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Aug-13-2010 23:30printcomments

Soviet Shuttle Spare Bar in Simferopol

The history of a Crimean airport that used to be the region's busiest.

Space shuttle image
All photos courtesy: Oleg Shirokov

(SIMFEROPOL, Ukraine) - In January 2011 we will observe the 75th anniversary of Simferopol airport.

Its history began 21 January 1936, when it was decided by the Council of people commissars of Crimean Authonomy to create a flying field to the north of Simpferopol.

This place was not chosen by chance - but for its position; a latitude of 450 N, longitude 340 E. The opening of the first airline route between Simferopol and Moscow took place in May, 1936.

The airplanes that flew through Ukraine and aviapark before WWII, mainly consisted of “PO-2” or“kukuruznik” (“of сorn”) aircraft. The kukuruznik got such a nice nick-name thanks to Nikita Khruschov. He was excited about starting to grow corn (kukuruza) on the Ukrainian fields back in the 1950's. This plane is very small (1pilot). It was used to spray kukuruza fields with chemicals, whatever they were at the time.

The Simferopol airmen also gave help to the villager's needs in these ferrous birds.

During WWII, the pilots of this airport fought the Nazis as part of the Special Black Sea squadron, which took a direct part in the liberation of Sevastopol in 1944.

In September, 1957, the new building of air terminal was created and pilots began to use the Il-12, Il-14 airplanes, and Mi-4 helicopters.

In the summer of 1960, a squadron of Tu-104 aircraft was assembled, and these were the first Soviet jet passenger planes.

In addition, a 352 room hotel was created, and also a bloc of new houses for airmen and their families.

In 1977 they started construction of the second air strip designed to accommodate all types of airplanes without limitation of their flight mass, including airplanes Il-76, Il-86, and the Il-62 and the Tu-204.

The Tu-204, created in 1989, has a wingspan of 41.8 meters (137 ft 2 in) and a length of 46.14 metres (151 ft 5 in).

NASA and Soviet shuttles

A special tunnel was constructed under the air strip. It is well known to those who travel from Simferopol in Evpatoriya. This line was planned as a spare landing bar for Soviet Shuttles.

Three airlines were created for those space buses – first “Jubilee” at Baykonur (Kazakhstan) – main Soviet Space Centre and two spare ones – “Eastern” at the Pacific Seashore and “Western” in Simferopol.

All the air bars were built approximately on the 45th parallel for better landing. Oregon coincidentally, is also located on the 45th parallel.

On 18 November 1988 the first and the last multiple use spaceship flight was successfully conducted.

It is unknown why the Soviet Union decided not to continue the Shuttle space program. Most assume that it was economically unprofitable.

It is true that the United States also closed this 20-year program and also because of economic considerations.

In subsequent years the Soviet Union, and later Russia, used ordinary rockets which were always popular in the international market. The first and the last Soviet Shuttle was sold two years ago at auction for 20 million dollars.

Now the Simferopol airport is the number two airport in Ukraine; the largest is the international airport “Borispol” (Kiev).

From the capital of Crimea, their planes fly to 70 Ukraine cities, CIS countries, and to distant foreign places. In the Soviet era all the flights around all 15 republics were considered domestic. No customs, no additional documents to fill out. Nowdays, flights from Russia to Ukraine, from Ukraine to Belarus and so on are all international flights, since every republic is now a different country.

In the past, two companies here promised prices on flights which compare to the cost of a journey on a train!

And what now? It is possible to see that the load of two basic terminals at the airport have been somewhat redistributed.

In the past Soviet passengers passed through the basic terminal, and there were not many foreign charter flights. The patterns are about the same today.

And all because of flights to and from Moscow and other capitals of CIS, now also international trips! This is the place where a large group of Moscow schoolboys- sunburnt in summer 2010, in Crimea, jostled and made noise.

The increase of “international” flights, of course added work for custom services which in the Soviet time, were not almost claimed.

The hall of internal trips are similar to those in the past. The same numerous crowd of resorts, and also people standing with the cards. Room for the night, cash exchanges and booths with souvenirs.

In the building there is a map of the airport, but that generated questions. Why all all of the names only in Russian? Is it not interesting for the foreigners, for example – where is a hotel or customs area?

From the airport you can go to Simferopol or Black Sea towns by bus or by the most ecological transport – by the trolleybuses.

Two foreigners who looked like Indians, asked me in English "how they can reach the railroad station"?

I told them: 'this is the same exit for air terminal workers – and the only place where they can board bus #115 and trolleybus #2, to their destination'.

It was possible to do inscriptions about it in Russian and English.

And I would like to say: "Fly with the different airlines of Ukraine".


Oleg Shirokov lives in the historic Russian Federation city of Simferopol, Ukraine, which is the capitol of Crimea and quite interestingly, one of Salem, Oregon's four Sister Cities. We look forward to sharing more of his reports from a very distant, artful and romantic part of the world.

Before reporting news, Oleg work as the translator for 15 years, gaining valuable experience in specialized areas such as software localization, hardware, telecommunications and technical marketing. He also worked as the programmer for 8 years, and serves clients as a translator.

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Sean Flynn was a photojournalist in Vietnam, taken captive in 1970 in Cambodia and never seen again.