1966. The lawyer Gianni Agnelli attends the air day organized at the Caselle airport
The 50’s saw the arrival of jet-powered aircraft. The airport at Caselle, until then exclusively a military airfield, was opened to civilian traffic on the 30th of July 1953 and just 6 days later (5th Aug.), commercial activities began with the start of a Turin-Rome service operated by Alitalia using a Convair 340. It became the reference point for commercial aviation only from the 6th of March 1956 with the constitution of the management society Sagat.
Despite this, all training and sporting activities continued to take place on the Aeritalia runway.
And with the Decree No. 643 of 26th May 1959 (“Gazzetta Ufficiale”. n. 291 of 22/8/59), promulgated by the President of the Republic of Italy, the Turin Aero Club was formally accorded juridical status.
In 1958, “the Advocate” (Giovanni Agnelli) began discussions with fiat with the intention of building another runway and the related taxiways. At a Board Meeting on the 7th of February 1961, the fiat Board voted the sum of 106 million lire for the construction of the new asphalt runway “28r-10l”, 1,075 metres in length, for use by the Aero Club. Only a few weeks later, on the 9th of March, another 84 million lire were allocated to extend the runway “30” to 1,500 metres, and yet a further 20 million to re-asphalt the whole of “30”.
With regard to the construction of the new runway, which needed to be completed in time for the Centenary of the Unification of Italy, the Managing Director of fiat, Engineer Bonadè Bottino, stated in a memo dated 7th Feb 1961 to Prof. Vittorio Valletta: “The only way to guarantee the availability of this runway in time for the Centenary is to start work immediately!”
And so it was. The runway was built in time and inaugurated with a huge air show as planned.
In the context of the centenary celebrations for the Unification of Italy, Turin was selected as the arrival destination of the 1000 km international race organised by the Aero Club d’Italia.
Among his many achievements, Agnelli was also responsible for restructuring the clubhouse, having hangars built with State funds (1963), the complete renewal of the fleet (1964, 1965 and 1968) and above all, giving the Aero Club an incredible impulse and prestige.
The gala dinner held at the Turin Exposition Centre following the 1962 edition of the Tour of the Piedmontese Castles
1961. Gianni Agnelli making his speech at the
prize-giving ceremony for the Tour of the
On the 19th of March 1959, a flying course for members of the Ciamm (Centro Internazionale Aviazione e Motorizzazione Missionaria) was inaugurated with a Mass at the airfield, conducted by the Missionary Bishop Mons. Arduino, assisted by Don Paolo Gariglio. A large crowd from religious orders attended. Among these were a number of nuns from the congregation of St. Luigi Gonzaga di Alba and Italian missionaries from Pakistan, the Mentawai Islands, Indonesia, Latin America and the Far East.
The initiative, the result of an idea by Don Gariglio in 1957, was supported by the architect Carlo Mollino, and jointly financed by the Diocese of Turin, Fiat and the Aero Club of Italy. It was conducted by the Aero Club Torino under the technical direction of the then Director of the Flying School, Col. Alfonso Isaia, assisted by the instructors Ferruccio Vignoli and Alberto Alesi. Dr Domenico Tappero was nominated as President of the Ciamm.
The initiative was much publicized by the radio and the press, and in September 1960, when the courses ended, the award ceremony for the 21 Pilot’s Licences, organised by Giovanni Agnelli, took place in the presence of the City Authorities, such as the Cardinal of Turin Maurilio Fossati, the Mayor Amedeo Peyron, the Prefect Rodolfo Saporiti, the Undersecretary of State Giuseppe Bovetti, Generals Brach Papa and Remondino, Engineer Catella etc.
The control tower decked out with flags for the
closing ceremony of the Missionaries’ Flying course
Giovanni Agnelli’s De Havilland “Heron”
at the Aeritalia airfield
At the same time, the first commercial activities began to flourish – air taxi, air photography, publicity flights, executive flights, etc.
The riv Company, whose President was Giovanni Agnelli, had its first executive aircraft at the Aeritalia airfield in 1949. This was a British-built De Havilland “Dove” which was followed by a Heron in 1957, and by a Grumman “Gulfstream” in 1961.
Other aircraft began to use Aeritalia as their base, such as the Aero Commander of Pinin Farina and the Beech “Queen Air” of the San Paolo Bank. These aircraft were housed along with those of the sige, (a fiat subsidiary who were the first to launch the commercial use of helicopters in Italy) in the hangars at the head of the “30” runway.
In 1961, simultaneously with the celebrations for the centenary of the Unification of Italy, the airfield was finally opened to international tourist aircraft traffic.
With the growth of Caselle and its qualification as an ifr airport in 1969, executive aircraft traffic gravitated naturally towards these more attractive features.
In 1966 the floods in Florence submerged hundreds of vehicles. Fiat offered a large discount to all those whose vehicles had been destroyed and who wanted to replace them with one of their models.
The damaged vehicles were provisionally stockpiled in the southern area of the Turin-Aeritalia airport (see photo) pending being scrapped.
