What would a teenager possibly do if he decided that he’s had enough of the political tension known as the Cold War during its era? Write an open letter? Start a protest and distribute leaflets? Maybe join an organization denouncing the conflict? To the 19-year-old amateur pilot named Mathias Rust, the best thing to do was create an “imaginary bridge” to promote world peace. Do you think it worked?

The Beginning

It all started when Mathias Rust got fed up with the whole Cold War thing between the United States and the Soviet Union that was going on and decided that he would end the tension. The only flying experience that he had at that time was about 50 hours. He was definitely inexperienced. To him, that was more than enough to enable him to carry out his plan of creating an “imaginary bridge,” perhaps to bridge the gap between these two nations?

“I thought every human on this planet is responsible for some progress and I was looking for an opportunity to take my share in it,” he said.

Flight map of Mathias Rust in May 1987. (Europe_laea_location_map.svg: Alexrk2 Flugroute von Mathias Rust.svg: NordNordWest derivative work: AkeosnhaoeCC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons)

On May 13, 1987, he began his mission by departing from Uetersen near Hamburg on a Reims Cessna F172P that he rented out. Before flying, he modified it by removing some of the seats and replacing them with auxiliary fuel tanks. For the next two weeks, he traveled across northern Europe, visited the Faroe Islands, spent a week in Iceland, and even dropped by Bergen on his travel back. He thought of attempting to reach Moscow, something that he was quoted saying even before his departure. He went to Iceland, where he visited the site where the United States and the Soviets had unsuccessful talks in October 1986. He went there to test his piloting skills.