#ARCTIC. #SIBERIA. THIS IS TAIMYR. By the end of the 1950s, the air gates operating in Norilsk – the Nadezhda airport and the Nezhdanny winter airfield – could no longer cope with the number of air passengers. Moreover, at that time, the Nadezhda airport could not accept either the Tu-104 or the Il-18, which were already operating on the southern routes.
In July 1961, the city executive committee allocated land plots in the area of the Alykel station for the construction of a new airfield and airport. But the plant itself was not able to pull the construction of Union significance.
“And here we were lucky”, Vladimir Dolgih, director of the Norilsk plant, recalled later, “the military began to deploy rocket launchers in the Norilsk region, they were interested in the airfield. Preparatory work was already underway, but at a snail’s pace, and the Ministry of Civil Aviation did not particularly interfere in this matter, hoping to rake in the heat with the wrong hands. We decided to intimidate them and informed them about Nikita Hrushchev’s desire to fly to Norilsk. How could we welcome the distinguished guest without a year-round four-kilometer strip. The ministry began to stir and decided to build an airport in Alykel, 40 kilometers from Norilsk. We offered our contribution to this business – stripping works, production of a part of airfield slabs, allocation of building materials, mining equipment. The military brought in construction troops. The matter began to move on a practical footing”.
In the summer of 1964, Hrushchev scheduled a trip to Norilsk indeed. That served as a powerful impetus to accelerate the construction of a permanent airfield in Alykel.
The residents of Norilsk developed a program for the stay of the first person of the state, everything in the city was cleaned, repaired, and put in order. But on the eve of Hrushchev’s arrival in the northern city, it became known: the Italian communist Palmiro Togliatti, who was resting there, died in Yalta, and the head of state flew to Crimea.
“That is how Hrushchev’s failed visit to Norilsk ended. But even his intention to visit the city and the combine had a positive meaning for us: the ministries and departments became more sympathetic to the Norilsk problems – not every city was lucky to receive a visit of the leader of the state”, Dolgih recalled.
In August 1964, the Alykel airport was accepted into operation as a temporary one. In 1965, it was commissioned, although construction was still in progress. Continuous operation began in 1966. In 1977, it first received a passenger Tu-154.
In 2016 to 2020, a large-scale reconstruction was carried out at the airport.
In the last issue of the History spot photo project, we talked about how the first Norilsk ice cream was produced in waffle cups.
Text: Svetlana Samohina, Photo: Nornickel Polar Division archive