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Airport history

Vnukovo Airport is one of the largest airports in Russia. Over the years, it has witnessed and participated in great events relating to both the history of our country and the history of civil aviation. Vnukovo Airport has a special status: it has been servicing flights for the country’s top officials, heads of foreign states and governments arriving in Russia for more than 70 years. 

Vnukovo Airport started operating ahead of schedule on July 2nd, 1941, as the Great Patriotic War broke out. The airport became a base for the Moscow Airborne Special Purpose Group (MAGON) which also included Vnukovo pilots. Vnukovo employees contributed greatly to the Victory, making over 60,000 missions to the front line and behind enemy lines, delivering about 300,000 soldiers to the front, and transporting more than 365,000 tons of cargo to Sevastopol, Stalingrad, besieged Leningrad and other cities. In May 1945, one of the most important events in the history of the airport happened. Vnukovo MAGON pilots flew to Moscow in Li-2 airplanes and delivered the German notice of Surrender.

When the Great Patriotic War ended in September 1945, the country’s leaders decided to transfer the Central Moscow Airport from the M.V. Frunze aerodrome on the Khodynka field to Vnukovo and made it the main civil airport of the capital. In 1946, Vnukovo created air groups for intra-union and international communications that formed the Moscow Transport Aviation Administration in 1952.

In September 1950, Vnukovo formed the 21st unit for training flight specialists of the airport. In July 1954, Vnukovo’s linear operational workshops were established for the maintenance of aircraft equipment.

Vnukovo Airport has long been creating and verifying passenger service technologies and testing the skills of the best aviation specialists. It was this place where Il-12, Il-14, Il-18, Il-86, Tu-104, Tu-114, Tu-124, Tu-134, Tu-154, Tu-204, and the Tu-204-300 made their first passenger flights.

Another important milestone in the airport’s history happened on April 14th, 1961. Two days after the historic launch of the Soviet spacecraft, the Earth’s first ever cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin arrived at Vnukovo Airport from the Baikonur Cosmodrome. Since then, solemn meetings for cosmonauts at Vnukovo have become a tradition. Almost all past and current space crews have arrived here, including Valentina Tereshkova, the first female cosmonaut, and Alexei Leonov, the first person to walk in outer space.

On February 9th, 1966, by the Decree of the Presidium of the Supreme Soviet of the USSR, the staff of the Moscow Transport Department for Civil Aviation was awarded the Order of Lenin. On December 11th, 1987, by the Decree of the Supreme Soviet of the USSR. The Order of Lenin was passed on to staff at the Vnukovo Production Association, a legal successor of the Moscow Transport Administration for Civil Aviation, that was abolished in 1986.

In 1980, Vnukovo Airport welcomed participants and guests of the Olympics. Preparations for the large-scale sports event began well in advance. It was a challenge that the Vnukovo team successfully overcame. As a result, the airport managed to significantly increase its capacity and modernize the equipment in the terminals.

On July 28th, 1981, the staff at the Vnukovo Production Association for Civil Aviation was awarded the Order of the Red Banner of Labor, for merits in the production and implementation of new aviation equipment.

The early 90’s brought serious changes to the airport. In 1993, Vnukovo Airport (OJSC) was established on the basis of the Vnukovo Production Association for Civil Aviation by the order of the Federal Agency for State Property Management. In 2001, the Government of Moscow established Vnukovo International Airport OJSC. The airport constructed a new international terminal in April 2004.

On November 18th, 2003, the President of the Russian Federation Vladimir Putin signed the Decree for the ownership transfer of federally owned shares of Vnukovo Airport OJSC to the city of Moscow. This step marked the new beginnings of Vnukovo International Airport.

Vnukovo started to modernize its airfield complex in 2004 as part of the Decree of the Government of Moscow No. 541-PP, «On the concept of development at Vnukovo Airport.» As a result, in 2008, the airport opened a new command and control center with the latest equipment for air traffic service and navigation, including a powerful computing system for processing information and data received from radar stations.

In October 2009, the airport presented a reconstructed Runway No.2 which is 3,060 m in length and equipped with the latest light signaling equipment. In December 2013, the reconstruction of Runway No.1 was completed. The renewed Runway No.1, with its length increased to 3,500 m can receive any type of aircraft, including the Airbus A380 and the Boeing 747, even in the most difficult of weather conditions. Vnukovo is the only airport in Moscow that reconstructed its airfield while still operating as normal. After that, the capacity of the two Vnukovo runways increased to 85 operations per hour.   

