Abandoned & Little-Known Airfields:

Italy, Apulia Brindisi

© 2010-2011 by RonaldV.


San Pancrazio Added 4 Jul 2011 - Brindisi-Idroscalo Updated 14 Jan 2012

San Vito dei Normanni Added 24 Oct 2011 - Brindisi-Caputi Added 24 Oct 2011

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San Pancrazio

40°26'19"N017°51'24"E


runway: 14/32 - 1800x50m - PSP/Concrete(?) (CLOSED)


San Pancrazio airfield (Italian: Aeroporto San Pancrazio, also known as Sanpan airfield) was an airfield northeast of San Pancrazio, in Brindisi province, on the 'heel' of Italy.

It is not known when the airfield was built, but it is possible it already existed prior to the Allied invasion of southern Italy.

After the airfields location was liberated, United States Army Engineers constructed the airfield as we know it today.

Once finished it became a fighter and medium bomber base.

The first unit to use the new facilty were 82FG between 3 and 10 October 1943, flying P-38.

They were followed by a medium bomber wing (340BG) on 16 October, which flew B-25 Mitchells and remained at the airfield for little overe a month (19 November 1943.

A few days before the Mitchells left their replacements flew in: B-24 heavy bombers of 376BG which remained until they disbanded in November 1945.

Between 5 March and 6 April 1944 they were joined by another B-24 Group: 451BG.

The heavy bomb groups flew missions all over southern, eastern and middle Europe.


As 376th was based at San Pancrazio, this B-24G is parked at one of its dispersals.
Note the PSP plates steeply drooping off at the edges (Wikipedia).


It is not clear what happened to the airfield after the Americans left.

Some sources claim the airfield was possibly used as San Pancrazio Airport, but I could not find anything (in English or Italian) to substantiate this.

The use as an airport would explain the presence of a hardened (concrete? asphalt?) stretch of the runway, at 1300meters about a third shorter than the original wartime runway, visible from aerial photoghraphy (Google Earth).

The runway is unusable today however, as multiple buildings seem to have been placed on and immediately next to the runway.

Most of the land seems to have been converted back to agricultural use.

Still, the airfield is one of the better preserved wartime airfields in Apulia, with the runway, taxiways and dispersals clearly visible.

Guido Surci and his son Giacomo went to the airfield in the Summer of 2011 and reported:.

"The Airfield is currently closed by a modern fence: signs on it identify the Airfield as a UN (United Nations) base, although it seems there has not been any activity for years.

The base is probably linked to the Brindisi Papola Casale Airport, which has a huge section of it used as warehouse and parking lot for UN materials and vehicles.

I was not able to enter the airport but from outside you can see some white temporary warehouses.

I say temporary as they do not seem made of concrete (...).

The pathways circling the airstrip you can see from the aerial view are outside the fence.

Coming from the south I was able to drive almost to the northern tip: seems easy from the photo but in realiy it's just a grass strip without wineyards and olives.

I guess there is some concrete just a few centimeters below the grass, that's why local farmers never planted anything in there."

Mille grazie, Guido and Giacomo for your information!


location of the airstrip in 2006


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Brindisi Idroscalo

 

40°38'48"N017°57'06"E

 

Runway: n/a - water (Closed)

 

Brindisi Idroscalo was a seaplane base in Brindisi, Italy

Its origins date back to World War I.

Initially built as a temporary seaplane station by the Regia Marina Militare (Royal Italian Navy) in 1916 in response to the threat of the Austrian aviation base at Durres, it soon became a proper and efficient airstation.

Coming from the port of Brindisi it was built on the left bank of the Pigonati Channel in a large area, protected from the sea and attacks by the naval fortress and defenses.

It was augmented in 1918 by the land airfield of San Vito dei Normanni, about 9 kilometers (5 miles) away.

 

Captured Hansa Brandemburg W 13 at Brindisi in June 1918 (funzioniobiettivo.it.)

 

The squadron of Umberto Maddalena, one of Italy's highly decorated WW-I pilots in June 1918 (funzioniobiettivo.it).

 

In 1923 Regia Aeronautica Militare (Royal Italian Air Force) began the construction of the civilian seaplane airport (Idroscalo Civile).

It was completed in 1925 and served as a connection to Athens and Istanbul, whilst also connecting to the port of Brindisi and the Italian railroad system.

 

View of the two Brindisi slipways in 1925 (Collection Volker Böhme).

 

The port of Brindisi in 1927. The white hangar rooftops of the Idroscalo are easily identified (Collection Volker Böhme).

