He reported for work at Fiumicino International Airport, (Leonardo DiVinci Airport, Rome) like any other day, but this would not be. It is December 17, 1973, and Pan American World Airways N407PA Boeing 707 "Clipper Celestial" was fully loaded with passengers and crew. Lead Mechanic and Supervising Engineer Servilio "Silvio" Galletti was on the flight deck, signing off on the logbook when terrorists boarded and exploded a bomb into the aircraft.
Hit by shrapnel and injured, Silvio opened the cockpit door and fully entered the smoke filled and burning aircraft to assist crew in opening the emergency exit door over the wing, and getting the remaining passengers out of the jet.
No one in the front of the plane survived. All other passengers escaped, with the guidance of the crew and Mr Galletti.
Diego Galletti "I remember very well that day: I was at school and my mother came to pick me up earlier...Once out of the building, she told me that my dad was in the hospital after he survived a terrorist attack at the airport. I am very proud of what he did that day: he kept saying he wanted to help more people to egress , but for some the startle and the fear blocked every action...and they perished...I remember he wanted to leave the hospital earlier in order to spend the Christmas holiday with the family, but being wounded by schrapnel, I volunteered to clean its scars and wounds every day ...it was the best Christmas Eve I can remember...And I feel very sorry for the ones who did not have the same luck and lost their beloved ones..."
We thank his son who followed in his fathers aviation footsteps (diego7675 Instagram) for sharing the personal photographs.
PART ONE: December 3, 1987: A US Air Force military family checked in, and checked their luggage, including one Cargo Pet Carrier, with Felix the Cat as its passenger. Leaving Frankfurt to a base in California, the family boarded the Boeing 747 jumbo jet.
When arriving in LAX, Felix's pet carrier was empty. The family burst into tears. A paper report was written, lost luggage, but that piece of paper could not tell of the grief.
N727PA "Clipper Belle of the Sky" had a very busy schedule. She flies the world: LAX, Dulles, New York, Frankfurt, London, Nice, Rome, Madrid, Zurich and back. The Boeing 747 cargo hold is vast, and an aircraft this size has many places a small stowaway can hide. Is Felix still on board? Is that a cat the cargo handlers spot while loading the plane in Heathrow?
Just before the new year rang in, Felix was coaxed from her hiding spot on the aircraft, and immediately put into quarantine due to the United Kingdom's laws. Three days is given for the owner to pick her up, or Felix is doomed. But Pan Am in Heathrow have no idea where, or when, this cat got onboard. Is it a passengers? If so, who? The cat isn't speaking....
"Jane Ford ...I know exactly what happened next ...."
PART TWO: A frightened cat has just been coaxed from the cargo belly of Boeing 747 "Clipper Belle of the Sky". She's a bit skinny, and does not have baggage tag attached, so who does she belong to? Pan Am has three days before the cat loses its last life to United Kingdom's unclaimed animal quarantine laws.
Pan Am employee Jane Ford was compelled to act. She put out a wire to the worldwide network of Pan Am employees who raised the money necessary to keep the cat alive, in quarantine, at least for a little while longer.
A Pan Am employee across the pond saw the wire. Phyliss Seskin, assigned to the central tracing unit, manually read all the recent lost baggage paper claims and found the one about Felix. She contacted the family in California.
Felix the Cat made headlines WORLDWIDE. Johnny Carson mentioned her in his monologue. It is believed she set records: 29 days as a stowaway, 64 flights, three continents, traveling a total of 179,000 miles.
January 21, 1988, Felix and Jane flew Pan American World Airways First Class with caviar to LAX where the cat's family was there to greet her, along with reporters and photographers, all amazed at her journey.