The most important stage of the large-scale reconstruction was building and opening Terminal A in December 2012. It was awarded a gold medal at Brussels-Eureka 2006, the World Salon of Innovations, Scientific Research and New Technologies. In 2014, the terminal won the Khrustalny Dedal architectural award at the Zodchestvo festival and in 2015, it won a grand-prix at the Zolotoe Sechenie competition. The newly improved Terminal A at Vnukovo Airport with a total area of 270 thousand square meters and a capacity of up to 35 million passengers a year, attracted the largest international air carriers which led to a significant increase in the company’s performance.

In 2017, the Vnukovo Airport team received a Letter of Сommendation for labor achievements and high performance from the President of the Russian Federation Vladimir Putin.

In 2018, the construction of DoubleTree by Hilton Moscow — Vnukovo Airport 4* had finished. The hotel has a total area of more than 30 thousand square meters in the terminal square and is connected to Terminal A by an underground passage.

Vnukovo International Airport was honored to be one of the transport complexes that received representatives and guests for the 2017 FIFA Confederations Cup, the 2018 FIFA World Cup in Russia, team delegations, referees and the fans.

During the 2018 World Cup, Vnukovo Airport hosted the national teams from Iran, Tunisia, and Germany. Vnukovo also hosted the flights for the national teams from Germany, Senegal, Iran and Croatia.

From June 12th till July 17th, 2018, Vnukovo International Airport served 2,766,000 passengers over 24,381 flights. The load peaked on July 16th when the airport set a record breaking the number of take-offs and landings in a single day — 910 flights. Thanks to the simultaneous operations of both intersecting runways developed specifically for Vnukovo Airport’s busy hours. On July 16th, it performed an unprecedented number of take-offs and landings in a single hour — 62 flights. Airplanes took off and landed at intervals of less than one minute which set an absolute record in the history of Vnukovo Airport. Overall in 2018 Vnukovo International Airport served a record number of 21,478,000 passengers.

In 2019, Vnukovo Airport broke its own record for passenger traffic serving more than 24 million passengers and showing the highest growth rate in the Moscow aviation hub. Thanks to this high performance, Vnukovo was recognized as the Best International Airport by the Air Gateway of Russia for three consecutive years (2018–2020) at the National Aviation Infrastructure Show (NAIS).

2019 brought a landmark event for the aviation complex: by the Decree of the President of the Russian Federation No. 246 dated May 31st, 2019, «On naming airports after eminent figures known for their special services to the Fatherland». Vnukovo Airport was named after the legendary aircraft engineer A.N. Tupolev associated with the origins of domestic aviation.

January 2020 marked a new important stage in the history of the airport. The beginning of the construction of the Vnukovo station which is to be part of the Kalininsko-Solntsevskaya metro line. This is the first metro station in Russia connecting a city metro line directly to an airport terminal.

2020 was a time of serious challenges that tested the strength of the entire aviation industry as in March the world was affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. Vnukovo International Airport followed the restrictions imposed in Russia and Moscow in particular as we implemented a number of measures to ensure passenger safety and to prevent the spread of the dangerous virus. Additionally, the airport received airplanes with humanitarian aid from other countries.

In February 2021, following the results of the global Airport Service Quality Assessment Program, the Airports Council International (ACI World) named Vnukovo one of the winners for focusing its attention on customers and ensuring passenger safety during the COVID-19 pandemic. At the 8th annual National Aviation Infrastructure Show (NAIS 2021), Vnukovo won the ‘Air Gateway of Russia’ award in the category called ‘Best Airport: Overcoming Challenges 2020’. According to ACI Europe in 2021, Vnukovo Airport was one of the top five European airports based on passenger traffic. In the same year, Vnukovo International Airport became the first Russian airport to receive the highest award at the ACI Europes, Best Airport Awards as a transportation hub serving 10 to 25 million passengers annually.

Today, Vnukovo continues to improve and grow together with its partner airlines. Thanks to a streamlined commercial policy, it keeps developing new domestic and international routes. 

Vnukovo International Airport couldn’t have been as successful without its hard working and well coordinated employees. Over the decades, the airport fostered many generations of experts that passed on their skills, experience, work ethic, dedication and love for their country.