Origins of Ukrainian civil aviation
History of Ukrainian civil aviation starts in our city. In Kharkiv on 26 March 1923 joint-stock society “Ukrvozduhput” was founded. On 25 March 1924 first passenger flights of “Ukrvozduhput” were opened: Kharkiv – Poltava – Kiev and Kharkiv – Kirovograd – Odessa. Ground runway situated then in the northern end of the city behind the city park in Sokolniki. Now aircraft factory is in its place. In 1928 first international flights to Teheran were opened in Kharkiv.
Airport building in Sokolniki in 1924
Aircraft factory in the name of Council of Peoples Commissars was organized on the base of aircraft workshops of “Ukrvozduhput”. Development of production of aircraft in Sokolniki demanded a new place for civil airport. A place was chosen 12 kilometers south from the center of the city behind Osnova community. New airport started operations on 6 December 1932. The airport complex consisted of ground runway, two-storeyed building and other ground services. In august 1933 airport was given a name of P.P. Postyshev and in 1936 was acknowledged as the best airport in USSR. During pre-war years transit flights travelling from Moscow and Leningrad to Crimea and Caucasus landed in Kharkiv. The biggest passenger aircraft of that time, six – motored giant P-124 (ANT-20bis) landed here. It was carrying passengers on the route Moscow – Kharkiv – Mineral Waters. Airport was an independent self-supporting organization and was directly subordinated to the Head administration of civil aviation. In 1941 concrete runway was built. From the beginning of The Great Patriotic War all employees of the airport became members of the Kiev and Kharkiv special airgroups of Civil Airfleet.
Building of the Kharkiv Osnova airport in 1934.
The Great Patriotic War
In 1940-1941 two concrete 1000 meters long and 80 meters wide runways, steering pathways, aircraft parking places made of concrete and bricks, storages and two metal hangars were built. Airport was equipped with radiobeacon. During the war airport was severely damaged. Runways, steering pathways and parking places were not in the usable state. The research made afterwards says that there were 2-3 shell-holes on every 100 meters. The airport building and the hangars were destroyed too.
The existing airport building was developed after the war based on the typical project made by Moscow research institute (Elkin G., Krukov G., Mitkevich G.). The same project was used in Lviv, Sverdlovsk (now Ekaterinburg), Cheliabinsk and other cities of the USSR. Construction of the aiport building began in 1951 and its opening was dated to pompous celebration of the 300th anniversary of Russia and Ukraine reunion (1954). In 1958 a trolleybus line was laid from the centre of the city to the airport.
1955. New airport building.
The exterior of the airport building is remarkable for its magnificence characteristic for the stalinistic architecture of 30’s – 50’s. The central entrance is decorated with eight column portico with high parapet with complicated shape. Above the building is an elegant octahedral tower with hipped roof and spire with golden wreath The interiors are heavily decorated with moulded architectural details and paintings.
By the beginning of the 70’s Kharkiv airport served 600,000 passengers a year and in 10 years this number rose to 900,000. At the same time city was growing larger and came close to the airport. Due to this reason a construction of the new airport near Polevaya (30 km from Kharkiv) was prescribed in the Master plan of the city. Aircraft factories were supposed to move to the same place in perspective. Project of the new airport was developed by “Ukraeroproekt” instititute and of the airport building by “Ukrgorstrojproekt”. There were plans to connect new airport with the city by highway. In the late 80’s construction of the new runway was started, but work stopped when USSR collapsed.
Volumes of flights in the existing airport fell by dozens of times in the beginning of the 90’s. At the same time, a serious problem arised for Kharkiv airport because of absence of customs and passport control. They were not there due to the fact that during USSR Kharkiv airport never served international flights. In 1995 a reconstruction of the airport building was made, including creation of the customs and border controls. Runway was reconstructed as well, which allowed airport to run the flights on Il-76. In 2001 airport overlooking organization was switched from Ministry of Transport to municipal government. A new commune enterprise International airport “Kharkiv” was created.
In 2008 the whole complex of Kharkiv airport was rent by New Systems Ltd., a member of DCH investment group, for the period of 49 years. The runway as a strategic object is in possession of the government. Airport Consulting Vienna (Austria) and Airport Research Center (Germany) developed a project of major reconstruction of the airport which began in the second half of 2008. On 28 August 2010 a new contemporary passenger terminal was opened. Its’ area is 20000 sq.m. and carrying capacity is 650 passengers per hour. The old airport building was also reconstructed and transformed into terminal for VIP passengers. Terminal saved its stalinistic style, a new restaurant “Poliot” was opened, offering soviet-style cuisine and interior. A new hangar consisting of 3 sections was opened for parking and maintenance of private aircrafts. In 2001 a new 2500 m runway was built. It allows to serve big aircrafts for flights on medium distances. In 2013 airport successfully served landing and take-off of An-124 “Ruslan”, which has the highest take-off mass of 392 tons among all planes that have ever landed in Kharkiv airport. In 2013 DCH group bought old non-operational company “Kharkiv airlines” and invested in its development. According to the flight programme of the summer season, they are planning to make 32 flights are from three cities – Kharkiv, Kiev and Donetsk. First flights to be developed are flights to Greece, Tunis, Turkey and Egypt. This will allow to broaden the list of flights from Kharkiv airport and increase the passenger flow.
Euro – 2012
In summer 2012 airport has successfully served passengers who came to Kharkiv to watch football European championship. For the period of Euro-2012 the hangar was transformed into temporary terminal in order to unload the main one and increase the comfort of arriving and departing passengers. This allowed to serve 1500 take-offs and landings of aircraft carrying 52,500 passengers on board during the championship. This is three times more of take-offs and landing operations and the passenger flow is almost 4.5 times higher than during the same period of previous year. The biggest airline companies expressed their gratitude to the administration of Kharkiv airport. The organizers of Winter Olympics in Sochi in 2014 expressed their interest in cooperation with Kharkiv airport in order to inherit the experience and expertise gained through this event.
80th anniversary and …
On 6 December 2012 Kharkiv airport celebrated its 80th anniversary. Throughout this time it has undergone several major reconstructions, survived the war and the depression of the 90’s, but still remains the pride of the city. International airport “Kharkiv” is called today one of the most beautiful and functional city air gates in all Eastern Europe. During last few years 11 regular and 7 seasonal flights were opened increasing their number by times and international airlines were attracted. During 2009 airport served 196,000 passengers and by 2012 this number increased to 500,000 passengers and continues to grow. And the plan for the next few years is to serve more than 1 million passengers a year.