A military plane crashed on Wednesday morning just before noon on Mount Legnone, the highest peak in the province of Lecco, at 2,600 meters above sea level, near the town of Pagnona.
The plane was identified as Alenia Aermacchi T-346A of the Italian Airforce with registration MM 55218. The plane departed from the Venegono base in Varese to undergo a training flight before delivery to the Air Force. The incident occurred during the post-production testing. Both the Pilots were Italian Air Force personnel.
The jet caught fire and then crashed to the ground, as per the eyewitnesses. Many in the Colico area saw the fireball over the Larian sky and then fall on the top of Mount Legnone, on the border with the provinces of Sondrio and Bergamo. The roar was distinctly heard throughout the area. A dense black cloud has risen from the top of the mountain and is visible several kilometres away. The pilots had parachuted.
Rescuers have recovered a pilot on a rocky outcrop while the other is still being searched. Two helicopters from Como and Milan, two ambulances, firefighters and law enforcement officers have reached the spot. The first helicopter landed in Dervio (Lecco), the second started to patrol the area. The firefighters of Lecco and Sondrio were also mobilized.
The flight path
The military jet appeared on the tracking sites at 11.16 South-West of Como. It pulls straight towards the lake, then veered between Morbegno and Sondrio seven minutes later. The plane made a series of manoeuvres in the area at reduced speed between the lake and the mountains for just over fifteen minutes. It was probably carrying out some test manoeuvres. In this area – or rather, between the peaks – around 11.40 and 30 seconds, the plane disappears from the radar because it crashed.
Alenia Aermacchi T-346A
The Alenia Aermacchi M-346 Master is a transonic military training aircraft. It is based on developments following an initial joint venture between the Yakovlev Design Bureau of Moscow and the then Aermacchi. They teamed up for the evolution of the Yakovlev-Aermacchi 130 prototype.
In 1993, Aermacchi signed an agreement to collaborate with Yakovlev on the new training aircraft that was being developed for the Russian Federation Air Force. The plane made its first flight in 1996 and was brought to Italy the following year to explore the possibility of offering it as a replacement for the Aermacchi MB-339, in service at the Air Force flight schools since 1979.
At the time, the aircraft was marketed as Yak / AEM-130, but in 1999 differences in the priorities established by the industrial plans of the two manufacturers led to the end of the partnership. Both the companies continued the development independently: the Aermacchi with its M -346 and the Yakovlev with the Yak-130.
The Italian company remained the owner of the aircraft marketing rights for the whole world, except Russia and the other nations of the Commonwealth of Independent States.
Yakovlev continued the development of its version in collaboration with the Sokol Aircraft-Building Plant.
The M-346 is a heavily modified aircraft compared to the plane the joint venture produced and adopted Western-made systems and equipment. The first prototype was presented on 7 June 2003 and made its first flight on 15 July 2004.
In January 2005, the Greek defense minister signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) to become a partner of the program. In 2006 Aermacchi signed an industrial cooperation agreement with the Hellenic Aerospace Industry.
In 2008 the company became Alenia Aermacchi. In the same year, the plane was named “Master’ which, according to the regulations, had to be unique in the world of aeronautics. Master was the name of a former British trainer with propeller engine – Miles Master during WWII and logically should not have been chosen.
The General Directorate of Aeronautical Armaments (ARMAEREO) has classified the aircraft as T-346. On 21 December 2010, two trainers were delivered in Venegono airport, designated by the Italian Air Force as T-346A. The manufacturer is now called Leonardo. The Italian Air Force is estimated to have about 22 T-346A trainers.