The “Landshut” Tragedy – PART 1

Pinto Martins Airport in Fortaleza, Brazil: From January 2008 on, an airplane wreck was parked there, on a remote location. It was the former Lufthansa “Landshut”. After its
seats and cabin facilities had been removed, it was used as a cargo aircraft for many years by various Brazilian airlines, most recently by TAF Linhas Aeras (Reg.: PT-MTB) before being

Until 2017. In that year, the plane was transported back to Germany on board of Antonov-124, in a complex mission carried out by Volga-Dnepr. It is a plane with a tragic history and high
symbolic value. The aim is to exhibit the “Landshut” in a museum and make it accessible to visitors. The overarching theme is the “German Autumn“, a time when left-wing
terrorists declared war on the state.

The “Landshut“, or what was left of it, would have ended up on a Brazilian scrap heap if supporters of the then German Federal Minister of Economics, Sigmar Gabriel, and the former
Lufthansa flight attendant, Gabriele von Lutzau, formerly Gabriele Dillmann, had not “brought the B737-200 home” from Fortaleza in northeast Brazil. This happened in 2017, exactly 40
years after its abduction by Palestinian terrorists.

More a wreck than a plane. The Landshut 2017 after its return from Brazil. A second charter flight was necessary to transport the wings  -  photo courtesy of Kerstin Mommsen
More a wreck than a plane. The Landshut 2017 after its return from Brazil. A second charter flight was necessary to transport the wings – photo courtesy of Kerstin Mommsen


The drama unfolds
Release terrorists and pay a ransom of 5 million Deutsch Marks (2.5 million euros) to the kidnappers or stand firm against them. This was the decision the then German government under Chancellor
Helmut Schmidt (Social Democrat) was faced with in October 1977. Its antagonists were four members of a Palestinian commando: three men and one woman. The quartet had taken control of the
Landshut” during a scheduled flight from Frankfurt to Palma de Mallorca. With their action, the kidnappers wanted to collect ransom money, but above all, force the release of their
comrades being held in German and Israeli prisons for politically motivated murders and attacks.
Flight Captain Ruedeger von Lutzau, a highly rational but also very emotional man, still has tears in his eyes today when he talks about the dramatic days and hours between 13 and 18 October 1977
– now almost 43 years ago. It was a matter of life or death for the 86 passengers and 5 crew members on board the “Landshut”, a Boeing 737-200 belonging to the Lufthansa fleet. Among the
kidnapped crew members was his then girlfriend and Purserette, Gabriele Dillmann. “I was off duty on 13 October and almost by chance heard that the plane had been hijacked. However, when the
operations management told me that my then girlfriend was one of the cabin crew members on flight LH 180, my adrenaline level immediately shot up to an unprecedented height,”
he recalls the
state of his nerves at that time.

Historical picture of the “Landshut” before being hijacked by terrorists  -  courtesy Dornier Museum
Historical picture of the “Landshut” before being hijacked by terrorists – courtesy Dornier Museum


Dubai – Aden – Mogadishu
Having followed an erratic zigzag course, the “Landshut” had meanwhile landed in Dubai, where local security forces openly practiced storming the plane on the apron, clearly visible to
the terrorist command on board the “Landshut“. “Stop immediately, otherwise the result will be a bloodbath,” was the German government’s dispatch to the airport and those
responsible in the UAE, who immediately ceased.
After unsuccessful negotiations, the kidnappers forced the cockpit crew to leave Dubai and fly to another destination. Which one was unclear since the surrounding countries had closed their
airports. Eventually, they received permission to land at Airport Aden in Yemen, also due to a lack of fuel. It was already the third day of the kidnapping. For passengers and crew members, this
meant that they were experiencing an unspeakable martyrdom due to the heat on board the plane, the overflowing toilets, and growing fear. All the more so, as they had to put up with the whims of
the incredibly aggressive commander, “Captain Mahmut”, if they did not want to risk their lives.

“Code 13”
In the meantime, a B707 with politicians, secret service personnel, and medical personnel, had set off from Germany en route to Arabia. On board the “Diplomatic Flight”: Captain Ruedeger von
Lutzau. “I heard all the voice traffic over the radio, and thus learned that the ‘Landshut’ had since left Aden and landed in Mogadishu, Somalia, where we then also immediately flew

Then the signal came via on-board radio: “Code 13” – an encrypted message. In plain language: There has been a death. The victim was Captain Juergen Schumann, who had been shot in the
head by “Captain Mahmut” in Aden, in front of the passengers and the crew. He left behind a wife and two children. The kidnappers then threw Schumann’s body like a piece of garbage
through the back door of the plane, onto the apron. CoPilot, Jürgen Vietor, was now the only one able to navigate the plane safely.
Code 13” meant the end of any serious negotiations for the German government. Wear down the terrorists and gain time until a favorable opportunity arose to enable the special forces to
storm the “Landshut“. This was now the only plan left. Almost immediately after the Lufthansa B737-200 had touched down in Mogadishu, special forces arriving from Germany via Istanbul
also landed in Mogadishu. For reasons of stealth, they had darkened their plane and registered it with the local air traffic controllers as a B707 “Diplomatic Flight”.

Ruedeger von Lutzau was aboard the „Diplomatic Flight“ and experienced the drama from up close  -  photo: CFG / hs
Ruedeger von Lutzau was aboard the „Diplomatic Flight“ and experienced the drama from up close – photo: CFG / hs

Storming the “Landshut”
Then during the night, tough negotiations again took place between the politicians who had arrived and gone to the Mogadishu Airport Tower, and the leader of the kidnappers, “Captain
” This went on for hours. Suddenly, there was a flash. The cabin door flew through the air, shots fired through the night. Everything happened very quickly. The result: Three dead
male terrorists, one captured female terrorist. No further victim among the 86 passengers and the remaining 4 crew members.  
After the liberation, I proposed to Gabi in the Mogadishu terminal and she said ‘yes’,” says Ruedeger von Lutzau, still emotionally moved. Since then, her name has been Gabriele von
Lutzau. She never again flew as a flight attendant, just as the other two female cabin crew members also did not. “There was no psychological support offered by Lufthansa to the crew or the
passengers for the trauma they had suffered,
” Ruedeger von Lutzau is still critical today. “Hansa only conceded one special holiday“.

Hand grenade flew back in the cockpit
From the remaining crew, only the then first officer, Jürgen Vietor, returned to his workplace, including to the cockpit of the restored “Landshut“. The damage to the aircraft had
previously been repaired at Lufthansa Technik’s Hamburg hangar, so that the D-ABCE registration aircraft could return to Lufthansa’s scheduled service.
Of interest and so far not reported: During the B737 check in Hamburg, technicians found a live hand grenade under the First Officer’s seat. It had gone unnoticed in Mogadishu and was in the
Landshut” cockpit all the time during the return flight to Germany and the transfer to Lufthansa Technik. The crews who flew the plane back to Frankfurt and then continued to Hamburg,
had therefore been sitting on a deadly explosive device for hours.

Heiner Siegmund


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Source: Cargoforwarder

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