1966. Huge quantity of FIAT cars in the Southern part of Turin-Aeritalia Airport
It would be inappropriate to conclude this summary of the post-war years without mentioning two other people who have really left their mark on the history of the Aero Club: Carlo Mollino and Ferruccio Vignoli.
The architect Carlo Mollino (Turin, 1905-1973) was one of the most controversial and enigmatic personages of Torinese “high society” in the period immediately following the end of wwii.
He became an aerobatic pilot, and was friend and pupil of the former World Champion Albert Reusch. In the 1950’s in collaboration with Luigi Faraggiana and other technicians, Mollino designed aircraft and even patented a dual-command system as well as various instruments for the graphic calculation of routes, designed and produced colour schemes for his own and friends’ aircraft and publicity posters for the Air Displays in which he took part.
He studied aircraft profiles and did design work (e.g. “Graffer”), anticipating by half a century what later became reality in the USA – houses with their own aircraft hangars.
The Graffer project - house with aircraft hangar beneath
That same year, he was the real pilot in the film Luciano Serra Pilota starring Amedeo NAZZARI and directed by Goffredo ALESSANDRINI, with the collaboration of Roberto ROSSELLINI.
In 1938 he joined 28 Group No. 18 Overseas “La Cucaracha” Squadron involved in the Spanish Civil War then took part in the occupation of the airport of Tirana in 1939 (his was the first aircraft to land). The following year, with an SM.82, he took part in the first air raid on Gibraltar (Guidonia- Gibraltar-Alicante-Guidonia).
In 1941, with the 20th Fighter Group, No. 151 Sqn (“Black Cat & Green Mice”) he took part in the campaign against Malta flying an MC.202.
In 1943, at the Guidonia Experimental Centre, he was accredited as a Test Pilot and took over that role with Piaggio, where he tested various versions of the four-engined P.108 and CANT-Z).
At the end of that year he returned to No 2 Fighter Group “Asso di Bastoni” and “Gigi Tre Osei” flying missions over the North of Italy until the end of the war in MC.202, MC.205 and Bf.109G’s. The Group was credited with 102 enemy aircraft shot down or seriously damaged. Vignoli was personally credited with the following:
In the post-war period, he continued as Test Pilot of a STOL aircraft for Aeronautica Umbra and the Baldo 75 of “Alaparma”. In 1954, having been an Instructor at Bologna and Lugo di Romagna, during Giovanni AGNELLI’s presidency he was requested to become the Chief Flying Instructor at the Aero Club Torino (where he remained for the rest of his life). Despite this, he still found time to continue with his activities as a Test Pilot (test-flying the NARDI FN.333 “Riviera” amphibious, the M.100 and the M.200 gliders of the MORELLI brothers, a BENSEN autogyro (the first of its kind to fly in Italy) and the experimental Evans VP-1 and VP-2 aircraft).
The Piazza d’Armi heliport
1959. Inauguration of the heliport
The city heliport named “Aldo Cavallo” in honour of Lt. Cavallo, awarded the Gold Medal for Valour, was built in Piazza d’Armi, parallel to today’s Corso Monte Lungo, near the Monte Grappa barracks, and was inaugurated by the mayor, Amedeo Peyron, in September 1959. The opening ribbon was cut by Lt. Cavallo’s 12 year old daughter in the presence of the city’s civil and military authorities.
Built with the intention of providing a rapid connection between Turin and the international airport of Malpensa, Milan, the heliport lasted only a few years as the development of Caselle airport diminished its usefulness and it was finally closed in 1971, after having been inoperative for some years.
On May 17, 1960 (as reported by “la Stampa” of May 27, 1960) the Elipadana company inaugurated the connection with Malpensa with three daily flights, employing two Sikorsky-S.58, but without the hoped-for commercial success.
The following year, the Elivie company, an Alitalia subsidiary, was more successful when it resumed flights to Malpensa and Linate from July 1, 1961 (”la Stampa” of July 2, 1961) using two Agusta Bell AB.102 helicopters, each with 8 passenger seats.
The flight lasted about 50 minutes and was repeated 4 times a day with a ticket price of 3,100 lire for a single journey and 5,600 a return ticket.
The resumption of activity after the Elipadana flop was the result of negotiations between Engineer Bosso, a municipal councilor of Turin (which contributed 30 million lire to the initiative) and Engineer Antonio Maria Farini, president and founder of Elivie, the first carrier ever to set up regular helicopter connections in Italy, between Naples, Ischia and Capri.
It is worth remembering that Engineer Farini (a family descendant of Count Luigi Carlo Farini, one of the protagonists of the Italian Risorgimento and Prime Minister after Cavour in the years 1862 and 1863) was the 5th president of the Turin Aero Club, from 1938 to 1946.
1960 Passengers waiting to depart on the Sikorsky-S.58 helicopter of the Elipadana
Sikorsky-S.58 with Belgian registration marks of OO-SHN