Lufthansa Flight 181
Lufthansa Flight 181 was a Boeing 737–230 Adv aircraft named Landshut that was hijacked on 13 October 1977 by four members of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, who called themselves Commando Martyr Halima. The objective of the hijacking was to secure the release of imprisoned Red Army Faction leaders. On 18 October the aircraft was stormed by the West German counter-terrorism group GSG 9 in Mogadishu, Somalia, and all 90 passengers rescued. The rescue operation was codenamed Feuerzauber (German term for "Fire Spell"). The hijacking is considered to be part of the German Autumn.
D-ABCE, the aircraft involved in the hijacking, at Manchester Airport in 1975
|Date||13–18 October 1977|
|Site||Initially over the Mediterranean|
Sea, south of the French coast;
subsequently Mogadishu International Airport, Somalia
|Aircraft type||Boeing 737-200|
|Flight origin||Son Sant Joan Airport|
|Destination||Frankfurt International Airport|
|Passengers||86 plus 4 hijackers|
|Fatalities||4 (1 crew, 3 hijackers)|
|Injuries||5 (1 flight attendant, 3 passengers, 1 hijacker)|
|Survivors||91 (All passengers, 4 crew, 1 hijacker)|
In 2017 the German government purchased the aircraft involved (D-ABCE), and a complex logistic operation was set in motion to transport it back to Germany. Lufthansa Technik specialists flew to Brazil to disassemble the aircraft and fit the different parts in a giant Antonov cargo airplane and an accompanying Ilyushin Il-76. Once back home, it will be reassembled at the Dornier museum in Friedrichshafen, where it will be fully restored (cleaned, refurbished, repainted) and displayed in its original 1977 Lufthansa livery. The project is expected to be completed in October 2022.
- Jürgen Schumann (37)
- Captain – born at Colditz in 1940, a former Luftwaffe Lockheed F-104 Starfighter pilot. On 16 October at Aden Airport, after being permitted to leave the aircraft to check the plane's airworthiness, he went to talk to authorities. He subsequently returned and was then murdered by terrorist leader Akache. Posthumously awarded the German Federal Cross of Merit 1st class, he was survived by his wife and two sons. The building housing the Lufthansa Pilot School in Bremen was named in his honour, as was a street in the Bavarian city of Landshut. He is buried in Babenhausen in Hesse.
- Jürgen Vietor (35)
- Co-Pilot – born at Kassel in 1942, a former German Navy pilot. He piloted the Landshut from Aden to Mogadishu. He returned to work just six weeks after the hijacking, and the first aircraft he was assigned to was the Landshut which had already been returned to service. He retired in 1999. He was also awarded the German Federal Cross of Merit 1st Class. He subsequently returned the medal in December 2008 in protest over the release on probation of former Red Army Faction terrorist Christian Klar, who had been involved in the kidnap and murder of Hanns Martin Schleyer in 1977.
- Hannelore Piegler (33)
- Chief Stewardess.
- Anna-Maria Staringer (28)
- Gabriele Dillmann (23)
- Stewardess. She was dubbed "the angel of Mogadishu" (Engel von Mogadischu) by the German press. Like Schumann and Vietor she was awarded the German Federal Cross of Merit. She subsequently married Lufthansa pilot Rüdeger von Lutzau. As Gabriele von Lutzau she has acquired an international reputation as a sculptor (principally of figures in beechwood), and has exhibited in numerous exhibitions in Germany and throughout Europe.
Key West German rescue personnelEdit
- Colonel Ulrich Wegener (48)
- Federal Border Protection (Bundesgrenzschutz) officer who was the liaison officer with the West German Interior Ministry at the time of the Munich massacre by the PLO during the 1972 Olympic Games. He was subsequently appointed by the West German government to establish and lead an elite anti-terrorist squad. The unit was officially established on 17 April 1973 as a part of West Germany's federal border guard service and the name GSG 9 stood for Grenzschutzgruppe 9 (border guard group 9) and was chosen simply because the Bundesgrenzschutz already had eight regular border guard groups. Wegener was trained by both the British SAS and the Israeli Sayeret Mat'kal who were the only known established anti-terrorist units in the world at that time. He also participated in the rescue of Israeli hostages in Operation Entebbe in 1976. Wegener planned and commanded the GSG 9 Operation Fire Magic to successfully rescue the Landshut hostages at Mogadishu. After his retirement from GSG 9, Wegener worked as a consultant to help establish counter-terrorism units for various foreign countries. Wegener was a member of the KÖTTER GmbH & Co. KG Verwaltungsdienstleistungen Security Committee. He died on 28 December 2017.
