Airspace Closed After Reichstag Crash | Germany| News and in-depth reporting from Berlin and beyond | DW | 25.07.2005
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Airspace Closed After Reichstag Crash

The spectacular suicide by plane in front of Berlin's Reichstag of a man wanted for the murder of his wife has led transportation officials to tighten flying restrictions around the German capital.


The pilot died shortly after the crash

Federal Transportation Minister Manfed Stolpe and the city's interior minister announced on Sunday that they would seal off the airspace above Berlin to hobby pilots.

The area being discussed is the 13 km by 8 km (8 by 5 mile) central part of the city, which lies within the transit belt. Berlin's interior minister, Ehrhardt Körting, said that unarmed police helicopters stationed at the outside of the city would stand ready to patrol the area.

But the two admitted that there was only so much they could do to prevent a suicide attack with a plane.

"We can't guarantee absolute security," said Körting.

Pilot was wanted by police

The single-engined plane, a WWI replica, hit an expansive field of grass between the Chancellery and the Reichstag and burst into flames shortly after 8:30 p.m. (1830 UCT) on Friday, around 200 meters (yards) from Schröder's office and 300 meters from the parliament building.

Though the crash injured no one, pilot Volker Klawitter, 39, died shortly after impact. Police had been investigating him in the disappearance of his wife, who has been missing for five days. Klawitter, a former member of an elite East German secret service regiment, had been notified by police on Friday that they were looking into him.

He reportedly told a neighbor he was going to undertake something big. He took his 14-year-old son, one of he and his wife's two children, flying in his plane, which looked like the one flown by the "Red Baron." He dropped off his son at Brandenburg airport and continued on, switching off his transponder and flying below radar, according to the mass-circulation daily Bild.

Witnesses said the single-engine plane flew over the German parliament's futuristic glass cupola before nose-diving to the ground and going up in flames.

"I didn't hear the engine misfiring, nothing which would suggest engine trouble," said Alfred Kosel, a 52-year-old tourist.

By the time firefighters arrived at the scene the plane was already entirely destroyed by fire. Police sealed off the area and the body was taken to a morgue for examination and formal identification.

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