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Tupolev Tu-144


Tupolev's son, Alexei A Tupolev, was primarily responsible for the design of the Tu-144 supersonic transport, begun in the early 1960s, the prototype being flown on 31 December 1968.

The aircraft has an ogival delta wing with the powerplants grouped at the rear of the wing and a drooping nose to improve the pilot's view in low-speed regimes. The Russian jetliner also featured a nose that is lowered hydraulically 12 degrees to improve cockpit vision during takeoff and landing. The wings are of double-delta design with a sweep-back of 70-75 degrees on the inboard portions and about 40 degrees on the outboard sections. The main landing gear had 12 tires each (three rows of four). The tall, spindly nose gear had just two wheels. A maximum 130 passengers could be accommodated in an all-economy version, but the initial model seated 98 in mixed classes (18 in first class and 80 in tourist).

It flew at Mach 1 four months before the Concorde and at Mach 2 six months before its western rival (May 26, 1970); moreover, the entire test programme up to the autumn of 1971 had been carried out by a single prototype.

The first airliner to have exceeded Mach 2. In May 1971 it made its first appearance outside the USSR, at the Paris Air Show.

The Tu-144 was reported to be in production with design changes incorporated following the tragic crash of a prototype aircraft at the 1973 Paris Show.

The production version had a flight crew of three and 140 passengers as standard, and began 50 proving flights with cargo between Moscow and Alma Ata, the capital of Kazakhstan, on 26 December 1975. The distance of 1,864 miles (3000 km) was covered in a flight time of 1 hour 59 minutes. This variant also had retractable but non-moving canard foreplanes, lengthened fuselage, redesigned intakes, increased span and removal of pilots' ejection seats.

Almost five years behind schedule, supersonic passenger services with the Tupolev Tu-144 were inaugurated by Aeroflot between Moscow and Alma Ata on 1 November 1977. 102 revenue services were flown before operations ended prematurely on 1 June 1978 after a fatal accident.

The air conditioning system needed to keep the airframe cool at Mach 2 was ineffective and the cabin was uncomfortably hot. It was also so noisy, along with the engines, that passengers were issued with earplugs during flight.


A modernised and modified version, the Tu-144D, with new engines, entered service in June 1979, with more economical Kolesov turbofan engines.

The last of 17 production models were the five Tu-144Ds, which had larger engines and greater range. Most had been retired by the late 80s, with only a handful retained for various research tasks at Zhukovskii.



The NATO reporting name is 'Charger'.

In November 1996 a converted Tu-144D flew again as the Tu-144LL, used thereafter for an international High-Speed Civil Transport research program to assist in the development of a nextgeneration supersonic transport.





Engines: 4 x Kuznetsov NK-144 afterburning turbofan, 38,580 lb (17,500 kg)
Wing span: 90 ft 8.5 in (27,65 m)
Length: 190 ft 3.5 in (58.00 m)
Height: approx 43 ft 3 in (13.20 m)
Wing area: 438 sq.m / 4714.59 sq ft
Gross weight: 395,000 lb (179,150 kg)
Empty weight: 85000 kg / 187394 lb
Fuel capacity 209,440 lbs
Operating altitude 18000 m / 59,000 ft
Max cruising speed: 1,550 mph (2,500 km/h) at 65,000 ft (20,000 m)
Range: 3510 nm / 4,040 miles / 6,500 km with 121 Passengers
Takeoff distance (balanced) 9,845 ft
Landing roll 8,530 ft
Accommodation: Crew of 3 and up to 130 passengers.


Tupolev Tu-144




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