U.S. Pilot Flies Into Visa Problems on Moscow Trip
A 59-year-old American man flew a six-seater plane into Moscow without a visa and spent three days locked up in a hotel room by Soviet authorities before they allowed him to leave the country today.
The authorities permitted Millard Harman of Albany, N.Y., to fly out of Moscow’s Sheremetyevo airport today in his six-seat, single-engine Beechcraft 36. He was bound for Helsinki, Finland.
Harman, 59, claiming to have broken a world speed record, said he flew into the Moscow airport Tuesday from Helsinki in his tiny plane but spent the next three days locked up in a hotel room near the airport.
“From my time of arrival I’ve been under lock and key,” he said in a telephone interview before his departure. “It’s kind of disappointing.
“It was such a shame because this was a friendship mission--it’s not as though it had a military purpose or anything.”
Harman, a retired academic turned amateur pilot, said he spent two years and $100,000 arranging the good-will trip and getting permission from Soviet authorities, but one thing did not arrive in time--his visa.
The visa, though approved, was caught up in bureaucratic red tape.
He was hoping up to the last minute it would arrive, and a friend in Helsinki was even waiting to catch a commercial flight to Moscow to take it to him if it arrived after Harman’s departure, he said.
Soviet authorities refused to issue a duplicate visa despite pressure from U.S. diplomats.
Harman, however, decided to make the 561-mile trip anyway and achieve his dream of becoming the first person to fly a plane in the CIC class (weighing less than 3,865 pounds) from Helsinki to Moscow, he said.
The six-seater plane was loaded with good-will gifts to Soviet officials and flying clubs that included presents from relatives of the Wright brothers. U.S. officials said the gifts will be delivered.