YouTube - Tupolev Tu-144
4 x 55,074 lbs. ea.
215 ft. 6 in.
95 ft. 6 in.
The Tupolev Tu-144 is the world's fastest airliner.
The first flight was on Dec. 31, 1968. It preceded the Concorde's first flight that took place on March 2, 1969.
On June 5,1969 the Tupolev Tu-144 became the first transport aircraft to exceed the speed of sound and on July 15, 1969 it became the first transport aircraft to fly at double the speed of sound.
The aircraft went in to service on Dec. 26, 1975 flying mail and freight. Passenger service started in Nov. of 1977 and ran through June 1, 1978 for a total of 55 flights.
Freight only service began again on June 23, 1979. Including the 55 passenger flights, Tupolev Tu144 aircraft flew 102 scheduled flights before commercial services ended.
Aeroflot continued to fly the airliner after the official end of service, with non-scheduled flights ending in 1987.
The development of the Tupolev Tu-144 is said to be closely related to spying on Aerospatiale, builder of the Concorde, even though the Tu-144 flew first.
The story goes that the Russians came into possession of some early supersonic transport pre-prototype documentation. The documentation was not sufficiently developed to be used as any thing more than a guide to development ideas of engineers. Certainly these documents alone could not have been used to build the aircraft.
At first glance the similarities of the Tu-144 to the Concorde are, on their surface, many. However there are extensive differences between the aircraft. A side-by-side look at the two aircraft reveals major differences in their wing shapes and engine nacelles. Internally the two aircraft have differences too numerous to list.
On June 3, 1973 a Tupolev Tu-144 crashed during a demonstration flight at the Paris Air Show. Witnesses said that it broke up when attempting to pull out of a dive.
It is said that the airliner was forced to dive in order to avoid a collision with a Mirage fighter aircraft that was closing in on it to photograph it. While the French admit to the presence of the Mirage, they say it had nothing to do with the crash.
Another explanation of the crash is that the Russian engineers bypassed safety devices that were placed in the Tupolev Tu-144 so that it would have better performance than that of the Concorde while being exhibited. It is said that during its steep climb the aircraft stalled resulting in a dive from which it could not recover.
A third theory is that the Concorde designers knew of the Russian spying and purposely put fatal flaws in the plans that they let the Russians steal. The Russians never caught the flaws and these caused the fatal crash when pushed to its limits.
A total of 16 Tupolev Tu-144 aircraft were built.