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Another W. German Pilot Flies Small Plane Into Soviet Airspace

June 01, 1988|Associated Press

STOCKHOLM — One year to the day after 19-year-old Mathias Rust stunned the world by flying a light plane through Soviet air defenses to Red Square, another West German pilot flew a similar craft across the Soviet border unhindered.

Andreas Sommer said he blundered across the border in bad weather Saturday in a single-engine Cessna 150 and did not know it was the anniversary of Rust's flight.

The incident caused a diplomatic flurry, particularly because of suspicions that the flight had something to do with the Moscow summit between President Reagan and Kremlin leader Mikhail S. Gorbachev.

Sommer, a part-time Hamburg bus driver with 23 years as an amateur pilot, told a reporter in Stockholm he was unaware that Saturday was the anniversary of Rust's flight, also made in a Cessna. He said he hopes the summit "brings peace and detente," but his vacation flight had nothing to do with it.

Rust now is serving a four-year prison term in Moscow.

In Oslo, Foreign Ministry spokesman Lasse Seim said the plane crossed the Soviet border while on a 100-mile flight from Ivalo, Finland, to Kirkenes on Norway's Barents Sea coast.

He said it went deeper into Soviet territory when it returned to Ivalo on Sunday, penetrating "several kilometers" for as long as 30 minutes. A kilometer is slightly more than six-tenths of a mile.

Asked whether he thought the incursion was deliberate and timed to the anniversary, Seim said, "We don't know, but it seems likely, doesn't it?"

He added, however, "No one wants to blow up this case."

Sommer, whose age was given in one news report as 48, said he lost his way in a cloud cover while flying at 1,000 feet and did not know he had strayed over the Soviet Union until Norwegian air controllers warned: "You are on Soviet territory. Return."

"The weather at the time was so bad I was prepared to land any place, but there were only lakes and forests, and I decided to return to Finland immediately," Sommer told a reporter for the Aftonbladet newspaper.

Sommer said he saw no Soviet aircraft scrambling to intercept him and had no contact with Soviet air controllers.

Sommer stopped in Sweden on his way home to Hamburg, where Rust began his flight to Moscow by way of Helsinki. Rust landed just outside the Kremlin walls on May 28, 1987.

Rust's flight exposed weaknesses in Soviet air defense and caused a shake-up in the Soviet military.

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