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The Naval Technical Repair Facilities

At the beginning of 1943, the employees of the technical repair facilities totaled 1200, and this gives and idea of what level they had reached. After the fall of the government, the company underwent official changes to Ala Italiana on July 31st, 1943. Shortly after, the Germans took over the airfields and this was the beginning of the Great Destruction. During the German takeover between 1944 and 1945, most ìof the technical machinery and all of the knowledge was transferred, confiscated and destroyed. The airport was the only part saved, thanks to some employees that disconnected explosives that were about to blow up the airport. During the days of freedom, whatever was left, was salvaged. This did not keep the allies from fixing up what little remained when they arrived on Lido on April 29th 1945. With their Spitfire Squadron from the RAF, they took over the airport. The English took off a few days later, but the landing fields were used by the Americans during this period of alliance. During the summer of 1945, Americans set up resting camps for the ally troops in the most famous beach towns. Lido could not participate like Capri and on July 4th 1945, the American Independence day, the rest center no.4 was inaugurated. The airport returned to be the center of communication for Venice.

In 1946 when the Americans left, they were trying to organize civil flights in Italy, which were originally handed over to the Military. Furthermore, in the general state of destruction that the country was in, the government was not financially able to rebuild the airport transportation. They did not have the capital and the necessary recourses to rebuild a sector that was not considered a priority. It was at this time the principal airlines rose up with foreign financial contribution. Alitalia was funded by English support (division BEA of BOAC). The Linee Aere Italiane was created thanks to funding from TWA. To fallow in 1947, the Italian Government decided to liquidate the company and whatever was left on Lido, even if the company only existed theoretically, and was not able to fly. These historic technical repair facilities, full of valuable technical knowledge were used during the war in the revision of the C32 and the sea planes for S.Andrea. Above and beyond maintaining a specialized airline and understanding engine repair of the Alpha Pegasus and similar models, they risked being erased completely after the destruction of the facility. It was at this point the remaining personnel fearing to lose their jobs, wrote to the commission in Rome. They aimed to convince Commander Umberto Klinger, President of SAM and of Ala Littoria, to continue work in the Naval Aviation repair facility of Venice. In 1947, the “Officine gia delle Ala Italiana Venezia SpA” until the valuable technical information and employees specialized in Aeronautics were lost. In the first years of business there were a few repairs on aircraft left over form the war, but it was mostly on trucks and building boats. In 1945 the business was named “Officine Areonavali Veniza Lido Spa”. They created a beautiful new blue Sparrow that was originally the symbol of the company. In the beginning of the 1950’s there were still problems with scarce work that were overcome by inventing a new type of work. The last employees went on building autos for Moretti in Torino. Others were involved rebuilding the Curtis C 46 found on the mid east by the Egyptian government and by the Brazilian airlines Varig, and others went to other airports facilities.

The main goal of the military aeronautics was to guarantee the repair of DC-3’s, C-45’s and T-6’s. With this business, they continued into the 1960’s. At this time the Lido airport was currently the civil airport of Venice. It was suitable for the new JATO airplanes that were becoming available in the airline companies. After studying how to lengthen the landing strip towards the sea, they began to evaluate the possibility of using the location on the mainland at Tessera. Here the airfield already existed during the First World War. At the new airport, the Airnaval Repair Facility built a larger hangar where even DC-6s and other airlines could be repaired. From that time the air naval history that always seemed tied to Nicelli, was now independent. The technical repair facility naturally flowed together with Aeritlalia and then with Alenia and they built one of the most important aeronautical sites in Europe. They were able to maintain individual specialties in repair techniques of and changing the Junkers F-13. Today the principal goal of the business consists of cargo DC 10 and MD. 11 under the direct control of the American Being-Douglass. It is the only aeronautical facility in Europe operating by the FAA standards. But, this is another story because the OAN activities continued on Lido only until 1969. The historic facility on the Nicelli field was closed indefinitely and only after many years of being abandoned, it was finally taken back. In 1990 a wealthy entrepreneur Sorlini from Brescia took it in hands and it became the headquarter of the Officine Aeronautiche Sorlini Srl. The entire facility has been rebuilt and remodeled.

In 1994, in an era of unstoppable technology and mass tourism, City hall of Venice created the Syndicate to Operate the G.Nicelli Lido airport. This evolved into Nicelli SpA. With the participation of SAVE, City Hall of Venice, Chamber of Commerce and the Areoclub Ancilloti in the end can run the airport and all of the economical responsibility that comes along. The project is approved and is already in the first phases of action. There is the objective of making it a regional landing field, open to private light aircraft. The airport is sheltered under a law protecting valuable architecture in Venice, so the restoration has been done based on special conservation. The runway measuring 1150mt by 23 will be restored, a new ENAV control tower will be built, and three new hangars in the northwest side of the field. There will also be an area 27mt. x 27 mt. for helicopters that will be constructed based on USL 12. The whole project works in harmony with the original historical site that will not alter the original look of the facility. We hope that in the name of progress and of the economical needs that we will not give up this landing field that is rich in history and generations have worked hard to save it.

(by Bruno Delisi)

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