Thursday, October 13, 1977, began as just another routine trip for the crew of Lufthansa Flight 181, as the Boeing 737 departed the island of Palma de Mallorca bound for Frankfurt Germany. Onboard, 86 passengers and five crew members went about their business, while the coast of mainland Europe slipped by below them. Little did they know that it would take an ordeal to eventually reach their destination.
Some 30 minutes into the flight, two men and two women wearing Che Guevera T-shirts rose from their seats brandishing pistols and hand grenades, while shouting commands to the passengers. They called themselves Commando Martyr Halime. Their leader, a Palestinian with the alias ‘Martyr Mahmud‘, forced his way into the cockpit and ordered the co-pilot to join the passengers.
Jurgen Schumann, the pilot, listened as Mahmud told him to set course for Cyprus. Schumann countered saying they didn’t have enough fuel and would have to land in Rome first.
Siegfried Hausner Commando, a faction of the German pro-communist terrorist organization known as the Red Army Faction, had allied themselves with the hijackers and demanded the release of 10 RAF compatriots from a German prison, along with two Palestinians held in Turkey. In addition, they wanted 15 million dollars in exchange for the lives of the passengers. Germany began negotiations, and at 5:45 p.m., the jet lifted off from Rome without clearance and headed for Cyprus.