Alexander Zuyev
Alexander Zuyev was a captain of the former-Soviet Air Force (VVS) who piloted
An aviator is a person who flies an aircraft. The first recorded use of the term was in 1887, as a variation of 'aviation', from the Latin avis , coined in 1863 by G. de la Landelle in Aviation Ou Navigation Aérienne...

 his Mikoyan MiG-29
Mikoyan MiG-29
The Mikoyan MiG-29 is a fourth-generation jet fighter aircraft designed in the Soviet Union for an air superiority role. Developed in the 1970s by the Mikoyan design bureau, it entered service with the Soviet Air Force in 1983, and remains in use by the Russian Air Force as well as in many other...

 to Trabzon
Trabzon is a city on the Black Sea coast of north-eastern Turkey and the capital of Trabzon Province. Trabzon, located on the historical Silk Road, became a melting pot of religions, languages and culture for centuries and a trade gateway to Iran in the southeast and the Caucasus to the northeast...

, Turkey
Turkey , known officially as the Republic of Turkey , is a Eurasian country located in Western Asia and in East Thrace in Southeastern Europe...

 on May 20, 1989.

Zuyev had married the daughter of the Chief-of-staff of the Air Division
Division (military)
A division is a large military unit or formation usually consisting of between 10,000 and 20,000 soldiers. In most armies, a division is composed of several regiments or brigades, and in turn several divisions typically make up a corps...

 at age of 25, and had applied for test pilot school at Autubisk due to his excellent performance but failed to get selected. Zuyev was bitter about this rejection and when his marriage fell into difficulties, coupled with his personal doubts in his beliefs of the Soviet system, he decided to defect to the United States of America.

The day before his defection he drugged his unit using a large amount of sleeping pills in a cake he baked. At this time a mechanic who came to shift change failed to awaken any of his comrades. Zuyev tried to disarm the mechanic, but failed, shot him with a pistol, wounding him in the process. The aircraft were almost ready and Zuyev took off on one of them. After takeoff, he had planned to shoot other aircraft on the ground, but failed because he forgot to remove one of the two locks on the gun.

He was allowed to emigrate to the United States where he settled in San Diego, California
San Diego, California
San Diego is the eighth-largest city in the United States and second-largest city in California. The city is located on the coast of the Pacific Ocean in Southern California, immediately adjacent to the Mexican border. The birthplace of California, San Diego is known for its mild year-round...

 and opened a consulting firm. Zuyev also wrote a book titled Fulcrum: A Top Gun Pilot's Escape from the Soviet Empire (ISBN 0-446-51648). Originally Zuyev faced criminal charges such as hijacking
Aircraft hijacking
Aircraft hijacking is the unlawful seizure of an aircraft by an individual or a group. In most cases, the pilot is forced to fly according to the orders of the hijackers. Occasionally, however, the hijackers have flown the aircraft themselves, such as the September 11 attacks of 2001...

 in the Turkish courts, but the charges were dismissed for political reasons.

On Jan. 3, 1993, Zuyev revealed that the reason that Korean Air Lines Flight 007 succeeded in crossing over Kamchatka without being shot down was because Arctic gales had knocked out the Soviet radars on Kamchatka ten days previously.

On June 10, 2001, Alexander Zuyev was killed along with the famous aviator Jerry 'Mike' Warren in a crash near Bellingham, Washington
Bellingham, Washington
Bellingham is the largest city in, and the county seat of, Whatcom County in the U.S. state of Washington. It is the twelfth-largest city in the state. Situated on Bellingham Bay, Bellingham is protected by Lummi Island, Portage Island, and the Lummi Peninsula, and opens onto the Strait of Georgia...

, USA when their Yakovlev Yak-52 entered and failed to recover from an accelerated stall.


  • Fulcrum: A Top Gun Pilot's Escape from the Soviet Empire, by Alexander Zuyev, 1992, ISBN 978-0446516488

See also

  • Viktor Belenko
    Viktor Belenko
    Viktor Ivanovich Belenko is Soviet defector and aerospace engineer and lecturer. Belenko was sentenced to death in the Soviet Union for state treason. He was born in Nalchik, Russian SFSR in a Ukrainian family...

  • List of Cold War pilot defections
  • Korean Air Lines Flight 007
  • List of Eastern Bloc defectors
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