Ambri-Piotta

Validation date: 22 04 2015
Updated on: Never
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46°30'47"N 008°41'22"E

Runway: 11/29 - 1990x40m/7000ft - asphalt

Ambri airfield (German: Flugplatz Ambrì-Piotta, Italian: Aeroporto di Ambri, ICAO: LSPM) is an airfield 105 kilometer southeast of Berne.
It was built as a Swiss Air Force airfield during World War II in 1941 . It was home to 8 Staffel (Fighter Squadron), operating (in chronological order) EKW C-35 biplanes, D-3800s (licence built Morane-Saulnier MS406H), Messerschmitt Bf109s, North-American P-51 Mustangs - DeHavilland DH100 Vampires,  DeHavilland DH112 Venoms and Hawker Hunter Mk58s.
Designed and built to be part of the Swiss Redoubt, it is located in the middle of the Alps. It was considered one of the "rockiest" airports of the Swiss Air Force. Its runway, 1100m/3300ft above sea level, is surrounded by 2700m/8000ft tall mountains. All facilities, such as hangarage for the fighters, quarters for troops and tactical buildings were located in bunkers underneath the mountains. 


Swiss Air Force Vampires on a steel-matted platform at Ambri in 1953 (ambri-airport.ch).

The airfield facilities were seperated from the runway by the construction of the A2 Autobahn (the Gotthard route) around 1980. The airfield remained as a fighter base however: aircraft simply taxied under the highway to and from the 'Kavernen' (underground facilities). A second access led over the A2, but was normally closed off by a gate.

Like most European countries, Switserland cut back on its defense spending after the end of the Cold War in 1990. In 1994 the Swiss Air Force base was deactivated and the airfield converted into a civilian airport. It supports a helicopter base and a flight school. The aircraft caverns that formerly accommodated the base still exist, but are now empty.


Although the physical length of the runway had not changed, the usable length of the runway has been shortened dramatically. Clearly visible in this 2009 photo shot from the north is that about half the original length of the runway remains in use (Luigi Rosa, via Wikimedia).


Ambri Airport in the valley of the Ticino River, as seen from the west in 2012. This photo gives a good impression of the challenging airfield location (Claudio Vosti, via Wikimedia)