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How The Italian Media Treated The News Of The Deadly Eurofighter Crash Yesterday

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Eurofighter crash
File photo of two Eurofighters of the Italian Air Force. In the boxes, two examples of articles published by Italian media, with the fake news that the pilot was alive.

An Italian Eurofighter Typhoon has crashed in Italy killing the pilot. For several hours, all the main news outlets spread the fake news that the pilot had been rescued: a clear example of what should not be done when reporting on aviation incidents.

An Italian Air Force Eurofighter Typhoon (F-2000 in accordance to Italy’s MOD Mission Design Series), assigned to the 37° Stormo (Wing), crashed around 18:30LT on Dec. 13, 2022, approximately five miles to the southeast of Trapani Air Base, Italy. According to the official information, the aircraft, flying along with another F-2000, was on approach to the airfield, when the incident occurred.

A Notice to Airmen (NOTAM) was published to immediately close the airfield and interrupt all operations as the rescue operations were taking place. An HH-139 Search And Rescue helicopter, belonging to the local 82° Centro Combat SAR, was immediately scrambled to carry out a rescue mission. At least two rescue helicopters could be tracked online looking for the pilot in the hours following the crash.

As the SAR mission was still in progress, the news that the pilot had been found alive and taken to the hospital started to appear online with all the major Italian media outlets posting stories that stated that the pilot had been recovered after successfully ejecting from the jet. Many Twitter accounts contributed spreading the fake news that went viral also on Facebook, despite the Italian Air Force denied it, releasing an additional statement to clarify that the search for the pilot was still ongoing.

Later in the night, the body of the dead pilot was found by the rescue teams and shortly after 2.00AM LT, the Italian Air Force released an official statement identifying the officer killed in the incident as 33-year old Capt. Fabio Antonio Altruda.

Reporting an aviation incident is never easy, especially when there are casualties. Friends and colleagues of the affected ones, along with people who are passionate about aviation understandably don’t like to read about incidents, even more so when the reporting is full of speculations (as well as technical errors). On the other hand, media have to report on all news, including, obviously, aviation accidents. Still, what happened on Dec. 13, 2022, is almost unbelievable: not only have websites with a questionable reputation reported the fake news, but also media outlets with a certain national relevance have posted stories without proper verification; articles that, for some hours, may have fuelled the hopes of family members and acquaintances.

A simple phone call to gather an official confirmation from official sources would have prevented the spreading of fake news and be much more respectful, not only to the pilot who lost his life in the incident and his family, but also to the readers. And this applies to all the aviation incidents, not only the one that cost the life of Capt. Altruda.

David Cenciotti is a journalist based in Rome, Italy. He is the Founder and Editor of “The Aviationist”, one of the world’s most famous and read military aviation blogs. Since 1996, he has written for major worldwide magazines, including Air Forces Monthly, Combat Aircraft, and many others, covering aviation, defense, war, industry, intelligence, crime and cyberwar. He has reported from the U.S., Europe, Australia and Syria, and flown several combat planes with different air forces. He is a former 2nd Lt. of the Italian Air Force, a private pilot and a graduate in Computer Engineering. He has written five books and contributed to many more ones.

Stefano D’Urso is a freelance journalist and contributor to TheAviationist based in Lecce, Italy. A graduate in Industral Engineering he’s also studying to achieve a Master Degree in Aerospace Engineering. Electronic Warfare, Loitering Munitions and OSINT techniques applied to the world of military operations and current conflicts are among his areas of expertise.





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