The official opening of Moscow’s International Sheremetyevo Airport took place 50 years ago, on June 2, 1960. Rumor has it that it was Nikita Khrushchev who initiated the construction of the airport. The Soviet leader was so impressed with the size of London’s Heathrow airport that he decided to create something like that in the USSR. It is worthy of note that Russia’s most renowned air gate used to be a secret military object.
Nowadays Sheremetyevo has two parallel runways 3,550 and 3,700 meters long. The runways can accept all types of aircraft, both domestic and foreign. The passenger traffic of all terminals of the airport made up over 14.7 million people last year, which corresponds to over 3,500 passengers an hour.
Nikita Khrushchev: Those Russians. Rare Photo Collection
The airport was originally built as a military object called Sheremetyevsky. The decree about the construction of the Central Airdrome of the Air Force near the settlement of Chashnikovo on the outskirts of Moscow was issued on September 1, 1953. The first echelon of military builders arrived on October 25.
The soldiers and officers, who took part in the secret construction project, were living in tents near theforest. A small settlement appeared on the site very soon: barracks, 12 small apartment buildings, a boiler house and a cement plant. A gigantic isle was cut through the forest, where the concrete runway was later built; approach railway lines were built nearby. The living conditions were very tough, there were no roads, but the work was conducted day and night.
The new airdrome was named after the settlement of Sheremetyevsky. Vasily Borisov, a renowned pilot, Soviet Union Hero and a participant of the Great Patriotic War, became the first chief of the airport.
The airport was put in operation on October 7, 1957 to celebrate the 40th anniversary of the Great October Revolution. That day, 18 intercontinental strategic Tu-95 bombers landed on the runway one after another. The military life of the airport was not long, though.
Nikita Khrushchev, First Secretary of the Central Committee of the Communist Party, decided to reorganize the airport and make it a civil international airport. Khrushchev landed in Sheremetyevsky after his visit to England, where he was greatly impressed with London’s Heathrow airport. When he got off the plane and looked around, he said that it was about time Moscow should have a large airport too.
As a result, Sheremetyevo airport was made on the base of the military airdrome. The first civil plane landed on the new airport on August 12, 1959 – it was a Tu-104 plane flying from Leningrad.
The first international flight (Sheremetyevo-Schenefeld, Germany) was performed on June 1, 1960 on board the Il-18 plane. The official opening of the civil airport took place on June 2, 1960. The international air group of Aeroflot, the only airline in the USSR during that period, was transported from Vnukovo to Sheremetyevo. The new international airport organized flights to 23 foreign countries. During the first year of operation, Sheremetyevo served 50,000 passengers.
In 1961, Sheremetyevo started working with special charter and regular flights to Cuba, the USA, Mexico, Argentina and Australia. The Moscow-Havana-Moscow flight was the most distant, longest and complicated route for Aeroflot (31,000 kilometers).
By 1970, Sheremetyevo had become the largest airport in the USSR. It served over 1 million passengers a year. In 1985, the yearly passenger traffic increased to 3.5 million. The same year, the airport started working with cargo transportation.
These days, Sheremetyevo prepares to celebrate its 50th anniversary.