Landshut returns to Germany 40 years after hijacking
Landshut, the Lufthansa plane hijacked by militants linked to the Red Army Faction in 1977, returns to Germany in September. Take a look at the harrowing odyssey passengers and crew had to go through 40 years ago.
A long-awaited return to Germany
The years haven't been kind to the Landshut, perhaps the most famous Boeing 737-200 in Germany's history. It is currently rusting away at a "cemetery" for airplanes at the Fortaleza International Airport in Brazil. But now officials want to take the plane apart, transport the pieces to Germany and restore it at the Dornier Museum, close to Lake Constance.
The RAF and the German Autumn
The Landshut became famous in 1977's German Autumn: the weeks during which the country was shaken by several terrorist acts committed by the Red Army Faction and allied groups. Four militants from the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine hijacked the Lufthansa plane to blackmail the German government into releasing prominent RAF members from prison.
The odyssey begins
On October 13, 1977, two men and two women revealed the guns and explosives that they had brought onto a tourist flight from Palma de Mallorca, Spain, to Frankfurt. They demanded that the jet fly to Somalia instead, and they called for the release of 11 RAF prisoners - or else they'd blow up all 86 passengers and five crew. The plane's first stop was Rome, where it had to refuel.
Making it to Dubai
The plane continued on its way and landed to refuel again in Cyprus and - after airports in Damascus, Baghdad and Kuwait denied permission to land - Bahrain. From there, pilot Jürgen Schumann and co-pilot Jürgen Vietor flew the Landshut to Dubai, where it arrived at about 6 a.m. on October 14. In this shot, a negotiator on the ground shows one of the hostage takers that he's unarmed.
The hijackers asked the tower in Dubai to supply water, food and medicine. Captain Schumann was able to communicate the exact number of the hijackers on board to the authorities. But, when Dubai's defense minister revealed the information in an interview, the hostage takers learned about it, too, and threatened to kill Schumann.
A life lost
Germany's GSG 9 anti-terror specialists went to Dubai, but practiced on a different airplane for so long that the Landshut took off before they could intervene. The next stop was Aden, in what was then South Yemen. Because the plane had to land on sandy ground, Schumann (pictured in Dubai) went out to inspect the landing gear - but took too long. Upon his return, a hijacker shot and killed him.
Dramatic end to the nightmare
The last stop was Mogadishu, Somalia. The hijackers issued an ultimatum for the RAF prisoners to be released and poured the duty-free spirits over the hostages, preparing to blow up the plane, so West German officials pretended to give in. But, instead, the GSG 9 stormed the plane, shot three of the four hijackers and saved all remaining hostages, who returned to Germany on October 18.