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One of the most notorious planes in history, the Lufthansa Boeing 737-200 dubbed Landshut, finally returned to Germany 40 years after it was hijacked and flown around Europe, the Middle East and Somalia by terrorists before being retaken by German special forces.
The battered 737‘s fuselage and separated wings were flown from Brazil to Friedrichshafen in late September in a Volga-Dnepr Airlines Antonov An-124, with its passenger seats and engine brought over separately on a Volga-Dnepr Ilyushin Il-76. Members of the original hijacked flight crew from 1977 were on hand to greet the plane for its homecoming to German soil. It’s to be reassembled and become an exhibit at the aeronautics-themed Dornier Museum Friedrichshafen.
Lufthansa Flight 181 and five crew were flying 86 passengers from Mallorca, Spain, to Frankfurt on Oct. 13, 1977, when four members of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine used a handgun to gain control of the cockpit. The terrorists ordered the pilot to reroute to Larnaca, Cyprus, and demanded that the West German government release members of the Red Army Faction, a left-wing terrorist group. The plane was diverted to Rome to refuel before it flew to Larnaca, then hopped around the Middle East as authorities in various countries struggled to come up with solutions — first to Bahrain, then Dubai and Aden, where the terrorists fatally shot pilot Jürgen Schumann in the head. The plane finally landed in Mogadishu, Somalia, where German special forces stormed the plane, freed all the passengers and surviving crew, and killed three of the hijackers. (The fourth hijacker served two prison terms for the crime, and now lives in Oslo.) The incident hardened the official stance of the West German government, which vowed to never again negotiate with terrorists.
The Boeing 737 was repaired and returned to service with Lufthansa for eight years and bounced around various airlines, including the now-defunct Presidential Airways in the US and TAF Linhas Aéreas in Brazil, where it was decommissioned in 2008 and put into storage at Fortaleza International Airport. The German foreign ministry bought the plane for about $24,000 earlier this year for the Dornier Museum.
“To this day, the rescue of the Landshut is a living symbol of a free society, which cannot be defeated by fear and terror,” German foreign minister Sigmar Gabriel said when the government announced the purchase.
Featured image courtesy of Karl-Josef Hildenbrand/AFP via Getty Images.
H/T: The Seattle Times
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