First Tu-144 prototype at take-off in Berlin-Schönefeld , 1971
|Type:||Supersonic - airliner|
December 31, 1968
December 26, 1975
1965 to 1981
The Tupolew Tu-144 ( Russian Туполев Ту-144 , NATO code name : Charger, German warhorse ) was the world's first supersonic airliner . It was developed by the Tupolev design office of the Soviet aircraft designer Alexei Andrejewitsch Tupolew .
Project progress (1962–1984)
In the January 1962 issue of the magazine Technik der Luftflotte , Seljakow, Oscherow, Istomin and Dobrowski published the article Researching the parameters of a supersonic airliner . The foundation stone for the development of the Tu-144 was laid on July 26, 1963, by order of the Minister of Aviation Industry No. 276ss. This was preceded by the decision No. 768-271 of the Council of Ministers of the Soviet Union of July 16, 1963, according to which the Tupolev design office was obliged to build five airworthy copies in just four and a half years. The first machine should be ready in 1966. In 1962, France and Great Britain agreed to build the Concorde on the basis of work that had been ongoing since 1956 .
At that time, the Tupolev design office was the only one in the Soviet Union (and one of the few worldwide) that had experience in building supersonic aircraft ( Tu-22 bombers, Tu-128 long-range fighters) and large commercial aircraft ( Tu-104 , Tu-114 , Tu-124 ). The rival design office Myasishchev had so far designed the M-50 bomber (which almost reached Mach 1) and had not yet designed a passenger aircraft. Based on the American XB-70 , the office had discussed concepts for a supersonic M-56 bomber, which were later continued with work at Tupolew under the name Tu-135 . As with the USA the project for the NAC-60 from the XB-70 or the Convair model 58-9 from the Convair B-58 , the same was considered on the basis of the Tu-135 as a passenger version. Its chief designer Sergei Mikhailovich Jeger tried to convince Tupolev that this path would be promising, but there was pressure from outside to build an aircraft in the Concorde class. The rumors that penetrated the West only became more concrete when the Tu-144 became known at the Paris Air Show in 1965.
This task was not only carried out by the Tupolev design office, but also by many institutions such as ZAGI , ZIAM , Sibirna, and technical universities. Over 30 different basic layouts were designed, which differed in terms of engine arrangements, wings, and tail unit shape. When the basic layout had been determined, the tests were carried out with over 400 varying shapes, which were extensively tested in subsonic and supersonic wind tunnels. During the development of the Tu-144, water channels were also used for the first time to research the flow behavior of the aircraft shape. This flow system was the first to be built by the Tupolev design office and it was only later that this method became standard at ZAGI for aircraft development. In order to determine the appropriate wing shape, test gliders were also started with a solid fuel booster or triggered by a tow line on a Mi-4 helicopter. Miniaturized structural models with a transparent Plexiglas outer skin provided information on optimal strength while at the same time weight savings and flutter resistance.
Various test stands were produced on a 1: 1 scale, for example for the engine intakes, landing gear, cockpit or the entire fuel system of the Tu-144, including a walk-in wooden model for illustrative purposes. A scaled-down version of the Tu-144 was created as a structural model in which life cycle tests could already be simulated. Since frictional heat is generated over the entire fuselage during supersonic flights, conventional cabin air conditioning was not possible. To solve this challenge, a Tu-134 fuselage was completely housed in a heatable and coolable pressure chamber. The Tu-134 hull was accessible through lock passages in the pressure chamber. The body heat of the passengers was generated by heat lamps. It was thus possible to develop and test the vital cabin air conditioning. KB Tupolew was in close contact with the French Concorde developers at Aérospatiale . Mutual visits to the development centers and the exchange of research results provided both sides with insights for their own work on the supersonic passenger aircraft.
The flight behavior and air currents of double delta wings , as they were intended for the Tu-144, were tested from April 1968 with two converted MiG-21S, the MiG-21I (also MiG-21 "Analog"). The flights also served to familiarize other pilots with the peculiarities of the behavior of delta wings and to train them in the new take-off and landing procedures with the previously unusually high angles of attack . On the basis of these flights there were final corrections to the wing shape. According to the Tupolev engineer Alexander Poutschow, the decisions on the design of the floor plan were made under time pressure: “If we had been given two years more time, we would have built it differently”.
The first MiG-21I took off for its maiden flight on April 18, 1968 with pilot Gudkow. The test flights lasted well into 1969, although the prototype of the Tu-144 (the SSSR-68001 s / n 00-1) completed its maiden flight on December 31, 1968. The "21-11" reached a summit height of 19,000 meters and speeds of up to Mach 2.05. The two prototypes differed in particular in their wing geometry, which in the case of the "1" corresponded more to a pure double delta with a 78 ° to 55 ° leading edge sweep. The second machine was equipped with a wing closer to the ogive-shaped plan of the first prototype. On July 28, 1970, the first machine crashed during an aerobatic maneuver carried out at low altitude without a permit due to a control error, the pilot Viktor Konstantinov was killed.
