Rust showed how easy it was for a foreign aircraft to fly through one of the world’s most heavily guarded airspace to within kamikaze distance of the Kremlin.
1987: Mathias Rust, a West German teenage flying ace, has landed his Cessna in Moscow’s Red Square, much to the embarrassment of the USSR.
As a one-man Luftwaffe, he penetrated the Soviet Baltic and flew to the Russia capital, unmolested.
Shortly after midday on May 28, 1987, Rust took off from an airfield near Helsinki after filing a flight plan to an airfield near Stockholm.
Once out of Helsinki airspace, he reversed course and headed South-East across the Gulf of Finland. When he left Finnish radar screens, he dropped to a low altitude.
As it happened, the Soviet radar was specially designed to deal with low-flying targets such as he provided swanning along at 100 feet. Rust then set a dead reckoning with his compass and used Soviet radio beacons to aid navigation. For much of his flight, his speed was just over 100 m.p.h. A Soviet fighter was sent up to take a look at him, mistook the Cessna for a friendly Finnish aircraft, and went home.
Using the rotating red stars on the Kremlin towers as wind socks, Rust circled the area three times before putting the aircraft down on the cobblestones near St. Basil’s Cathedral.