Vnukovo Airport was experiencing heavy fog on November 5, 1946. Due to the resulting low visibility conditions and a high number of aircraft bound for Moscow, including an Aeroflot LI-2 (registration CCCP-L4181) that was being ferried from Voronezh to Moscow. The LI-2, along with a number of other planes, were put in a holding pattern for 75 minutes. These things are a common practice, but maybe not for so long.
Finally, at 5:45pm, local time, the crew of the LI-2 was cleared to land and began their approach, still in a thick fog. It was a difficult approach, and the crew decided to go around. In all, five ADF approaches under radar guidance were attempted. Unfortunately, during the fifth approach the plane suffered fuel exhaustion. Immediately, the plane lost altitude and struck light poles and crashed. Fog creates very unique problems, and to complicate matters, that night three Aeroflot aircraft also crashed near Vnukovo Airport, killing a total of 19 occupants.
The first one, Aeroflot LI-2 (registration CCCP-L4181) crashed near Yamshchina, Moskovskaya, Russia. The determined cause was fuel exhaustion after being in a holding pattern for two hours, killing all five crew on board. Then, an Aeroflot C-47 (registration CCCP-L946) crashed in fog at Vnukovo Airport while attempting a go-around after being in a holding pattern for two hours, killing 13 of the 26 on board. Finally, an Aeroflot LI-2 (registration CCCP-L4207) crashed at Vnukovo Airport after repeated landing attempts due to fuel exhaustion after being in a holding pattern for 75 minutes, killing one of 26 on board.
The Vnukovo Airport is Moscow’s oldest operating airport. Originally opened for military operations during the Second World War, it became a civilian facility after the war. The Soviet government approved its construction in 1937, because the older Khodynka Aerodrome, which was located much closer to the city center, was becoming overloaded. That airport closed by the 1980s. Vnukovo was built by several thousand inmates of Likovlag, which was a Gulag concentration camp created specifically for this purpose. Vnukovo opened on July 1, 1941. While the airport was old, it was not the cause of the November 5, 1946 crashes. More likely the pilots and flight controllers, who were preoccupied with the fog, simply forgot to monitor the fuel levels, and missed the fact that they were dangerously low. It is odd, however, that three were missed at the same time, and very sad that 19 people lost their lives because of it.