The second machine was only completed in mid-1969, it was also used to instruct future Tu-144 pilots and was later handed over to the Monino Museum, where it is still located today. Due to the lower wing loading, the MiG-21I was significantly more agile than the series version of the MiG-21, some pilots were so enthusiastic about the handling that they suggested series production.
Construction of the prototype of the Tu-144 began in 1965. Three copies were built (the airworthy prototype 00-1 and two copies only for static tests). The pilots Edward Eljan and Mikhail Koslow carried out the maiden flight of the Tu-144 on December 31, 1968 near Moscow with the first prototype ( aircraft registration number SSSR-68001 ( Russian СССР-68001 )). On May 26, 1970, this prototype of the Tu-144 was the first civil airliner to reach twice the speed of sound ( Mach 2 ).
From 1969 until the discontinuation of the program in 1984, a pre-series model and 15 series machines were built, but the last machine was never completed. Nine aircraft came to Aeroflot, five of the remaining aircraft had only been used for mail flights. The last complete copy was completed in 1981, but did not make its maiden flight until October 4, 1984 and later served as a test aircraft in the Buran program.
The first Tu-144 flew in front of the Concorde and was the first civil aircraft to reach the speed of sound and double the speed of sound, but the immature design was already heavily modified when the second flying model was built. The engines, which were initially located in a compact block of four under the fuselage, generated considerable thermal loads on the fuselage structure and were therefore arranged in pairs under the wings in the new design. The long air inlets were shortened and the straight wing gave way to a construction with downward sloping wing tips. The ogive-shaped floor plan was practically replaced by pure double delta wings. The hull was lengthened by 7.63 meters. The new design of the wings and the changed engine arrangement made the Tu-144 even more similar to the Concorde. The main landing gear has now been pulled into the engine nacelles and the number of wheels has been reduced from twelve to eight. The series machines received retractable canard wings to improve slow flight characteristics. This was not possible with the first Tu-144, since the ejection seat openings of the crew were arranged at the position of the canards.
At Tupolev there were plans for a successor from 1979, the Tupolev Tu-244 , which were pursued until 1993. Outside of the socialist brother countries there would have been no market for the Tu-144 after the oil crisis ; Sales opportunities at Western companies were only painted on the wall by the lobby of the American SST in order to promote its construction.
Aeroflot and operations 1975–1978
In 1973 it was assumed that 30 aircraft had been ordered for Aeroflot and this number was expected to increase to 75 aircraft.
After the admission of mail and cargo flights on December 26, 1975, a problem with the fuel supply arose, which is why the admission of passenger flights was postponed. In November 1977 the passenger service between Moscow and Alma-Ata was opened with the first serial version Tu-144S. The regular weekly passenger flight followed in December 1977. Every flight was accompanied by the highest security precautions. A plane ticket for the Tu-144 cost 82 rubles at the time, which was about half the average monthly Soviet income.
During a test flight under Eljan on May 23, 1978, a Tu-144D (the SSSR-77111, s / n 06-2) of the extended-range second series version, which was being developed and tested at that time, crashed. Due to strong vibrations, a leak developed in a fuel line, with around 8 t of fuel accumulating in the nacelle of engine 3. A fire broke out, which is why the crew took engines 3 and 4 out of service. The additional failure of engine 2 forced an emergency landing in a field. Two flight engineers were killed. The then aviation minister Bugayev used this accident as an opportunity to discontinue scheduled operations after only 102 flights (55 of them with passengers) with a total of 3284 passengers. During a test flight on the route from Moscow to Khabarovsk on August 31, 1980, another serious accident occurred with the Tu-144D (SSSR-77113, s / n 08-1). In one of the engines, at twice the speed of sound, at a height of around 16,000 m, a compressor stage and damaged cells and blades burst. The machine went into a steep descent. The crew, under the command of Yevgeny Gorjunow, managed to regain control of the machine and land on the Engels-2 military base without further damage . Despite the serious incidents, there were further plans for the resumption of line operations in the years 1980 to 1982. However, the line service was not resumed until the Tu-144 program was discontinued in 1983. A total of 16 copies of the Tu-144 were completed, five of which still exist in museums and another three in two different Tupolev works. The only Tu-144 (registration number SSSR-77112, serial number 07-1) outside of the former Soviet republics was brought to Germany in 2001 by land and water to the Technikmuseum Sinsheim . Since 2003, its Western European counterpart, the Concorde , has also been on view.