- Major Klaus Blatte (38)
- Deputy Commander of GSG 9 in 1977 and one of the four assault squad leaders that stormed the Landshut at Mogadishu. When Wegener retired, he succeeded him as the next Commander of GSG 9.
- Minister Hans-Jürgen Wischnewski (55)
- Minister of State at the Federal Chancellery who was designated by Chancellor Helmut Schmidt as his special envoy to coordinate the political negotiations with the various foreign governments to facilitate the release or rescue of the Landshut hostages. Due to his excellent contacts and personal relationships with Arab leaders he was nicknamed "Ben Wisch" by the German press. He lost office after the CDU regained power in 1982 and became a travelling consultant to Arab, African, and South American countries advising them on negotiating techniques and pacification policies to deal with terrorist and insurgent groups. He died in 2005.
- Chancellor Helmut Schmidt (59)
- German Federal Chancellor (Bundeskanzler) between 1974 and 1982 who adopted a tough, uncompromising stance over the kidnapping of Hanns-Martin Schleyer and the Lufthansa 181 hijacking in 1977. He authorised the GSG 9 mission to rescue the Landshut hostages and his anti-terrorist policies were successful in overcoming the long-standing threat that had been posed by the Red Army Faction. After retiring from the Bundestag in 1986 he was one of the founders of the committee supporting the EMU and the creation of the European Central Bank. He died in 2015.
At 11:00 on Thursday 13 October 1977, Lufthansa flight LH 181, a Boeing 737 named Landshut, took off from Palma de Mallorca en route to Frankfurt with 86 passengers and five crew, piloted by Jürgen Schumann, with co-pilot Jürgen Vietor at the controls. About 30 minutes later, as it passed over Marseilles, the aircraft was hijacked by four militants calling themselves "Commando Martyr Halima" – in honour of fellow militant Brigitte Kuhlmann, who had been killed in Operation Entebbe the previous year. Their leader was a Palestinian named Zohair Youssif Akache (23, male), who adopted the alias "Captain Martyr Mahmud". The other three were Suhaila Sayeh (22, female), a Palestinian, and two Lebanese people, Wabil Harb (23, male) and Hind Alameh (22, female). Akache ("Mahmud") burst into the cockpit with a loaded pistol in his hand and ordered Vietor to join the passengers, leaving Schumann to take over the flight controls. Mahmud ordered Schumann to fly to Larnaca in Cyprus but was told that they had insufficient fuel and would have to land in Rome first.
The aircraft changed course and landed in Rome for refuelling. Acting in concert with the Red Army Faction group, the Siegfried Hausner Commando, who had kidnapped West German industrialist Hanns Martin Schleyer five weeks earlier, demanded the release of 10 Red Army Faction (RAF) terrorists detained at the JVA Stuttgart-Stammheim prison plus two Palestinian compatriots held in Turkey and US$15 million. West German Interior Minister Werner Maihofer contacted his Italian counterpart Francesco Cossiga and suggested that the plane's tyres should be shot out to prevent the aircraft from leaving. After consulting his colleagues Cossiga decided that the most desirable solution for the Italian government was to get rid of the problem altogether. The aircraft was refuelled, which enabled Mahmud to instruct Vietor (who had been allowed back into the cockpit on the ground) to take off for Larnaca at 17:45 without even obtaining clearance from Rome air traffic control.
The Landshut landed in Larnaca, Cyprus, at 20:28. After about an hour, a local PLO representative arrived at the airport and over the radio tried to persuade Mahmud to release the hostages. This only provoked a furious response from Mahmud who started screaming at him over the intercom in Arabic until the PLO representative gave up and left. The aircraft was then refuelled and Schumann asked flight control for a routing to Beirut. He was told that Beirut Airport was blocked and closed to them and Mahmud just said to him that they would go to Damascus instead. The Landshut took off at 22:50 heading for Beirut but was refused landing permission. After also being denied landing permission in Damascus, Baghdad, and Kuwait they headed for Bahrain.
