Date: August 28, 1988
Casualties: 70 People
On August 28, 1988, 300,000 people attended the annual Ramstein Airshow in West Germany. The event was held at the U.S. Ramstein Air Base. During the show, a mid-air collision occurred involving numerous Aermacchi MB-339 PAN jets. In the chaos, 67 spectators and three pilots died. In all, 346 people sustained serious injuries in the resulting explosion and fire. The event is the second-deadliest air show disaster in history. The mid-air collision took place as ten Aermacchi MB-339 PAN jets from the Italian Air Force display team, Frecce Tricolori, were performing their pierced heart formation. In the display, two groups of aircraft create a heart shape in front of the audience along the runway. In the completion of the lower tip of the heart, the two groups of planes pass each other parallel to the runway.
The heart is then pierced in the direction of the audience by a lone aircraft. During the accident, the heart-piercing aircraft collided with two other jets. After the impact, the plane immediately crashed into the runway, breaking apart. The fuselage and resulting fireball of aviation fuel tumbled into the spectator area, hitting the crowd and coming to rest against a refrigerated trailer. The crash site was considered to be the “best seats in the house”, centered on the show. One of the three pilots was able to eject from his jet, but was killed as he hit the runway before his parachute opened. A large amount of video was taken of the accident. Upon completing the heart figure, the piercing aircraft (Pony 10) came in too low and fast at the crossing point. The entire incident took less than 7 seconds, leaving no time for people in the crowd to run away from the flying jet parts.
Like all tragic events, this Ramstein disaster has inspired a conspiracy theory. Two months before the air show disaster, Aerolinee Itavia Flight 870 crashed into the Tyrrhenian Sea, killing all 81 people on-board. No official explanation on why Flight 870 experienced complete failure has ever been produced by the Italian government. The event is known in the Italian media as the Ustica Massacre. The role of Italian Air Force personnel in the tragedy is unclear.
However, several members of the group have been investigated and brought to court for a number of offenses relating to the incident, including falsification of documents, perjury, abuse of office and aiding and abetting. Four generals were charged with high treason on the allegations that they obstructed the government investigation of the accident, by withholding information about air traffic at the time of Ustica disaster. It has been suggested that two of the pilots killed in the air show disaster, Lt. Col. Nutarelli and Lt. Col. Naldini, understood details surrounding the Ustica Massacre.