 

Between 1931 and 1937 the airfield expanded to the northwest when a landbased airfield (Campo Casale, todays Brindisi airport) was realised.

It opened on 30 July 1933 and was inaugurated by Duce Benito Mussolini.

It was an instant success, and grew from 600 meters to 800x500meters and then 900 meters.

The twinned land-seaplane airfield continued to expand and was served by both local and international airlines.

On 15 March 1937 35° Stormo (Wing) formed at Brindisi, flying the SM.55.

A year later 95° and 86° Stormo began to operate Cant Z.506 from the seaplane base.

 

The hangars and aircraft cranes of the Idroscalo in 1930 (Collection Volker Böhme).

 

Undated 1930s photo of the crane used to hoist aircraft ashore at Brindisi (Brindisiweb.it).

 

The Idroscalo and its takeoff lanes in 1933. The newly completed land airfield can just be seen at the top of the photo (Collection Volker Böhme).

 

CANT Z.506 seaplanes seen lined up on the dock at Brindisi (Bridisireport.it).

 

New runways were built at Campo Casale during World War II.

In September 1943 civilian traffic ended however when the final seaplane took off for Ancona on the 9th.

By that time maps of American intelligence reports showed the land based airfield (todays Brindisi Airport) and the seaplane base as two sepereate entities.

The two installations must still have been closely connected and shared much of their infrastructure, though.

 

Map of Brindisi and its surrounding area. Brindisi Idroscalo was located immediately shouth of Campo Casale (USAAF/AFHRC, via Reid Waltman).

 

1943 USAAF aerodrome chart of Brindisi Campo Casale, showing the position of the seaplane base outside the airfield (USAAF/AFHRC, via Reid Waltman).

 

Aerial photo of Brindisi Campo Casale and the Seaplane base to the south, clearly showing the two are no longer a single entity (USAAF/AFHRC, via Reid Waltman).

 

In 1947 it was decided to split the land based airfield in two: a millitary and a civilian side, sharing the runways.

The hangars of the former seaplane base fell to the military side, and were connected to the base by a taxiway.

According to internet sources the seaplane base remained in use until about 1950.

Today it is still part of the military side of Brindisi airfield.

 

The location of the Idroscalo in 2003, showing a C-130 Hercules parked between the hangars and the sea (Google Earth)

 

The location of the Idroscalo in 2008, showing little change (Google Earth)

 

Remains of a slipway as photographed in August 2011 (Panoramio).

 

Old (left, green roofs) and newer hangars (left of center, white roofs) hangars as photographed in August 2011 (Panoramio).

 

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Brindisi-San Vito dei Normanni

40°38'40"N017°50'20"E


Flying field - grass (CLOSED)


Air field Brindisi-San Vito dei Normanni (Italian: Aerodroma San Vito dei Normanni, also known as Aerodroma Brindisi (before 1933), Campo d'Aviazione di S.Vito dei Normanni, aeroporto de San Vito and San Vito Air Base) was an airfield 5.5 miles (9 kilometers) west of Brindisi, Italy.

The airfield was built just before the outbreak of World War I in 1912 as a base for military dirigibles (airships).

From 1914 it served as a repair and maintenance facility for seaplanes of the Royal Italian Navy (Italian: Regia Marina Militare) at nearby Brindisi Idorscalo.

After Brindisi was bombed by Austro-Hongarians in 1916 in retaliation for the bombing of Durres it became the base tasked with the defense of Brindisi.


A dirigible bomber in its hangar in March 1918 (funzioniobiettivo.it).


Until the early 1930s San Vito served as the airport of Brindisi and carried the additional name of "Campo d'Aviazione di S.Vito dei Normanni".

Although it had been a very active airfield in times of war, it was also very active as a civilian airfield.

The Aero Espresso Italiana (AEI) airline, founded in 1923, operated sevices to Athens, Rhodes and Constantinople (Istanbul).

Another airline, Sisa (Società Italiana Servizi Aerei), operated a Brindisi-Durres-Zara service between 1925 and 1932.

Sisa then merged with SANA, creating the airline Ala Littoria.

A third airline, Sam (Società Aerea Meridionale), operated services to Flore from 1928.

The airfields name was changed into "Aeroporto di S.Vito dei Normanni" when the Idroscalo airfield got its land based airfield in 1933.


Undated aerial photo of San Vito airfield (Brindisireport.it).


It is not clear what happened at the airfield between 1933 and 1943.

