The Landing

5 red square

Image: Google Maps

“I made it.” 18-year-old Mathias Rust had just landed his Cessna 172 on Bolshoy Moskvoretsky Bridge by St. Basil’s Cathedral near Red Square. He’d flown through some of the most heavily guarded airspace in the world and wasn’t shot down by Soviet Interceptors.

Mathias got out of his aircraft and was nervously greeted by passersby.

Older couple Valentin Popov and his wife Anna approached the pilot. They were astonished the Air Force had allowed this landing. “Where are you from, young man?”

“Germany.” They assumed he meant East Germany.

He knew he would be arrested soon by the KGB, but it didn’t matter. His flight from the Helsinki-Malmi Airport, over the Baltic, and into Russian airspace proved that a small aircraft could only be tracked intermittently.

Once they let him out of prison, he’d report his findings to the West German military. Their stealth planes would do a much better job.

My story is based on an actual event. On May 28, 1987, 18-year-old Mathias Rust, a German aviator with only about 50 hours of flight experience, flew a rented Cessna 172 from Helsinki, Finland to Moscow.

The link I provided above is to his Wikipedia page, which chronicles all of the details.

I changed the outcome and his intent quite a bit, turning him into a West German spy. At the time, Rust said “he wanted to create an ‘imaginary bridge’ to the East, and he has said that his flight was intended to reduce tension and suspicion between the two Cold War sides.”

I wrote this as a very minor “cold war thriller.”

This was written in response to the What Pegman Saw weekly photo prompt using a Google Maps view. Based on the prompt, you must write a short story/flash fiction of no more than 150 words.

For more stories based on this week’s prompt, visit

My word count is exactly 150.

17 thoughts on “The Landing

    • I remember reading about it in the news at the time (I was in my early 30s). It was an astonishing tale, all the more so because he made it all the way to Moscow without getting shot down or forced to land.

      Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks. It’s not so hard when you’ve lived through it.

      Truth be told, when I saw the photo prompt and the address, I was stuck for a story. So I opened the Wikipedia page for “Red Square” and started reading, seeing if I could find a hook. The only thing that drew me was the story about Rust.

      Liked by 1 person

  1. Dear James,

    I learn so much by reading and writing historical fiction. The internet is such a great source for research. I usually start in one place on the trail and find myself ending up in quite another. Good story.




  2. I never heard of this incident and so thanks for linking it – also – super clever idea to create a fiction piece based on it – tied in so well with the prompt. perfect.


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