Schumann was told by a passing Qantas airliner that Bahrain Airport was closed. He radioed flight control and told them they had insufficient fuel to go elsewhere and despite being told again that the airport was closed he was suddenly given an automatic landing frequency by the flight controller. They finally landed in Bahrain at 01:52 the following morning. On arrival the aircraft was immediately surrounded by armed troops and Mahmud radioed the tower that unless they were withdrawn he would shoot the co-pilot. After a stand-off with the tower, with Mahmud setting a five‑minute deadline and holding a pistol to Vietor's head, the troops were subsequently withdrawn. The aircraft was then refuelled and they took off for Dubai.
Approaching Dubai, they were again refused landing permission. Overflying the Dubai airport in the early light of dawn they could see that the runway was blocked with trucks and fire engines. Running short of fuel Schumann told the tower they would have to land anyway. As they made a low pass over the airport they saw that the obstacles were being removed, and at 05:40 (14 October) Vietor was able to make a normal landing on the main runway.
In Dubai, the terrorists asked the tower to supply water, food, medicine, newspapers, and to take away the rubbish. Captain Schumann was able to communicate the number of hijackers on board as well as specifying that they were two men and two women. In an interview with journalists, this information was revealed by Dubai's Sheikh Mohammed, then Minister of Defence. The hijackers learned about this, possibly from the radio, causing Mahmud to threaten to kill Schumann. The aircraft remained on the ground at Dubai all through the day and night. The following morning Mahmud threatened to start shooting hostages if the aircraft was not refuelled and the Dubai authorities finally agreed. In the meantime, both Hans-Jürgen Wischnewski, the West German minister responsible for handling the hijacking, and Colonel Ulrich Wegener, commander of the elite German anti-terrorist squad GSG 9, had arrived in Dubai to try to persuade the government to agree to let GSG 9 commandos into Dubai to storm the aircraft. However, after permission was granted for GSG 9 commandos to storm the aircraft, SAS and GSG 9 senior operatives insisted on additional combat exercise and dry-runs on an adjacent airstrip. Reports suggest up to 45 hours of training was conducted whilst based in Dubai (over a period of 80 hours). While Wegener was considering his options, the Landshut had completed its refuelling and at 00:20 (17 October) it took off, heading for Salalah in Oman, where landing permission was once again denied, and a course to Aden in South Yemen, at the limit of their fuel range, was established.
In Aden they were yet again denied landing permission, this time at Aden International Airport, and the two main runways were blocked by vehicles. The plane was running low on fuel so the pilot Vietor had no choice but to make an emergency landing on a sand strip almost parallel to both runways. The Aden authorities told the hijackers that they would have to leave but the two pilots were skeptical of the condition of the aircraft after an emergency landing on sandy ground. Mahmud consequently gave Schumann permission to leave the aircraft in order to check the condition of the landing gear following the rough landing, and the engines. However Schumann did not immediately return to the plane after the inspection, even after numerous attempts to recall him or even a threat to blow up the aircraft on the ground. The reasons for his prolonged absence remain unclear and some reports suggest that Schumann asked the Yemeni authorities to prevent the continuation of the flight and to accede to the terrorists' demands.
After this Schumann returned to the aircraft to face the wrath of Mahmud, who forced him to kneel on the floor in the passenger cabin and then shot him in the head without giving him a chance to explain himself. The plane was refuelled at 06:00 on 17 October and, coaxed by co-pilot Jürgen Vietor, it slowly and laboriously took off from Aden on course for the Somali capital of Mogadishu.
At around 06:22 local time, the Landshut made an unannounced and perfect landing at Aden Adde airport in Mogadishu. The leader Mahmud (Akache) told Vietor that he had performed a super-human accomplishment and that consequently he was free to leave the aircraft, since they were not planning to fly elsewhere. However Vietor opted to remain with the onboard passengers and crew. Schumann's body was thrown onto the tarmac and an ultimatum was set for the RAF prisoners to be released by 16:00 local time or the aircraft would be blown up. After they had poured the duty-free spirits over the hostages in preparation for the destruction of the aircraft, the hijackers were told that the West German government had agreed to release the RAF prisoners but that their transfer to Mogadishu would take several more hours, so they agreed to extend the deadline to 02:30 the next morning (18 October).
