Is Fiumicino Airport at Risk? Report shows inappropriate building materials may have been used.

aeroportofiumicinoThree months ago, Terminal 3 of Rome’s Leonardo da Vinci airport (aka Fiumicino) suffered serious damages when faulty electrical connections caused a raging fire to break out and burn throughout the night. The repercussions have created significant organization problems for the terminal, which handles a huge chunk of international traffic (although not that going to North America and Israel). But now, investigators say they have discovered a series of airport-wide irregularities – largely the failure to use non-inflammable materials in parts of the airport’s structures − which, if they are not set right within the next three months, could result in a total shut-down.

The fire that raged in the early morning hours of April 30, led first to a temporary shut-down of the terminal with the resulting cancellations of hundreds of flight. The terminal re-opened a few days later but subsequently, following inspections by health authorities, a major take-off area, the D pier, with 13 gates, was deemed unsafe because of deposits of dioxin and other chemical particulates. The airport has coped reasonably well although people checking in at Terminal 3 are currently re-routed through Terminal 1 or 2 and then, at times, bussed to other parts of the airport.

Now, however, things could get worse.

According to a report by the Fire Department sent to the Attorney General of Civitavecchia, which is handling the investigation and forwarded by him to the Interior Ministry in Rome, the filler substances used between the roofs and the dropped ceilings of the entire airport were not the inflammable materials required by law but inappropriate materials whose presence there may have contributed to the virulence of the fire. He has given the Airports of Rome company (ADR) three months to rectify this situation or else the airport could be closed down. ADR has set up a team of 100 engineers to work on the problem and says it is confident it can meet this deadline.

With an average of 827 takeoffs and landings a day, Fiumicino is Italy’s biggest and busiest airport. Daily there are roughly 110,000 passengers, people flying planes belonging to some 100 airlines to or from 230 destinations in 80 countries. The airport’s entire area amounts to 320,000 square meters. It has 4 terminals and some 40,000 employees and is of key importance in the Italian tourism industry.

Which is why this latest news is simply shocking. Or perhaps not. This is a very Italian story and by no means can the blame be placed solely on AdR’s shoulders. Who disregarded the rules for proper fire safety regulations? Was someone saving money or just being careless? But above all, how come no one noticed? Leonardo da Vinci aiport began operations back in 1961 but major expansions and restructurings took place throughout the 1990s and the early part of this century. Wasn’t anybody looking? What kind of inspections were done, when and by whom? Were earlier inspectors bribed for their silence or is this just a result of the same slipshoddiness and sloppiness that has made Italy what it is (or isn’t)?


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