They call out to each other in excited tones: “The Athens one is coming… Amsterdam has just left… when is the Dubai one departing?” Not everyone hates planes flying over the houses of Navile and Borgo Panigale. Indeed, from Via della Salute to Bargellino, from the bank of the Reno to the Lippo up to Via Surrogazione, always around Lippo, landings and takeoffs are a show that animates summer afternoons like an open-air cinema for grandparents and grandchildren, pensioners and aviation lovers, or just those curious people fascinated by the manoeuvres of incoming and outgoing aircraft.
The whole event is coordinated and brought together by the ‘Vola Bologna’ group present across the social networks. Their Facebook page has around 5,500 followers and provides first-hand information. “We have experts who work at the airport and advise us if any particular aircraft arrives so we can photograph,” explains Lorenzo Fantoni, 27, one of the coordinators together with Marco Zaninlin. “Yesterday, for example, the arrival of a large US military aircraft was announced in the morning and some had prepared the photographic ambush at the most popular site, the Bargellino clearing at the head of the runway.”
Each one who is passionate enough has their own archive with detailed albums of their photos: dates, names, any particulars all noted. “Has the Danish airliner started up yet?” interjects a gentleman who has arrived on motorcycle to view the spectacle. The ‘Danish’ one is a plane debuting a new route at Marconi, a novelty to be immortalized and preserved. One of the veterans, Beppe, has been photographing planes since the late 1970s and has an endless archive. His photographic spot is on the right side of Via del Salute just beyond the intersection with Via Commenda. Between the fence and a hedge of acacias, every afternoon he gets ready to snap away every plane that passes by.
Chairs stacked on the other side are lined up in the shade. People come prepared, some bring drinks, some even bring stools from their house and then the wait begins. “A group quickly formed which has become increasingly numerous and occasionally organizes an odd party to get everyone involved,” comments Fantoni who is a cartographer by trade but now makes daily trips out here almost as a part time job. One of the big parties is the ‘pandorata’ the week before Christmas.
Of course, every event takes place with the planes passing over their heads. The spotters know everything: company, aircraft, engine size, seat capacities and routes. With the app Flightradar24, the more experienced pilots follow the flight paths announcing their position and time. “Paris is now over Modena and we are lining up,” advises a gentleman consulting his telephone. The mood suddenly rises and people get excited, nervous even as the moment to capture everything is but fleeting. And nobody wants to miss it. Still, there are enough witnesses with cameras on the go that one can always share a missed opportunity later on.
The ‘Vola Bologna’ group also organize special occasions. Fantoni continues, “If there is a particular flight or plane arriving in Bologna with a high value target or possibly a debut flight into Marconi we prepare ourselves with national flags when the plane approaches the runway.” At Bargellino there is also Pasquale, a ‘Pavia 7’ taxi driver with his grandchild. “Every time he asks to come here,” he smiles. “First he caught the train bug and so now he knows all about high speed trains, now he’s crazy about airplanes. I told him, just make sure you don’t like ships too much because I’m not traveling all the way to Ravenna,” he laughs. However, Pasquale does lament on the simple fact that the airport doesn’t have a more official place to take pictures. “In Munich there is a small hill for enthusiasts, in Zurich and Dusseldorf, the fences have small windows to allow them to immortalize their subjects,” he adds. In any case everyone makes the most of their limited opportunity here. Their most anticipated attraction today is Dubai, a Boeing 777, and the largest aircraft that almost reaches Via della Salute with its wing tips. But it is the unexpected arrivals that create the most curiosity. Everyone is set and primed for the next one to pass overhead or the next set of engines to explode as it fires off like a rocket into the sky. Then afterwards, they suddenly retreat to their posts to evaluate their photos and comment on what they just saw.