but not proven, ‘The Real Ustica Mystery.’
The author, Göran Lilja, a retired aeronautical engineer, was a member of the Misiti Commission. He has worked in accident investigation, safety of flight, system safety, teaching flight mechanics, civil and military operational analyses and in research concerning terroristic threats against civil aviation. This odd mixture proved to fit well with this very special investigation and in particular into the reflections and questions one can have when viewing the aftermath.