The Tu-144 has delta wings with a sweep of 78 ° on the front wing part and 56 ° on the main wing, and duck wings that can be folded out for slow flight. The control surfaces on the wings act as elevons and take on the functions of aileron and elevator. There is a trim tank in the rudder , which can be filled or emptied with fuel during flight in order to compensate for the shift in the neutral point during the transitions between subsonic and supersonic flight by shifting the center of gravity . To reduce the induced air resistance, the wings have a transverse and longitudinal twist. According to the area rule , the trunk has a wasp waist, but this is not very pronounced because of the elongated shape. In supersonic flight, the shock waves from the engine nacelles under the wings contribute to lift and increase lift efficiency.
There are controllable ramps in the air inlets of the engines, which can narrow the cross-section by about half during supersonic flight. Behind the ramps, the cross-section widens again, which acts as a diffuser and slows the inflowing air down to subsonic speed, since the compressors of the engines would fail if the air flow was supersonic. One nose flap on the lower edges of the inlets is open at takeoff and subsonic flight and is closed at supersonic speed to prevent the air flow from pulsing. On the underside of the inlets, inflow flaps are opened when starting to allow additional air supply. In supersonic flight, the zone in which the inflowing air is slowed down to subsonic speed is regulated to the area with the smallest inlet cross-section by overflow flaps located immediately in front of the compressor inlets. The Tu-144 does not have a thrust reverser. A high angle of attack made it possible to use the wing surfaces to increase drag and thus reduce speed, and braking parachutes could be used in difficult landing conditions.
During the supersonic flight the fuselage heats up to approx. 110 ° C in the front and approx. 70 ° C in the rear. In order to cool the cabin, pressurized hot bleed air from the engines is mixed with air from the air inlets, pre-cooled to 120 ° C with fuel flowing to the engines and brought to -40 ° C by means of an electric turbo cooler. The cold air is directed through the cabin wall over the entire length. The air is mixed again with air from the air inlets and enters the passenger cabin. The exhaust air exits through the landing gear shafts, whereby the landing gear is cooled. The nose landing gear has double tires and can be steered 60 ° in any direction. The two main landing gear legs each have four twin wheels with an external braking unit on two axles (prototype: six twin wheels each on three axles); the tubeless tires are filled with nitrogen at a pressure of 12.8 bar. The disc brakes are cooled by electric fans after landing. The design of these wheels and brakes ensured high braking performance and also ensured operation in snow. Tupolev also developed this landing gear under the aspect of the possibility of landing and taking off the Tu-144 on an airfield with a poor runway surface (the typical concrete slab runways of the military Eastern Bloc airfields) as an alternative area.
Similarity to the Concorde
Tu-144 and Concorde are similar in their performance and the basic geometric design of the wing with engines grouped at the rear and a lowerable nose, which improved the pilots' view on approach. In fact, the Tu-144 has a much simpler wing geometry ( double delta wing ) with clearly pronounced sharp transitions of the different sweep of the inner and outer wings. A geometry with aerodynamically more favorable ogive-shaped transitions was developed for the Concorde , which, combined with the more sophisticated profile, gave it, in addition to its suitability for supersonic flight, a lower resistance at higher angles of attack in slow flight. Tupolev contrasted this highly developed wing design of the Concorde with another effective solution, which, however, meant additional mass. In the standard version Tu-144S, retractable canards were used for take-off and landing . These reduced the minimum speed at high angles of attack by about 30 km / h and gave the Tu-144S a handling comparable to that of the Concorde in slow flight. This made it possible to reduce the landing speed to values between 315 and 330 km / h. In operation, the Concorde achieved a landing speed of around 300 km / h thanks to its overall better aerodynamic design without canards. The drives were markedly different: Tupolev originally used two power jet engines (CTL) type Kuznetsov NK-144 (Tu-144, Tu-144S) or later turbojets Kolesov RD-36-51A (Tu-144D), the Concorde contrast of Start of twin-shaft turbo jets Olympus 593 from Rolls-Royce (Bristol Siddeley) and SNECMA . At the level of development at the time, the Concorde's turbo jets were more efficient than the ZTLs of the Tupolev Tu-144S originally used, especially in supersonic flight. In order to maintain twice the speed of sound, the Tu-144S had to fly with the afterburner switched on, which significantly reduced its range. The RD-36-51A, which was intended for the further developed second production version Tu-144D from the end of the 1970s, could not guarantee safe operation in the supercruise until the development program was canceled in 1983 (government decision on July 1, 1983) and led to several incidents (emergency landing and total loss SSSR-77111 s / n 06-2 on May 23, 1978 with two fatalities, engine damage of SSSR-77113 s / n 08-1 on August 31, 1980) during testing. Only when a Tu-144LL, which was reactivated for research purposes in cooperation with NASA in the 1990s, was equipped with the much improved Kuznetsov NK-321 did a safe supercruise become possible.
