The history of the airport at Punta Raisi dates back to 1953, the year in which the “Autonomous Consortium for PalermoAirport” was constituted.
The Consortium was established with the aim of creating an alternative to the ex-military airport of Bocca di Falco which, while being the third busiest Italian airport for national flights, was no longer able to deal with the ever-increasing level of traffic.
The construction of the new airport received an initial five billion lira grant from the Italian Government and the Consortium was charged with carrying out the preliminary studies to choose a site.
Two locations were taken into account: one along the Gulf of Palermo between Aspra and Acqua dei Corsari, the other at Punta Raisi in the Commune of Cinisi. The Consortium independently chose Punta Raisi without opening the question up to public tender as foreseen by Art. 2 of the Constitutional Act, and in contrast with the opinions of authorities on the subject. General planning began.
In March 1956 the project was officially presented to the Regional President and sent for approval to the Ministry of Defence, whose “Aeronautical Department” was responsible for examining the plans.
The process of approval lasted two years and confirmed the choices made by the Consortium, while at the same time ignoring objections from various sources regarding both the windy nature of the area, which is subject to strong turbulence caused by the surrounding mountains, and the distance from Palermo. The latter criticism referred to the access road connecting the airport to Palermo which was particularly difficult due to the fact that it passed over four level crossings of the Palermo-Trapani railway line. At a certain point the Consortium was disbanded to make way for a special “Airport Office”, which was part of the Regional Government’s Transport Department. This body was charged with completing the executive planning and oversaw the construction of the airport which opened its two runways (one as a taxiway) to the public in 1960.
After several months it became clear that the airport’s operations were greatly penalised by winds blowing from the south and so it was decided to build another, transversal runway. At the same time a new terminal was planned which, however, due to a variety of vicissitudes, was only to open in the 1990s.
(From “Airport Safety ” by Prof. G. Ferlazzo – 2002)