|Operation Feuerzauber (Fire Magic)|
|Somali Army (support)||PFLP|
|Commanders and leaders|
|Zohair Akache †|
30 GSG 9 operators|
2 SAS operators
|Casualties and losses|
|4 civilians wounded|
Meanwhile, while the West German Chancellor Helmut Schmidt attempted to negotiate an agreement with Somali President Siad Barre, special envoy Hans-Jürgen Wischnewski and GSG 9 commander Ulrich Wegener arrived at Mogadishu airport from Jeddah in a Lufthansa aircraft co-piloted by Rüdiger von Lutzau (Gabriele Dillmann's fiancé). In West Germany, a team of 30 GSG 9 commandos under their deputy commander Major Klaus Blatte had assembled at Hangelar airfield near Bonn awaiting instructions. The commandos took off from Cologne-Bonn Airport on a Boeing 707 on Monday morning (17 October) planning to fly to Djibouti, within a short flying time of Somalia, while Schmidt negotiated with the Somalis. When they were flying over Ethiopia, agreement was reached and permission was given to land at Mogadishu. The aircraft landed at 20:00 local time with all lights out to avoid detection by the hijackers.
After four hours to unload all of their equipment and to undertake the necessary reconnaissance, Wegener and Blatte finalized the assault plan, scheduled to start at 02:00 local time. They decided to approach from the rear of the aircraft in its blind spot in six teams using black-painted aluminium ladders to gain access to the aircraft through the escape hatches under the fuselage and via the doors over the wings. In the meantime a fictitious progress report on the journey being taken by the released prisoners was being fed to Mahmud by the German representatives in the airport tower. Just after 02:00, Mahmud was told that the plane carrying the prisoners had just departed from Cairo after refuelling and he was asked to provide the conditions of the prisoner/hostage exchange over the radio.
Several minutes before the rescue, Somali soldiers lit a fire 60 metres (200 ft) in front of the jet, as a diversionary tactic, prompting Akache and two of the other three hijackers to rush to the cockpit to observe what was going on, and isolating them from the hostages in the cabin. At 02:07 local time, the GSG 9 commandos silently climbed up the blackened aluminium ladders and opened the emergency doors, Wegener, at the head of one group, opened the forward door, and two other groups, led by Sergeant-Major Dieter Fox and Sergeant Joachim Huemmer stormed the aircraft by using the ladders to climb up onto the wings and opened both emergency doors at the same time. Shouting in German for the passengers and crew to get down to the floor, the commandos shot and killed two of the terrorists (Wabil Harb and Hind Alameh), and wounded Zohair Akache and Suhaila Sayeh. Akache died of his injuries hours later. One GSG 9 commando was wounded by return fire from the terrorists. Three passengers and a flight attendant were slightly wounded in the crossfire. An American passenger aboard the plane described the rescue: "I saw the door open and a man appears. His face was painted black and he starts shouting in German 'We're here to rescue you, get down!' [Wir sind hier, um dich zu retten, runter!] and they started shooting."
The emergency escape chutes were deployed and passengers and crew were ordered to quickly evacuate the aircraft. At 02:12 local time, just five minutes after the assault had commenced, the commandos radioed: "Frühlingszeit! Frühlingszeit!" ("Springtime! Springtime!"), which was the code word for the successful completion of the operation. A few moments later a radio signal was sent to Chancellor Schmidt in Bonn: "Four opponents down – hostages free – four hostages slightly wounded – one commando slightly wounded".
The rescuers escorted all 86 passengers to safety, and a few hours later they were all flown to Cologne-Bonn Airport, where they landed in the early afternoon of Tuesday 18 October, and were given a hero's welcome.
News of the rescue of the hostages was followed by the deaths of RAF members Andreas Baader, Gudrun Ensslin, and Jan-Carl Raspe at JVA Stuttgart-Stammheim. RAF member Irmgard Möller also attempted suicide but survived her injuries. On Wednesday 19 October the body of Hanns-Martin Schleyer, who had been kidnapped by the RAF some five weeks prior to the hijacking, was found in the trunk of a car on a side street in Mulhouse after the RAF heard of the deaths of their comrades. They contacted the Paris newspaper Libération to announce his 'execution'; a subsequent post-mortem examination indicated that he had been killed the previous day.
