May 28, 1987: Mathias Rust lands in Moscow. Rust was a fairly inexperienced pilot with about 50 hours of flying time and from Wedel, Germany. He was 18 years old and rented a Reims Cessna F 172P D-ECJB on May 13. He flew out of Uetersen in northern Germany and near his hometown and headed northwest. His first stop was the Faroe Islands and then he spent a week in Iceland. While in Iceland, he visited Hofdi House where the year before the US and USSR had met for unsuccessful peace talks. After he left Iceland and headed east again, he landed in Bergen, Norway and Helsinki, Finland. The two week trip was a way for him to test his piloting skills.
He refueled at the Helsinki-Malmi Airport and told air traffic control he was planning on Stockholm, Sweden as his next stop which was west of his current location. He took off at 12.21 PM and as soon as he made his final communication with air traffic control, he turned his plane and headed east. Air traffic control tried to contact him as he was entering busy space near the Helsinki-Moscow route, but Rust had turned off his radio and was incommunicado. After disappearing from Finnish radar near Sipoo, it was presumed the young pilot had encountered an emergency and search and rescue was instituted. A Finnish Border Guard patrol boat located an oil slick in the approximate area where the plane went missing. An underwater search was performed without finding the plane.
Rust was still in the air and crossed the Baltic coastline over Estonia and turned towards Moscow. At 2.29 PM local time he appeared on Soviet Air Defense (PVO) radar. He did not respond to an IFF signal and was assigned combat number 8255. He was tracked by three different SAM divisions but there was no authorization to launch anything to stop him. All air defense was brought to readiness and two interceptors were sent to investigate. At 2.48 PM a white sport plane was found and yet there were orders to not engage the plane. The fighters soon lost contact with Rust. Two more times, he was investigated but not halted.
Around 7 PM, Rust arrived in the air space over Moscow. He had intended to land at the Kremlin but changed his mind, thinking of security issues. Instead, he chose the Red Square but heavy pedestrian traffic made that impossible. He set down on a bridge by St. Basil’s Cathedral. Rust was arrested two hours later. He was charged with many small crimes and was finally released in August 1988 as a goodwill gesture to the West. He was fined €7,500 by the Finnish government for the dive and the oil slick was never explained. Mikhail Gorbachev used the stunt as a way to clean house and fired several military leaders who let the teen through their “impregnable” defenses. It helped to bring an end to the Cold War. Rust has led a checkered life since, imprisoned for attempted manslaughter as well as other misadventures with the legal system.
An unbelievable dream had come true.
Something must be done to improve the situation (Cold War).
I shouldn’t have done it; otherwise I would have had an easier life.
Without that experience, I would have turned out like have today. – all from Mathias Rust
Also on this day: It Can’t Be Done – In 1937, the Golden Gate Bridge opened to traffic.
Beautiful Dining – In 1999, The Last Supper’s restoration was completed.
Sierra Club – In 1892, John Muir became the club’s first president.
Five – In 1934, the Dionne quintuplets were born.
Exact Date – Maybe – In 585 BC, a solar eclipse took place.