Ramstein air conference accident

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The Ramstein air conference accident happened on August 28, 1988 at the air base operated by the United States in Ramstein near Kaiserslautern ( Rhineland-Palatinate ) during a military air show , the number of which was estimated at more than 300,000. After a collision in the air , three aerobatic machines crashed over the air base. One of the planes slipped burning into the audience, a second hit one in emergency preparedness standing helicopter .

According to official information, the accident claimed 70 lives - including an unborn child and a US helicopter pilot who died three weeks later - and around 1,000 were injured. It is one of the most momentous disasters of its kind in the world and had far-reaching consequences for the organization of emergency rescue services, victim and helper follow-up and the organization of air shows in Germany, Europe and the USA.


Spatial conditions

The area of ​​the air base drops slightly in the area of ​​the two runways towards the northwest and north - from a good 236 to a good 230  m . The slope follows the Floßbach and Hundsbach, which - largely channeled on site - flow one after the other from the right to the Mohrbach and flank the land railways in the south and north. Between the two waters, the orbits run almost parallel from east to west; At the time of the accident, the southern one was about 3.2 km long, the northern a good 2.8 km.

The misfortune

Another heart formation of the Frecce Tricolori, as shown since 2006
Graphic representation of the aerobatic figure Il Cardioide : blue the heart, red the trajectory of the solo aircraft (north bottom left)
Squadron cast on the day of the accident
plane Pilot (highlighted in red: † in Ramstein) Life dates Season member
Pony 0 Diego Raineri (command from the ground) * 1949 1979-1988
Pony 1 Mario Naldini 1947-1988 1982-1988
Pony 2 Giorgio Alessio 1957-1988 1985-1988
Pony 3 Piergiorgio Accorsi 1981-1989
Pony 4 Maurizio Guzzetti * 1958 1987-1991
Pony 5 Antonino Vivona 1987-1995
Pony 6 Giampietro Gropplero di Troppenburg * 1948 1982-1990
Pony 7 Stefano Rosa 1961-2008 1988-1994
Pony 8 Giampaolo Miniscalco * 1959 1988-1996
Pony 9 Francesco Tricomi 1988-1992
Pony 10 Ivo Nutarelli 1950-1988 1982-1988

At the flight day on August 28, 1988, towards the end of the event, the Italian aerobatic team Frecce Tricolori (German: The Three-Colored Arrows ), consisting of ten military aircraft , appeared, whose machines were numbered from Pony 1 to Pony 10 . The Aermacchi MB-339 aircraft were jets each nearly 11 m long and span; its rear engine enabled a top speed of 900 km / h. The group's commanding officer, 39-year-old Lieutenant Colonel Diego Raineri, took command of a motor vehicle that was positioned south of the two runways, opposite the spectator area, by radio under the identification number Pony 0 .

The flight figure " Pierced Heart " ( Italian Il Cardioide ), marked by contrails , was considered particularly spectacular . The ten planes flew in the direction of the audience and then separated: Pony 1 to 5 with the pilots Naldini, Alessio, Accorsi, Guzzetti and Vivona described the left side of the heart figure from the audience, the four planes 6 to 9 (with Gropplero di Troppenburg, Rosa, Miniscalco and Tricomi) the right one; then the two groups met at the bottom in the middle and flew over each other at a small vertical distance, the four at the bottom. Meanwhile, after an inside loop, the solo pilot was supposed to push towards the audience through the heart figure from behind and just above the other nine aircraft. At this point, at 3:44 p.m., three of the planes collided at an altitude of around 50 m and around 300 m in front of the spectators.

During the maneuver, the machine Pony 10 of the 38-year-old solo pilot Ivo Nutarelli (born March 23, 1950 - August 28, 1988) reached the point of penetration of the flight figure earlier than intended and was also too low; the cause was suspected that the loop was too tight. As a result, the solo plane first touched the cockpit of the left wing machine Pony 2 Giorgio Alessio with the right elevator of the five-man formation coming from the left (east) from the viewer's perspective. The pilot's cabin of Pony 2 was completely destroyed, the wing machine crashed parabolic and apparently uncontrolled. A split second later, the solo machine hit the rear of the Pony 1 pilot aircraft, controlled by Mario Naldini, from the left, causing it to crash as well.

