Magistrates and Alitalia open probe into Rome plane accident

ROME Sun Feb 3, 2013 9:41am GMT

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ROME (Reuters) - Flights operated in Italy by Romania's Carpatair airlines were suspended on Sunday after a passenger plane went off the runway upon landing in strong winds at Rome's Leonardo da Vinci airport, injuring 16 people on board.

The ATR-72 plane ended up on the grass, on its belly with its landing gear collapsed, in the incident late on Saturday. Two of the 16 people hurt were seriously injured, including one crew member.

Carpatair operates some domestic flights in Italy on behalf of the country's flagship carrier Alitalia.

Alitalia said in a statement that it had started an investigation and had suspended flights operated by Carpatair on its behalf from Pisa and Bologna to Rome.

Magistrates have also opened an investigation into the accident.

Passengers said the plane, which flew to Rome from Pisa and had 50 people on board, touched the ground twice before it came to a stop.

Although it was operated by a Carpatair crew, the plane bore the green, white and red livery of Alitalia, according to an arrangement known in the civil aviation industry as "wet leasing".

The airport was hit by strong winds late on Saturday, with only one runway operational, but the precise cause of the accident was not clear.

Ivan Biglietti, an official of a union representing Italian pilots, told Sky Italia television that the union had told air safety officials at the beginning of January about concerns about Carpatair's safety standards.

Another Italian pilots' union called for a strike to demand that Alitalia cancel its contract with Carpatair, which is based in Timisoara, Romania.

Alitalia was rescued from bankruptcy in 2008 by a consortium known as CAI. Alitalia's largest shareholders are Air France, road operator Atlantia and Intesa Sanpaolo bank.

(Reporting By Philip Pullella; Editing by Pravin Char)