The Alitalia Airbus A330 hosting Pope Francis for his Apostolic Journey to Cuba and the United States took off this morning at 10:15 am from Rome Fiumicino airport and will land at 4:00 pm, local time, in Havana where Raul Castro, the Cuban Head of State, will be waiting for the Pope after the aircraft landing.
The Chairman of Alitalia, Luca Cordero di Montezemolo, was in Fiumicino airport, alongside the Alitalia aircraft, greeting the Holy Father.
Alitalia will accompany the Pope also on Cuban domestic flights to Holguin and Santiago (21 September) and on the flight to the United States of America (September 22), when the plane will be welcomed by the US President Barack Obama at the St. Andrew's Air Base military airport.
For the first time the Holy Father was welcomed on board one of the new Alitalia aircraft, unveiled last June in Rome, featuring a new livery design and renovated cabin interiors.
The Airbus A330-200 is a long-haul aircraft with 250 seat capacity, 11,000 Kms range and cruising speed of 900 kmh.
Four Alitalia pilots on duty on this flight: Paolo La Cava, Flight Operations Post Holder, 46 years old, from Milan, married with two children, 12,000 flight hours; Alberto Colautti, Deputy Flight Operations Post Holder, 54 years old, from Friuli, 13,000 flight hours, former helicopter pilot of the Italian Navy; Paolo Spadavecchia, Head of Airbus A330 pilots, 53 years old, born in Rome but living in Spoleto, married with 4 children, 15,000 flight hours; Luca Cavagna, pilot, 46 years old, from Treviso, married with two children, 10,000 flight hours.
On board the Papal aircraft there will also be Italian and international media representatives.
Since 1964, when Pope Paul the Sixt traveled to the Holy Land, Alitalia has been the selected airline by the Vatican for the Holy Journeys abroad.