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Tupolev Tu-144

The Tupolev Tu-144 (NATO codename: Charger) was a supersonic airliner constructed under management of the Soviet Tupolev design bureau.

Tupolev Tu-144

The plane was developed by Alexei Andrejewitsch Tupolev. Western media nicknamed the plane Konkordski, because of its superficial similarity to Concorde. A prototype first flew on December 31, 1968 near Moscow, two months before the Concorde. The Tu-144 first broke the sound barrier on June 5, 1969, and on May 26, 1970, it became the first commercial transport to exceed Mach 2. At a Paris air show on June 3, 1973, the development program suffered a severe blow when one of the aircraft crashed. While in the air it undertook a violent turn to avoid a French Mirage fighter plane that was escorting it, broke up, and crashed, killing the six on board and eight on the ground.

The Tu-144 went into service on December 26, 1975, flying mail and freight between Moscow and Alma-Ata in preperation for passenger services, which commenced in November 1977. The first Tu-144D experienced an in-flight failure and crash landed with fatalities on May 23, 1978. The passenger flight on June 1, 1978 would be the Tu-144's 102nd and last.

A total of 17 Tu-144s were built, including the prototype and five Tu-144Ds, which featured more powerful engines and longer range. Although its last commercial flight was in 1978, production of the Tu-144 would not cease until six years later, in 1984.

In 1990, Tupolev approached NASA and offered a Tu-144 as a testbed for its High Speed Commercial Research program, intended to design a second-generation supersonic jetliner. In 1995, serial number RA-77114, a Tu-144D built in 1981 with only 82 hours, 40 minutes total flight time, was taken out of storage and after extensive modification at a total cost of $350 million was designated the Tu-144LL. It made a total of 27 flights in 1996 and 1997. In 1999, the project was cancelled. The Tu-144LL was reportedly sold in June 2001 for $11 million.

Specification

  • Power source: 4 Kuznetsov NK-144 turbo-fans of 20,000 kg afterburning thrust
  • Maximum cruising speed: 2,500 km/h (Mach 2.35)
  • Operational ceiling: 18,000 m
  • Range with maximum payload: 6,500 km
  • Empty weight: 85,000 kg
  • Maximum take-off weight: 180,000 kg
  • Span: 28.80 m
  • Length: 65.70 m
  • Wing area: 438 m²


Public domain image from NASA

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