The Flight of Mathias Rust
Not only did 18-year-old Mathias Rust fly into Soviet airspace (something the world learned was a major no-no just four years earlier), he landed his Cessna 172 in Red Square.
Yes, THAT Red Square.
On May 13, 1987, the teenager (with precious little flying time to that point) left an airfield in his native Germany for a trip throughout Europe, finally landing in Finland. And then, on the morning of May 28, he took off, telling air traffic control that he was headed for Sweden.
But his real target (so to speak) was actually Moscow–– and what he saw as a chance to lessen the tension of the Cold War by building an ‘imaginary bridge’ between the two sides of the issue.
That afternoon, as his plane appeared on Soviet radar, missiles on the ground were aimed in his direction, and two Soviet jets were launched to investigate… but not a single shot was fired, even as he got closer and closer to Moscow.
Finally around 7:00 p.m., Rust flew over the city, and he made an attempt to land in Red Square. Because there were so many people milling around, though, he aimed instead for a nearby bridge.
Upon touchdown, Rust taxied the Cessna to a parking lot near Red Square and, yes, was promptly arrested.
Rust was sentenced to four years in a prison camp, but after less than a year he was released, in the wake of the US-USSR anti-nuke agreement, as a gesture of goodwill.
He may have been a little nutty (with a titch of a death wish), but Rust did make headlines in 1987, and while he’s in no way responsible for the end of the Cold War, he may actually have played a little bit of a part… and that’s good enough for us.
We ♥ the Flight of Mathias Rust.