As an infographic shows, the wing machine and the command plane crashed in quick succession beyond the spectator area on the northern runway (pony 2) or south of it (pony 1) ; the pilots Alessio and Naldini were later found dead. Pony 1 hit a US Sikorsky UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter in emergency readiness that was instantly on fire; all seven crew members were seriously injured. They were initially cared for at the Landstuhl Regional Medical Center and transferred to Brooke Army Medical Center in Texas four days later . Six of them survived, the pilot Kim Jon Strader, born on April 27, 1947, who suffered second and third degree burns , died after three weeks on September 17, 1988.

Nutarelli's solo plane Pony 10 caught fire during the collisions . In the crash, like Pony 1 and Pony 2 , it retained its original direction of flight, which, however, led across the runways to the north towards the audience. In the meantime, it turned one and a half times to the left. About 50 m in front of the cordon off the spectator area it first touched the ground with the tip of the left wing, then hit the ground completely and exploded. In the gently sloping terrain, the wreck broke through the rollers of the barbed wire barrier and slid far into the crowded crowd. Finally, it hit a refrigerator truck that was used as an ice cream stand so violently that the ejection seat was triggered and the pilot Nutarelli was catapulted inside the vehicle; his body was later found there. The audience was covered with a cloud of 800 liters of burning kerosene , which initially hid glowing metal from the aircraft and barbed wire. The few seconds in which the disaster unfolded did not leave the people in this area time to escape.

As a result of the accident, both runways were littered with wreckage and were unusable. Therefore, the seven remaining aircraft of the Frecce Tricolori - those of the pilots Piergiorgio Accorsi (Pony 3) and Antonino Vivona (Pony 5) had been slightly damaged by flying debris, but still controllable - in the airspace above Ramstein Air Base and then landed Sembach Air Base 20 km away (closed since March 30, 1995).

Rescue operations

During the rescue measures, problems and breakdowns arose for various reasons, which were later partially processed by various sides, including by an investigative committee of the Bundestag .

US Forces Conduct

The US military did not allow the rescue workers who had come to the base to enter the airfield immediately. Other rescue workers such as the THW were not even called in, although they were ready for action.

The regulations of the US military at that time provided for the injured to be transported to a hospital as quickly as possible ( load and go ) and not, as is customary in Germany in disaster medicine, to sift the injured on site and provide initial treatment . At 4:35 p.m., an emergency doctor reported by radio:

"We are constantly looking for burned patients who are torn from our hands by the Americans and who are transported away completely without care."

Several people died or suffered permanent damage as a result of the delay in first aid.

As a result of the actions of the US military, there were also dramatic scenes in the clinics. A rescue helicopter involved in the rescue operations landed at the Landstuhl Regional Medical Center at 6:05 p.m. The emergency doctor of this helicopter described his impressions:

“We found a large number of severely burned, seriously injured patients who were completely unsupervised. [...] When I landed in Landstuhl, some seriously burned people were lying on planks without care and no doctors were on site. After caring for an injured person and giving the nurse who flew with us to monitor, I walked around the helipad of the military hospital for 10 minutes and treated several injured people and never met an American colleague. "

Some of the injured were taken to hospitals over long distances without care. Hours later, passenger buses with injuries of varying severity, for example B. through Mannheim looking for a clinic. At 6:30 p.m., a bus full of injured people arrived at the Ludwigshafen Clinic, which is around 80 km away . A doctor at the clinic on this:

“There were five seriously injured people in the bus. There was no doctor on this transport. Only a driver who was ignorant of the location and who was not in command of the German had obviously made an odyssey through Ludwigshafen until he found the hospital. "

Emergency medical systems

The injection needles used by the German rescue workers did not match the infusion systems used by the US military and vice versa. This hindered and delayed the application of infusions or the transfusion of blood .

Overload of the telephone network

At that time, before the mobile phone era , the telephone network around the accident site was exclusively represented by the fixed network . It was quickly overloaded and collapsed. Radio amateurs who were on site at the air show made emergency calls via mobile and portable stations . In the further course radio amateurs from the entire region took up the emergency radio traffic . They passed information on, organized urgently needed blood supplies, and delivered messages from survivors to relatives.


