The latest in a stream of mishaps and malfunctions to have plagued Milan Malpensa Airport since its 25 October "relaunch" as Milan's primary international airport is the melting of the newly laid surface of runway 1. Aircraft were disabled on 5 and 6 November when lumps of tar stuck to their tyres, causing debris also to adhere to them.

The chairman of the Italian parliament's transport committee, Ernesto Stajano, has called the incident "-a mediocre farce which casts doubt on the capability of the managers of [airport operators and owners] SEA".

Apart from technical and operational problems, Malpensa has been the centre of political controversy since September, when the European Transport Commissioner Neil Kinnock overruled Italian transport department plans to force only foreign carriers to relocate from downtown Milan Linate to Malpensa, which would have given Alitalia the lion's share of business traffic.

SEA says that the runway resurfacing, which was completed only three days before the opening of the airport, had been inadequately carried out, and that the problem has now been cleared. SEA chairman Giuseppe Bonomi says he has launched an internal inquiry into the incident.

From the moment that the new, state of the art Malpensa terminal was opened, "Pegaso", the computer which directs ground handling personnel, has been sending them to non-existent flights, leaving operating aircraft unattended. The opening day produced delay, cancellation of some 80 flights, malfunction of the arrivals and departure information display system, and baggage chaos.

Source: Flight International