Breakneck Landing: An IL-62 and 800 Meters of Dirt

A Breakneck Landing


Image Source: Märkische Allgemeine Zeitung

A Small Airfield in Germany

Today, we are on one of the oldest airfields in the world: Stölln on the Gollenberg, about 77km northwest of Berlin, Germany. The small airfield with its 840m long grass runway served from 1894 as a gliding training area for the German aviation pioneer Otto Lilienthal, who was the first person ever to perform gliding flights according to the “heavier-than-air” principle. During the First and Second World Wars, the airfield was used by the German Luftwaffe as a training area for gliding, and from 1953, the area was opened for sports flying. Even if the history of this small airfield would be exciting enough in itself, today, the site is famous for something else: An Ilyushin Il-62 named “Lady Agnes”.


October 23, 1989. Germany is still divided. In the east lies the German Democratic Republic GDR, in the west, the Federal Republic of Germany FRG. At that time, nobody in the East knew that their world would change in a few days. The state airline in the GDR was called “Interflug”. It was founded in 1958 with its headquarters at Berlin’s Schönefeld Airport. From there, it served 39 destinations around the world when it ceased operations in 1991. The Interflug consisted of a fleet of 7 Ilyushin IL-18, 19 Tupolev TU-134, 9 Ilyushin IL-62, 6 Let L-410, 3 Airbus A310, and 1 DHC-8. But this post does not go any further into the history of Interflug, which is itself extremely fascinating. Perhaps this will be made up for at a later date. Instead, we dedicate ourselves to only one IL-62, the DDR-SEG named “Lady Agnes”.

Lady Agnes

In 1991 the festival “100 years of human flight” was to be celebrated in Stölln in honor of Otto Lilienthal. The East German Interflug, which was in the process of replacing the first of its IL-62s with modern Airbus A310s, decided to donate one of its aircraft to the airfield for the occasion. And so in 1988, the preparations for a daring flight began. From Berlin, the 53m long and more than 70’000 tons heavy aircraft was to be transferred to Stölln, where it would land on the 800m long grass runway. Heinz-Dieter Kallbach, chief pilot of the Interflug IL-62 fleet, was to deliver the aircraft safely to its final location. Now it is probably thanks to the Soviet construction technology that this flight could succeed. The IL-62 was an extremely robust aircraft. Many experts agree that such a landing would not have been possible with an Airbus A320, for example. And yet, when the plane took off on 23 October 1989, nobody knew whether the landing would succeed. Never before has anything similar been attempted. But the exact preparation was very worth it. And so “Lady Agnes”, named after the wife of Otto Lilienthal, landed on a sunny autumn afternoon on the simple grass road, captured on video.

Landing at 1:06

And so it still stands in the German landscape today, open to viewers from all over the world — a piece of contemporary East German aviation history.



It hurt my neck just to watch…

Cool story 👍🏻
That’s one badass landing!
I wonder if the nose high aerodynamic braking was intentional or if they overcorrected (late)


It was intentional indeed! The pilot, Mr. Kallbach mentioned it in an interview with German television. They had to keep the nose up as long as possible to slow the aircraft down. Otherwise, there wouldn’t have been enough space.

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Ooof, I’m surprised the nose didnt dig in and become a handbrake!


Did you mean intentional?


I’m surprised too. The landing looked painful, and the go-around reminded me of that one song that I can never remember…

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Nothing unusual. Just another normal Ryanair Landing Training.


Good old Soviet design. Probably the most robust airplanes ever built 😃


Did he say it was intentional before or after the landing 😂!? That was one hard landing. Still impressive though. I guess that “smoke” was because of mud going in the engines. Didn’t think it would continue to go taxi after that!

Co pilot: But Ivan, this aircraft needs approximately 2500m to land safely

Ivan in thick russian accent: No problem, we land in this man’s back garden, ruski style. This plane Soviet finest, she take it

Cool piece of aviation history that, thanks for sharing!


Quite impressive, right? I’m sure they even could’ve departed again if they tried 😃


This does not plase the butter…

You can always go around
if it don’t look right coming down.
Don’t wait until your sideways maybe sliding upside down.
You can always …
You can always go around! ♫

Casual server landings be like 😂

This is a really cool post Marc! Thanks for filling up my time to read this 👍🙂

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In all seriousness tho, this is pretty amazing. I would have expected the nose gear to disintegrate, or smth like that. Quite amazing!

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