After the Landshut crisis the German government stated that it would never again negotiate with terrorists (as it previously had with the Lufthansa Flight 649 and 615 hijackers). Chancellor Helmut Schmidt was widely praised among western countries for his decision to storm the aircraft to rescue the hostages, although some criticized the risk-taking act.
While the hijackers had control of the plane it had travelled 10,000 kilometres (6,200 mi). The Landshut is a Boeing 737-230C (manufacturers serial number 20254, Boeing line number 230, registration D-ABCE) named after the city of Landshut in Bavaria. The damaged aircraft was ferried back to Germany, repaired, and returned to service in late November 1977, and it continued to fly for Lufthansa for 8 more years until September 1985 when the plane was sold to new US carrier Presidential Airways, after it changed hands several times, ultimately ending up in the fleet of Brazilian carrier TAF Linhas Aéreas for US$ 4,708,268 from Transmille Air Services of Kuala Lumpur. Under the contract, TAF agreed to pay US$ 200,000 as a deposit before receiving the aircraft, plus US$ 149,250 thirty days after delivery of the Boeing and 32 installments of US$135,000 thereafter. The Brazilian company, because of financial problems and bankruptcy, was unable to continue paying the debt. TAF stopped service of the aircraft under the registration PT-MTB in January 2008, owing to severe damage and placed it in storage in Fortaleza. On August 14, 2017 M.Kurpjuweit suggested a project involving transporting the aircraft with an An-124 of Volga-Dnepr to the Dornier Museum for preservation in the museum. In 2017, the German Foreign Ministry, thinking about saving and restoring the aircraft, acquired it and paid R$ 75,936 (€ 20,519) in an agreement with the Fortaleza Airport Administration. Having been decommissioned, the aging plane was in no shape to fly again. For the transfer, the MD-11F D-ALCC was sent with 8.5 tons of equipment and 15 mechanics, as well as others, from Lufthansa Technik to dismantle the B737 on 15 August 2017, including several television documentary staff. On 21 September and on 22 September 2017, an Il-76 and An-124 of Volga-Dnepr arrived at Fortaleza. The An-124 carried the wings and fuselage, and the Il-76 carried the engines and seats back to Europe, both arriving in Friedrichshafen on 23 September 2017, with a stop operation for refuelling in Cape Verde, at a total cost of €10 million. Smaller parts and Lufthansa Technik equipment were sent back in two containers by cargo ship. The recovered Boeing 737 Landshut aircraft is scheduled to be restored and exhibited in the Dornier Museum Friedrichshafen. The project was previously expected to be completed in October 2019. Due to a delay of 3 years without a master plan, the exhibition will not open before 2022. Parts of the 737 were presented to about 4000 people in a special event. The disassembled plane was then stored in a hangar at Airplus maintenance GmbH Friedrichshafen. After funds were acquired by the museum, the plane D-ABCE would be re-registered, cleaned, refurbished, and re-assembled before being repainted back to the original 1977 Lufthansa livery colours and displayed. Another place is to be constructed for such display, with the assistance of the German government. It has discussions with the possibility of the aircraft to be removed from the museum to tour other places.
Use of the name 'Landshut' in other airplanesEdit
The name was used by Lufthansa on other three planes after 1985:
In popular cultureEdit
The song "122 Hours of Fear" by The Screamers, recorded in 1978, was inspired by the hijacking.
The hijacking and rescue was also portrayed in the Black Ops television series, season 2 episode 76, titled "Operation Fire Magic".
The 2015 video game Tom Clancy's Rainbow Six Siege used Lufthansa Flight 181, along with other historical hostage extraction operations, as inspiration for the game and as research for making the game more accurate.
- de B. Tallion, Paul J (2002). Hijacking and hostages: government responses to terrorism. Greenwood Publishing Group, p. 109. ISBN 0-275-97468-5.
- "Die Geiseln vom Mogadischu" (in German). SWR. 25 September 2017. Retrieved 25 September 2017.
- Schumann: "Could you get us four cartons with cigarettes?" – Tower: "Ok, any type?" – Schumann: "Mixed. Different ones. Two of these and two of these maybe." – Tower: "Roger, ok. Mixed." original radio communication from documentary "Mogadischu. Die Dokumentation.", Youtube, (2:55–3:09)
- "Neue Dokumente zur Landshut-Entführung". Der Spiegel. Retrieved 18 November 2008.
