If you think back to the long history of Lufthansa in connection with aircraft hijacking, the drama surrounding the "Landshut" immediately comes to mind: In October 1977, the Boeing 737 was hijacked by four Palestinian terrorists to Mogadishu. At that time, the flight captain was shot and the hostages were freed by a GSG-9 commando.
With the film adaptation of the drama entitled "The Miracle of Mogadishu" and the return of the original plane, which had long been rotting away in Brazil, to Germany, the hijacking of another Lufthansa jet recedes into the background. The story of flight LH592 has been forgotten, although the flight captain achieved an incredible feat, not only aeronautically, but above all psychologically.
On the morning of February 11, 1993, when an Airbus left Frankfurt for Addis Ababa, the capital of Ethiopia, a stopover in Cairo was planned. But this does not occur. Just 35 minutes after take-off, the plane is taken over the Alps by an Ethiopian who forces the pilot to fly to New York, where he wants to apply for political asylum.
The hijacker stormed into the cockpit and pointed a pistol at my head. He threatened to shoot. He said: If you don't turn west, I'll shoot you," the flight captain later told the New York Times. Hard to imagine today: the cockpit doors weren't locked back then.
The Airbus with 94 passengers and ten crew members first turns north and lands a short time later at Hanover-Langenhagen Airport, claiming that it does not have enough kerosene on board for the transatlantic flight.
The plane is surrounded by security forces. But they don't intervene as the hijacker threatens to shoot a passenger every five minutes. After 90 minutes, the plane takes off with a full tank and sets course for New York.
The kidnapper was Nebiu Zewolde Demeke, a 20-year-old Ethiopian who had applied for asylum in Germany and later withdrawn it. His father was a political prisoner in Ethiopia. So the family moved to Morocco early on, where Demeke attended the American School in Tangier.
At the time of the kidnapping, his sister was already studying at Gettysburg College in Pennsylvania and his brother at a college in St. Paul, Minnesota. He himself had applied to a US embassy for a student visa - but without success.
Because his application for asylum was withdrawn in Germany, he received a one-way ticket to Addis Ababa free of charge. But his real goal was not Ethiopia, but the USA.
During the flight across the Atlantic, the pilot Gerhard Göbel managed to talk to the kidnapper and establish a special relationship. No shot was fired from his semi-automatic pistol, even after landing at 3:51 p.m. local time at John F. Kennedy Airport.
An hour before landing, a special team of six radioed the cockpit and the hijacker on the ground. "The main goal was to calm him down and let him know that he would not be hurt," one of the agents later told the media.
Captain Göbel managed the feat less than fifteen minutes after landing, for which he later received a great deal of recognition: The kidnapper agreed to his deal - to turn himself in to the authorities, exchange his pistol for the pilot's sunglasses and release all the hostages.
His weapon later turned out to be a blank pistol, which he had smuggled through the security check in Frankfurt wearing a hat.
The kidnapper was tried in a US court. "I was forced to hijack the plane and I politely hijacked it," Demeke defended himself. In the summer of 1996 he was sentenced to 20 years in prison.
After the odyssey, the passengers arrived at their destinations in Africa via New York with a long delay. One of them, a German businessman and frequent flyer, asked for Miles from the bonus program
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