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On the wings of the Sparrow
From the Transadriatica to the Ala Littoria

The movement after the war was devastating and opened up a difficult time period for the country. The Venice Arsenale, the technical repair facility in S.Nicolò and S.Andrea were reduced and eventually eliminated. As for the Lido Airport, it was put in Sergent Giovani Nicelli’s name. He was a war ace that had 8 victories in March of 1918. The flight activity actually diminished substantially for many years and was unused in a regular ways, even if the air traffic was not completely stopped. After the war, they experimented with many military postal services between Venice-Trieste-Pola-Fiume. This was active between November 25th, 1918 and November 1919. Venice-Vienna was inaugurated March 1919 and with a flight every 3 days. Torino-Milano-Venice was active in 1920. Many other flights were added to these and even the first experimental passenger flights. There was even one that was organized August 2nd, 1919 routed to Milano-Talieso to Venice S.Nicolo. Unfortunately during this time a Caproni 600h crashed in Verona during the return trip killing all 15 people aboard. This caused a lot of sadness and fear among the people, as it was one of the first civil casualties in Italian aviation history.

Just a few years later in 1926, came a bright 24 year old entrepreneur from Tuscany, Renato Morandi and he had a vision. The Venice Nicelli airport was inaugurated as the first civil airport in Italy, when Rome and Milan did not even have their own airfields. Venice remained the 2nd Italian airport throughout the 1930’s then only to be surpassed by Littorio in Rome, that was inaugurated “only” in 1928. Venice became the principal landing field in the area, dividing the traffic with Rome, naturally. After many experimental projects, on January 31st, 1926, it became a law (Regio Dereto n. 3176 from October 18th 1926) that allowed the institution regular service in the area with an economic contribution, sometimes as much as 50% of the costs of the operational facility. The legislative act made it possible by the end of the year to start up some new passenger airlines run by four different airline companies. The first company to bid was S.I.S.A. from Trieste that had already performed its debut flight April 1st traveling Trieste-Venice-Pavia-Torino with 5 Cant 10 water planes. Regular service began June 16th with daily flights except for Sundays.

In the same time Morandi decided to transfer “The Società Anonima di Navigazione Aerea Transadriatica” (The Anonymous Society for Trans Adriatic Air Navigation) to Venice (April 18th 1926) he founded in 1925 in Ancona with his brother Mario and Attoney Domenico Giurati and ex military pilot. The partnership had an idea for managing the airline. In Ancona they were using original Macchi M. 18, but choosing the base in Lido, were able to transform it into a civil base. In fact all the ideas in the field of civil airlines were operated with water Hydro planes and were based solely in water landing fields. Venice in fact became the first landing field in the commercial aviation in Italy, and for this reason the Transadriatic was the only Italian airlines that operated on land. Morandi had a solid base of both technical and operational knowledge of airlines even back from when he was a student. It was then that he met the family of Hugo Junkers in Naples. He was famous for inventing the gas hot water heater in bathrooms and known for building the only airplane out of metal used for transporting passengers.

Germany at this time was ahead of the times in this field. Because of limitations and peace restrictions, they were not able to build military planes. Renato Morandi was invited to Germany to visit the Junkers facility in Dessau where he gained the experience and knowledge for his next business venture. Upon his return, he had such clear ideas, he did not limit himself to buying a fleet of Junkers mono airplanes and three motors, and instead he hired technical personnel straight from the German company. This would guarantee efficient maintenance, transformation and engine repair of his airplanes. Subsequently he constructed entire planes for his company. In this way they were introduced to Lido as “embryos” and this excellent and valuable information was passed on, giving life to the famous Technical Repair facility of the Transadriatic. From this came the Ala Littoria and after the war the “Aeronavali”.

So, in August 1926, with huge celebration from local authority and the presence of the same assistant secretary of the Aereo Nautical Mario Bonzano, the Venice-Vienna via Klagenfurth was inaugurated. It was a Junkers F.13 serial number IBATB (nc.698) and it was commanded by the Transadriatic pilot Ricardo Pasquali. The next day the same airplane was back in Venice. The airline was a trial daily flight even Sunday with the trusty Junkers F.13 that could take as many as four passengers, the pilot and the mechanic. There were in addition 5 planes of the same type (I-BATG,I-BAVB,I-BBAS,I-BBCA, and a I-AEDO). These were in service by Jan 31st 1927 and the service was extended to Rome using the Junkers G.24 3 motor able to transport 9 passengers and 3 mechanics. These became part of the company fleet (I-BAUS and I-BAZI) from October 1926. Service to Rome (Montecelio) and daily (regulated by the minister of 20.11.27-RD of 4.12.27 n.2843) while the Venice-Vienna route in winter months October-April. It was offered three times a week, running every other day in conjunction with the Osterreichische Luftverkehrs A.G. that ran the service the alternate days. Technical stops were made in Ferrara, Klagenfurth and (from 1928) Graz. There were other fortunate landing fields that were set up along the route, as well. Only after the inauguration of the Littorio airport in 1928 that the fields were transferred to a new landing strip in Rome. In the meantime with the visits from the King of Venice, on September 4th 1928, after touring the hydro field of S. Andrea, he stopped along the Lido landing strip to observe and approve the project to build the necessary facility to initiate the Transadriatica. He complimented the young and enthusiastic Engineer Morandi.

The expansion of the company continued and in 1929 flew three times a week. In the meantime the fleet added a Junkers W.34 (IAAMA which was transformed into a F.13 in 1930) and a Hamilton 47 (IROMA) to its assets. The new route was much longer but less of a commitment because the whether conditions were better and there was no mountain ranges. Only later on April 9th 1930, the new route was officially signed by the ministry and was extended to Munich of Bavaria. This was a convenient route for connecting the prosperous markets of northern Europe for commercial transport to various areas of the Mediterranean. The extended territory had partnered with LuftHansa by May of 1931. It was then completed via sea by steam ship by Lloyd Treistino that left from Brindisi starting form June 28th 1931. In 1930 new routes were inaugurated: Venice Trento may 15th and Venice Florence, August 9th. This energetic period of expansion was interrupted all of a sudden on October 29th 1930 by the tragic death of Engineer Morandi, who was an important asset to the company and impossible to replace. Shortly after, the company became a government target with Balboa as Minister of Areonautics. It was he who tried to reform the only state run airlines. On December 23 1931, the Transadriatica was purchased by the company called Società Aerea Medeterrenea owned by the State. Under the guidance of Umberto Klinger, he created a political fusion and it was finally renamed Ala Littoria on October 28th 1934 becoming officially the leading company. All of the work activities including the famous technical repair facilities and the structure of the Venice airport, become property of the state run airport. Because of its great knowledge of maintenance, metal structures, and propeller repair, motors would always stay in this same environment. During all of the 1930’s until the end of the second world war, the Venetian landing field maintained its importance status as second operating base of the Ala Littoria and traffic flow. It was the principal maintenance position, employing more than 500 workers in 1940. In 1935, a new modern airport was inaugurated. The building was already anticipated from 1929, at the time of Engineer Morandi and finally the city of water had a new modern structure. In 1936, permission was granted to expand the landing strip and make them larger. To make this modification, it was necessary to pound down the heavy eastern block and level off the terrain.

(by Bruno Delisi)

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