Sybille Jatzko's list of victims in October 1988

Fatalities and injuries

In the vast majority of those affected, extensive skin burns led to immediate death or to disabilities or disfigurements, sometimes for life. According to official information, the accident killed 70 people, 66 visitors to the Flugtag, the helicopter pilot and the three pilots of the crashed aircraft. An unborn child whose mother survived seriously injured is also listed among the dead Flugtag visitors.

There were around 1000 injured in total. Around 450 of them had to be cared for in hospitals, and after the first night they were spread across 46 clinics throughout Germany and one specialist clinic in France . 34 victims were recovered dead immediately after the accident, the others died in the days and weeks that followed. By September 17, when the helicopter pilot died, 64 deaths had been recorded; the last (69th) death was recorded on October 3, 1988. The child who died in the womb was added later.

Compensation and aftercare

Victims and surviving dependents received financial compensation of more than 21 million Deutschmarks for injury or death from a special fund set up by the Federal Republic, the USA and Italy . The victims' emotional trauma was never recognized. A litigation for pain and suffering against the Federal Republic of Germany in this regard failed in 2003 before the Koblenz Regional Court because the judiciary considered the claims to be statute barred at the time the action was brought in 1998, ten years after the accident .


Memorial stone near Ramstein with the names of all victims

A memorial stone was placed on Ramstein Air Base soon after the disaster . However, it does not contain any names. In addition, it is not freely accessible; Time-consuming formalities are required prior to visits, and visitors are supervised by military personnel. For these reasons, the memorial was not accepted by the bereaved.

The aftercare group consisting of those affected won a memorial stone bearing the names of the victims in 1995, seven years after the accident. It was built on a plot of land near Ramstein Air Base that the mother of one of the victims bought and made available to the group.

In the Parco Tematico, the theme park of the Aviation Museum of Rimini , the remains of the three machines of the accident have been exhibited in the open air since 1999. The names of the victims, including those of the three Italian pilots, are also written on a plaque on an obelisk-shaped memorial stone.


Air shows

When the catastrophe was reported in the media, a worldwide discussion about the sense and nonsense of air shows and safety standards for future events was initiated. The incident also led to a radical rethinking of risk-taking throughout the aerobatic world.

In response to the accident, aerobatics were initially banned in Germany on August 29, 1988. Only three years later were they allowed again with the following security requirements:

  • A minimum flight altitude and a minimum distance to the spectators must be observed.
  • Maneuvers may no longer be carried out over the spectators or in their direction.
  • All maneuvers must be approved beforehand (which was also the case in Ramstein in 1988).

In 2000 for the International Aerospace Exhibition (ILA) in Berlin , a military aerobatic team flew for the first time with jet planes - the Patrouille de France - in Germany. Military association aerobatic teams with jet planes were only permitted on the ILA under the strictest safety requirements until May 2009. Particularly complex resolutions of flight formations and all encounter maneuvers were prohibited until the ILA 2012.

Medical technology

The infusion cannulas with a record cone , which were still widespread in Germany at the time , were replaced by those with an internationally standardized Luer cone in order to ensure compatibility between German and foreign rescue services in the future.

Emergency aftercare

The Ramstein flight conference showed how important it is to provide psychological follow-up care for victims and rescue workers; many of them were later permanently traumatized ( post- traumatic stress disorder ), but there is no evidence for alleged suicides .

After the disaster, a follow-up group was set up in Germany for the first time, in which victims and survivors as well as helpers (police, rescue workers and paramedics) tried to process the experiences. The event is therefore considered to be an essential impetus for the development of crisis intervention and emergency pastoral care teams for those affected as well as concepts for post-deployment care for aid workers.

The book The Pierced Heart , written by the initiators of the aftercare group, Hartmut Jatzko , Sybille Jatzko and Heiner Seidlitz , deals with psychosocial aftercare after the accident and is considered a standard work on the subject.


Presumption of conspiracy

Occasionally, a connection between the flight conference accident and the crash of Itavia flight 870 off the Mediterranean island of Ustica in 1980, which has not yet been fully explained, has been established. This is based on the fact that two of the three pilots who died in Ramstein, namely Nutarelli and Mario Naldini, had witnessed the crash off Ustica and should have testified before an Italian committee of inquiry a week after the air show. Even 25 years after the catastrophe, Giancarlo Nutarelli, the unlucky pilot's brother, advocated the theory that an assassination attempt had been committed on his brother by manipulating the aircraft in order to eliminate him as a witness to the downing in 1980.