In August 1943 USAAF believed the airfield was used as a transit for aircraft flying between Italy and Greece.

In the second half of 1943 the airfield was taken over by the Allies as they advanced through southern Italy.

By that time it had a roughly triangular landing area: 3000feet/1000meter from North to South, 2000feet/650meter on the north side and 1000feet/300meter on the south side.

Aircraft were dispersed (parked) around the airfields perimeter.

The airfield was evaluated for use by the USAAF, but so far I have been unable to trace its use by them.

In August 1943 it was described by USAAF planners as: "Dangerous for heavy a/c Nov-May, Surface damp and u/s in winter."

The airfield featured two medium and a single small hangars on the southwest corner of the airfield.

Around it were administrative buildings.

More buildings were found on the east side of the airfield.

During the survey the airfield was used by circa 37 small airfcraft.

After the war the airfield was shutdown.


Aerodrome chart of S. Vito dei Normanni in 1943 (USAAF/AFHRC, via Reid Waltman)


1943 map of S. Vito dei Normanni and its immediate surroundings. Notice the relative distance to Brindisi-Idroscalo (USAAF/AFHRC, via Reid Waltman)


1943 reconnaissance photo of S. Vito dei Normanni (USAAF/AFHRC, via Reid Waltman)


It took until 1960 before it was pressed back into use, this time by the USAF.

It was not to receive any flying units though, instead it became home to 7275 Air Base Group and 6900 Security Wing, as an off base installation of Aviano Air Base.

On 1 March 1961 it became a primary installation, operated by the USAF Security Service (USAFSS).

Its landmark AN/FLR-9 COMINT radio antenna was built in 1964, and operated until October 1994.

In 1979 the unit was placed under command of the US 16th Air Force (USAFE).

After the Cold War had ended, the bases mission was withdrawn in 1994, and the facility went into caretaker status.

Its listening devices were reactivated in 1999 during the Kosovo War though, but deactivated again in 2000.

The station finally closed in 2001 at the final termination of Operation Deny Flight.

The facility became a contingency base, supervised by Commander USAFE.

Most of the buildings were sealed with the exeption of a few buildings needed to maintain the facility.

Its AN/FLR-9 antenna array (affectionately known as either 'the Collosseum' or 'the elephant cage') was disassembled.

The base returned to Italian ownership in 2003 and has been abandoned since.

Although Wikipedia claims the facility is being used by the UN World Food Programme as a training facility, an article (Google translation)in the Italian Gazetta Del Mezzogiorno suggests 80% of the complex has laid abandoned ever since.


The USAF base at San Vito dei Normanni ca. 1990 (BrindisiReport.it).


Disassembly of the AN/FLR-9 'Elephant cage' antenna array in 2002 (BrindisiReport.it).


If you want to know more about the Cold War units stationed at San Vito, visit the homepage of 600th ASA.



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Brindisi-Caputi

40°41'00"N017°51'25"E


Runway: 18/36 - 1000x90meters/1100x95feet - dirt (CLOSED)


Air field Brindisi-Caputi was an airfield under construction 5.5 miles northwest of Brindisi, Italy.

It was likely to serve as an emergency auxiliary for one of Brindisis airfields.

The existence of the airfield was first reported on 10 August 1943 by USAAF planners assessing the possibilities of USAAF/Allied usage of airfields in Southern Italy

They described the airfield as:

"The N end is approx 100 yds from the shore.

The L/A consists of a narrow strip (still under construction) measuring at present - N-S 110yds E-W 95yds.

Could be extended in any direction except the N.

A stream appears to have been filled in where it crosses the landing strip.

2 groups of buildings could be utilized, one 400yds to the E, and the other 900yds to SSW (Caputi)."

No aircraft had been visible at the airfield until 3 Aug 1943, and its status was described as "under construction".

I have been unable to trace if the Allies ever completed the airfield for usage.


(USAAF/AFHRC, via Reid Waltman)


Map of the landing ground relative to the other two Brindisi airfields (USAAF/AFHRC, via Reid Waltman)


1943 reconnaissance photo of the landing ground, with its outlines slightly offset to the west, as the runway is clearly visible in another shade of grey (USAAF/AFHRC, via Reid Waltman)


Today the airfield has been returned to agricultural use.

There are no visible traces left on aerial photography such as Google Earth.


The location of Caputi landing ground in 2008 (Google Earth)




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If you have any information about airfields (listed and unlisted) in Puglia, email RonaldV.

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