- onlineFocus from 08-25-2007. Retrieved 12 January 2008.
- Michael Hanfeld: Der wahre Held der „Landshut“, faz-net, 1. Dezember 2007. Retrieved 12 January 2008.
- Middle Eastern terrorism: from Black September to 11 September, by Mark Ensalaco, pg 116
- http://www.upi.com/Audio/Year_in_Review/Sadat-Visits-Israel/12361881614363-1/#title "1977 Year in Review – Sadat Visits Israel". Archived 9 July 2009 at the Wayback Machine
- "Oktober 1977: Mogadischu". Archived from the original on 8 November 2006. Retrieved 10 June 2006.
- OPovo. "Sequestro Lufthansa. De volta para Alemanha" (in Portuguese). Retrieved 17 June 2017.
- "Sequestro Lufthansa. De volta para Alemanha" (in Portuguese). OPovo. 17 June 2017. Retrieved 24 September 2017.
- ""Landshut"-Ankunft verläuft reibungslos (Comments)" (in German). Schwäbische. 24 September 2017. Retrieved 24 September 2017.
- "Hijacked 'Landshut' plane returning to Germany". dw.com. Deutsche Welle. AP, DPA. 27 July 2017. Retrieved 23 September 2017.
The aircraft had been parked at Fortaleza airport in Brazil gathering dust since 2008.
- Burns, Iain (27 July 2017). "German passenger jet that was hijacked by Palestinian terrorists in 1977 is found rotting in a Brazilian scrapyard and will now be restored to form centrepiece at museum". Mailonline. Daily Mail. Retrieved 23 September 2017.
- "Lufthansa Technik returns 'Landshut' to Germany". Press Releases. Lufthansa Technik. 22 September 2017. Retrieved 24 September 2017.
The project team was frequently accompanied by the media and also welcomed high-ranking visitors from the diplomatic and consular corps.
- Südwest Presse Online-Dienste. "Die 1977 entführte „Landshut" kommt an den Bodensee". swp.de (in German). Archived from the original on 29 July 2017. Retrieved 27 July 2017.
- "O Projeto Landshut ainda não acabou, nosso pessoal continua no Aeroporto Pinto Martins dando continuidade aos processos legais para envio de dois containers com todos o maquinário e ferramentas utilizadas pela Lufthansa Technik e algumas pequenas partes do Landshut" (in Portuguese). OPovo. 23 September 2017. Retrieved 24 September 2017.
- Zeller, Frank (23 September 2017). "Last flight home for icon of 'German Autumn' of terror". France 24. AFP. Archived from the original on 24 September 2017. Retrieved 24 September 2017.
- "Die 'Landshut' ist gelandet". Spiegel Online (in German). AFP, AP. 23 September 2017. Retrieved 24 September 2017.
- "Terrormahnmal "Landshut" wird deutlich später fertig" (in German). Retrieved 17 May 2018.
- "Die Rückkehr ..." (in German). SWR. 25 September 2017. Retrieved 25 September 2017.
- "„Landshut"-Aktivist sieht Flugzeugwrack in Stammheim landen" (in German). SWR. 10 April 2019. Retrieved 10 April 2019.
- "Bundesliga: Zentralfigur des Bundesliga-Skandals ist tot" [Bundesliga: Central figure of the Bundesliga scandal has died]. spiegel.de (in German). Der Spiegel. 23 July 1999. Retrieved 2 July 2016.
- Todesspiel on IMDb
- Mogadischu on IMDb
- Operation Fire Magic on IMDb
- Campbell, Colin (21 October 2014). "How Rainbow Six: Siege takes inspiration from real life hostage rescues". Polygon. Retrieved 24 January 2018.
- McNab, Chris. Storming Flight 181 – GSG 9 and the Mogadishu Hijack 1977 Osprey Raid Series No. 19; Osprey Publishing, 2011. ISBN 978-1-84908-376-8.
- Davies, Barry. Fire Magic – Hijack at Mogadishu Bloomsbury Publishing, 1994. ISBN 978-0-7475-1921-8.
- Blumenau, Bernhard. The United Nations and Terrorism. Germany, Multilateralism, and Antiterrorism Efforts in the 1970s Palgrave Macmillan, 2014, ch. 2. ISBN 978-1-137-39196-4.