In addition, in the years before Ramstein, there had been unnatural deaths among military personnel who had something to do with the shooting down (→  deaths in the vicinity of the crash in Itavia flight 870 ). A corresponding suspicion was expressed by the aviation law expert Elmar Giemulla , who represented several Ramstein victims as a lawyer. Giemulla suspected that "the dead and injured in Ramstein were victims of a military conspiracy ."

Accidental death in 2008

Stefano Rosa, who was a member of the Frecce Tricolori squadron from 1988 to 1994 and who had survived the Ramstein accident unscathed as a pilot of Pony 7 , was killed 20 years later in an aircraft accident in northern Italy. On November 20, 2008, now 47 years old, he got off the track during an aerobatic exercise by the Breitling Jet Team and flew into a row house next to the recently closed military airfield in Vicenza , which went up in flames. The residents were not harmed because they were on the opposite side of the building.

The band Rammstein

The German band Rammstein , founded in 1994, was named after the accident; because of errors of the lead singer Till Lindemann about the spelling was from Ramstein however Rammstein .


  • Hartmut Jatzko , Sybille Jatzko , Heiner Seidlitz: The pierced heart. Ramstein 1988. Example of a disaster aftercare. 1st edition. Verlag Stumpf and Kossendey, Edewecht 1995, ISBN 3-923124-65-1 .
  • Hartmut Jatzko, Sybille Jatzko, Heiner Seidlitz: Disaster aftercare using the example of dealing with the Ramstein air day disaster in 1988 . 2nd Edition. Verlag Stumpf and Kossendey, Edewecht / Vienna 2001, ISBN 3-932750-54-3 .
  • Robert Leicht: What does responsibility mean here? According to Gladbeck and Ramstein: If something goes wrong, the ministers have to answer for it. In: Zeit Online . Hamburg September 2nd, 1988 ( online ).
  • Ines Alwardt: Ramstein disaster: the pierced heart . In: SZ Online . Munich August 27, 2013 ( online - report by the victim Thomas Wenzel).

Web links

Commons : Ramstein Air Conference  - Collection of pictures, videos and audio files

