Mathias Rust: Cessna Pilot who Landed in Red Square

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He was an amateur pilot with 50 hours’ flying experience under his belt when youthful folly, his political convictions, or probably a mixture of both prompted the lanky, bespectacled 19-year-old German to fly a rented single-engine Cessna through Soviet air defenses and land it next to Red Square.

Twenty-five years later, Mathias Rust’s escapade has endured as one of the most memorable footnotes of the cold war.

But with the benefit of hindsight, the now 44-year-old says his historic adventure was “irresponsible“.

As for fighting for world peace these days – well, he’s more interested in yoga and investment banking.

I was 19 back then, and the mix of my plan and my political convictions meant that it was really the only option for me,” he told Stern magazine. “From today’s perspective, I look at it differently of course. I would certainly not do it again and would consider my plans back then to be unrealistic … it was irresponsible.”

At the time Rust was dismissed as a crazy teenager.

He described his flight with a Cessna as a peace mission prompted by his disillusionment at the slow progress of disarmament talks.

But his mission to, as he saw it, unite east and west certainly had its ramifications, not least in giving the then Soviet leader, Mikhail Gorbachev, an excuse to sack 200 military officials including his defense minister and others who were opposed to his Glasnost reforms.

On 28 May 1987 – border guards’ day, which meant most guards were distracted by vodka and song and not paying attention to their radar screens – Rust landed his Cessna in the center of Moscow, near the Kremlin and Red Square.

Cessna

He was immediately surrounded by curious onlookers who engaged him in conversation and asked for his autograph. “I remember a blue Lada driving past me to my right, and the driver looking over to me with huge eyes,” he said.

It took two hours before officials came and arrested Rust and impounded his plane.

After a trial, he spent 14 months of a four-year sentence at Moscow’s Lefortovo prison.

He was released early in a goodwill gesture to the West by Gorbachev after he and the US President Ronald Reagan signed a treaty to eliminate intermediate-range nuclear weapons in Europe.

Cessna

The hero status that Rust won around the world was seriously denied shortly afterward when he stabbed a trainee nurse who had rejected his affection.

He was sentenced to two and a half years in a German prison.

In an attempt to throw light on his behavior, Rust told Stern: “I had a blackout. Otherwise, I’ve always been such a peace-loving, non-violent person, and to this day I’ve not been able to explain why it happened.”

He said he had always been considered a “bit of an oddball“, especially when he undertook his national service, and the fact Germans had considered his Moscow adventure to be an act of foolhardiness had made it hard for him to come to terms with real life.

Cessna

Twice married, he now works as an analyst for a Zurich-based investment bank, divides his time between Hamburg, Switzerland, and Asia, and is training to be a yoga teacher.

He said he had plans to open a yoga school in Hamburg.

The anniversary of his flight with the Cessna is being marked with the publication of a book and a film, for which he returned to Moscow for the first time but later failed to attend the premiere.

Cessna

Despite saying he would not repeat the flight, Rust said: “Despite saying he would not repeat the flight, Rust said: “Had I not done it I would have missed out on seeing and experiencing many things and something would be missing. It was my way of doing things.”

References:

*This article was originally published at www.theguardian.com

By | 2017-10-30T02:33:33+00:00 June 14th, 2017|Categories: Historical Events, Public Figures|Tags: , , |0 Comments

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