Losses and Aviation Safety

The story of Mathias Rust, the German teenager who landed his Cessna in Red Square

On May 28, 1987, at the height of the Cold War, Mathias Rust, a 19-year-old German teenager, flew a daring ‘peace mission’ from Helsinki to Moscow.

On May 28, 1987, at the height of the Cold War, Mathias Rust, a 19-year-old German teenager, flew a daring ‘peace mission’ from Helsinki to Moscow. He explains in his own words why he did it in the clip featured in this post.

Rust decided to make a statement with only 50 flying hours under his belt, to pull off what had seemed unthinkable.

When you see the footage, it’s insane how low he flew with all the air defenses you would think would be there, and especially for how he was passed by a MiG jet fighter.

“”It passed me on my left side so close that I could see the two pilots sitting in the cockpit and I saw of course the red star of the wing of the aircraft.”

Rust was terrified, but instead of attacking him, the jet passed by and disappeared into the clouds.

According to BBC, a combination of unbelievable luck and human error had led to Rust’s plane being mistaken for a friendly aircraft.

Mathias Rust’s Cessna preparing to land in Red Square.

A plane crash the previous day, and an ongoing rescue operation, along with training for new pilots had led to confusion in the air and in control centres.

Somehow Rust managed to make it hundreds of miles across Soviet airspace to the capital without any further contact from USSR defence forces.

He had wanted to bring down the plane in the middle of Red Square in order to make a big statement but the landmark was packed full of people.

The area he landed at also usually would’ve been impossible to land at as there usually are cables put up for a bridge nearby that would have been in the way, but by chance they were down for maintenance. He was going to land in the middle where all the parades are, but there were too many people so he landed nearby.

You would think the military would go crazy and arrest him in a few seconds, and they got to him of course. But they, and a lot of civilians gathered around him and the plane as well, and laughed about it, applauding his bravery.

Mathias Rust, the pilot of the incident, went through a hard labor camp for 14 months after his peace making actions. In 2012 , 25 years after the incident, he worked as a financial analyst and also a yoga instructor and he still had no regrets.

Dario Leone

Dario Leone is an aviation, defense and military writer. He is the Founder and Editor of “The Aviation Geek Club” one of the world’s most read military aviation blogs. His writing has appeared in The National Interest and other news media. He has reported from Europe and flown Super Puma and Cougar helicopters with the Swiss Air Force.

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