Individual evidence

  1. a b c Resolution recommendation and report of the Defense Committee as the 1st committee of inquiry according to Article 45a Paragraph 2 of the Basic Law on the flight days in Ramstein and Nörvenich on August 28, 1988. (PDF; 5.7 MB) In: Drucksache 11/5354. German Bundestag, 11th electoral term, October 9, 1989, accessed April 10, 2015 .
  2. a b c d The plaque on the memorial stone near Ramstein lists 70 names. The 56th entry reads: "Unborn beauty."
  3. a b S. L. ARMY OFFICER BURNED IN AIR SHOW CRASH DIES. deseretnews.com, September 20, 1988, accessed September 1, 2015 (English, helicopter pilot allegedly 35 years old).
  4. ^ Ramstein Air Base. Map service of the landscape information system of the Rhineland-Palatinate Nature Conservation Administration (LANIS map) ( information ), accessed on October 23, 2018 .
  5. a b c 28 agosto 1988 - Ramstein. freccetricoloriclub40.it, 1988, accessed on November 17, 2015 (Italian, on the staffing of the squadron on the day of the accident and infographic on the situation on site).
  6. a b c d Roberto Bianchin: Un errore ed è stata l'apocalisse. La Repubblica , August 31, 1988, accessed on April 11, 2015 ( Italian: “One mistake and the apocalypse” ).
  7. a b 25 years ago: Disaster at the flight day in Ramstein. Südwestrundfunk , August 28, 2013, accessed April 6, 2015 .
  8. Kim Jon Strader. 1947-1988. ancestry.com, accessed on September 4, 2015 (helicopter pilot born April 28, 1947, died September 17, 1988, age 41).
  9. a b c private video by fritz5194: Ramstein plane crash in 1988. August 27, 2013, accessed on May 22, 2015 (3:36 min.).
  10. ^ Ramstein Air Base. Map service of the landscape information system of the Rhineland-Palatinate Nature Conservation Administration (LANIS map), accessed on October 23, 2018 (marked: the approximate impact point of pony 10).
  11. The thrust through the heart . In: The time . No.  35 , 1993, pp. 2 ( zeit.de ).
  12. ^ Sybille Jatzko: Museo dell'Aviazione. Travel report. muehlenbiker.de, August 31, 2000, accessed November 20, 2015 .
  13. a b private video by fritz5167: Air show catastrophe in Ramstein 1988. November 20, 2013, accessed on May 22, 2015 (41:31 min.).
  14. Holger Scholl: Ramstein air disaster . In: Air rescue . Verlag Stumpf & Kossendey, 2002, ISSN  0178-2525 , p. 353-356 .
  15. a b c d Excerpts of the passage of time from the book: Hartmut Jatzko , Sybille Jatzko , Heiner Seidlitz: Disaster aftercare based on the example of the processing of the Ramstein air day disaster in 1988 . 2nd Edition. Verlag Stumpf & Kossendey, Edewecht, Vienna 2001, ISBN 3-932750-54-3 .
  16. Klaus Ellinger, Michael Quintel: The Ramstein accident . In: The emergency doctor . No. 5 , 1989, pp. 68-70 .
  17. ^ Sybille Jatzko : List of victims . October 14, 1988.
  18. Judgment: Ramstein victims' complaint dismissed. Spiegel Online , September 4, 2003, accessed April 10, 2015 .
  19. After opening in a new window / tab, the photo can be enlarged so that the names of the victims can be read.
  20. a b Roland Fuchs: Ramstein 1988 , March 2005, accessed on May 13, 2015 .
  21. a b Hartmut Jatzko: Aftercare group for the victims and survivors of the Ramstein air day disaster. Subsection glimmer of hope . 1999, accessed April 10, 2015 .
  22. Jürgen Müller (jüm): In memory of the victims . In: Trierischer Volksfreund . Trier September 11, 1992 ( → copy of the source ).
  23. Werner Raith: Ramstein disaster: The relatives of the victims do not believe in a mistake of the pilot. Tagesspiegel, September 3, 2000, accessed on August 28, 2015 .
  24. CBS : Evening News, Part 1. YouTube , August 29, 1988, accessed April 10, 2015 .
  25. a b c Jens Bauszus: Was Ramstein a murder plot? ( Itavia flight 870 ) . In: Focus Online . August 27, 2008 ( focus.de ).
  26. a b Josef Ley: Brother of the death pilot believes: Ramstein was a murder plot . In: image . August 28, 2013 ( bild.de [accessed April 11, 2015]).
  27. The Ustica case Was Ramstein a murder plot? - Focus
  28. Stefano Rosa is named Stefano Rossi in some secondary (German) sources . In the Italian media, for example La Repubblica , only the spelling pink was used in 1988 and 2008 . There is a confusion of names either with Umberto Rossi , who was a member of the aerobatic team from 1992 to 2000, or with Andrea Rossi (from 1999 to 2007).
  29. Solista che va solista che viene. Pilot change from Andrea Rossi to Simone Cavelli. freccetricoloriclub40.it, 2008, accessed on November 17, 2015 ( Italian “The solo pilot who leaves and the solo pilot who comes” ).
  30. Frecce Tricolori (organizer): Un tricolore lungo 50 anni . Aeronautica Militare Italiana. Mostra Fotografica (photo exhibition), Villa Manin di Passariano in Codroipo near Udine 2010 (Italian, exhibition catalog).
  31. Aereo su una casa, muore ex solista della Pan . In: Messaggero Veneto, Edizione Udine . November 21, 2008 (Italian, online ).
  32. Ramstein survivor crashes into house. krone.at, November 21, 2008, accessed April 10, 2015 .
  33. ↑ Sports plane crashes into row house - pilot dead. Merkur-online.de, November 21, 2008, accessed on April 10, 2015 .
  34. Ramstein pilot races into a family home. express.de, November 21, 2008, accessed April 10, 2015 .
  35. Ronald Galenza, Heinz Havemeister: Feeling B. Mix me a drink . Schwarzkopf & Schwarzkopf, Berlin 2002, ISBN 3-89602-418-3 , p. 262 .