from Boneyard Safari
28 May 1987: At 12:21 p.m., 18-year-old Mathias Rust, a pilot with just 50 flight hours’ experience, took off from Malmi Airport, Helsinki, Finland, aboard a rented Reims Aviation F172P Skyhawk II, D-ECJB. At 6:43 p.m., he landed the Skyhawk in Red Square, Moscow, Union of Soviet Socialist Republics.
Rust was prosecuted for entering Soviet air space without authorization and “malicious hooligansim” and sentenced to four years in prison.
Rust was intercepted several times during the flight but fighter pilots and ground defenses could not get permission to shoot him down. Adding to the embarrassment, Rust was on the ground in Red Square for two hours before anyone thought to arrest him.
Rust was freed in 1989 as a good will gesture to the west. How good it was is open to question since the 18 year old aviation hooligan has grown up to be a chronic lowlife. Soon after his return to West Germany he was convicted of stabbing a woman co-worker who had rejected his advances. She was not seriously injured and he served only 15 months in prison for the crime. In 2001, he was fined 600 DM for stealing a cashmere sweater and in 2005 was required to pay 5000 Euros in restitution after being convicted of fraud. He now describes himself as an analyst at an investment bank in Zurich (!).
His aircraft, a rented Cessna 172 with West German registration G-ECJB, was returned and eventually made its way to the Deutsches Technikmuseum in Berlin, where it is currently on display.
The incident gave rise to many urban legends and rumors, mainly that one or more Soviet officers were executed over the incident. In fact, several very senior generals were dismissed. It is thought that this helped Mikhail Gorbachev’s reforms by giving him an excuse to get rid of hard-line generals who opposed his programs, thereby damaging their anti-reform political patrons.
More: Mathias Rust at wikipedia