Crash of Le Bourget (1973)
On June 3, 1973, the program experienced a major setback when the first production machine, the third Tu-144S built, crashed on the suburb of Goussainville at the air show in Le Bourget near Paris . The six people on board and eight people on the ground were killed. When the crew tried to intercept a strong dive , the machine broke apart at a low altitude because its structure was overloaded. Why the Tu-144 even went into the dive, for which it was not designed, is still unclear. There are various theses or rumors about this:
- Hypothesis 1: Data from the aircraft's flight recorder showed that the crew had manipulated the flight controls. This should enable a particularly spectacular flight show to trump the Concorde that was also presented .
- Hypothesis 2: Parts of the systems are said to have inadvertently been configured for the test operation and given the aircraft unusually strong sink rates.
- Hypothesis 3: A French Dassault Mirage fighter plane is said to have suddenly appeared and led the crew to take a dive as an evasive maneuver.
- Hypothesis 4: There should not have been enough fuel in the tanks, so that the engines briefly failed due to the lack of fuel pressure in the supply line, whereupon the Tu-144 fell into a nosedive with no propulsion, from which it could no longer be intercepted.
An artistically designed memorial stone was erected in the Novodevichy Cemetery in Moscow for the crew members who were killed .
NASA test flights (1996-1998)
Between 1995 and 1996 a Tu-144D (SSSR-77114) was brought back into an airworthy condition by Tupolew and the US space agency NASA for about 350 million US dollars in order to obtain measurement data for a possible future supersonic passenger aircraft. The conversion to the flying laboratory brought with it the new type designation Tu-144LL in addition to new engines. The aircraft was the only Tu-144 to be given a Russian registration number (RA-77114 instead of SSSR-77114). Between November 1996 and February 1998 another 27 flights were made with the machine. It flew for the last time on April 14, 1999, when it made a sightseeing flight from the factory premises in Zhukovsky . This was also the last flight of a Tu-144 at all. Equipped with the NK-321 engines of the Tu-160 bomber , this specimen achieved the best flight performance of the entire fleet and, in this configuration, would probably have been on par with the Concorde in scheduled services.
In the period that followed, there were reports that the machine had been sold to a private person via an internet auction. According to other reports, the sale failed because there was no export license for the engines that are considered military goods. The machine is still at the Tupolev plant in Moscow-Zhukovsky, it is to be restored and then exhibited.
List of all aircraft built
|comment||Maiden flight||Last flight||Whereabouts|
|00-1||044||Tu-144||СССР-68001||NK-144||Tupolev||Prototype, differed significantly from the series machine||December 31, 1968||April 27, 1973||scrapped in Zhukovsky|
|01-1||004||Tu-144S||СССР-77101||NK-144A||Tupolev||Pre-production aircraft||June 1, 1971||n / A||scrapped in Zhukovsky|
|01-2||СССР-77102||Aeroflot||first machine built in Voronezh , crashed at an air show in Paris||March 20, 1972||3rd June 1973||destroyed in a crash on June 3, 1973 in Goussainville near Paris|
|02-1||СССР-77103||Aeroflot||Test aircraft for navigation and flight systems||December 13, 1973||n / A||Scrapped in Schukowski in 1984|
|Aeroflot||1975 re-registered to СССР-77144, test aircraft a. a. for aerodynamics||June 14, 1976||n / A||Scrapped in Zhukovsky in 1987|
|03-1||004 (D)||Tu-144S (D)||СССР-77105||NK-144A RD-36-51A||Aeroflot||At the beginning of 1976 converted to the Tu-144D with new engines||November 30, 1974||In 1978
|Stored in Schukowski until 1993, last seen at the MAKS 1993, then probably scrapped|
|04-1||004||Tu-144S||СССР-77106||NK-144A||Aeroflot||from December 26, 1975 test flights Moscow - Alma-Ata||March 4th 1975||February 29, 1980||since 1980 in the Air Force Museum in Monino|
|04-2||СССР-77108||Aeroflot||never delivered to Aeroflot||December 12th 1975||August 27, 1987||since 1987 at Smysljayevka airport near Samara|
|05-1||СССР-77107||Aeroflot||20th August 1975||March 29, 1985||from 1985 to 2017 at the Kazan aircraft factory , from 2017 on Fatycha-Amirchana-Prospect ( )|
|05-2||СССР-77109||Aeroflot||from November 1, 1977 in passenger service||April 29, 1976||n / A||probably stored on a factory site in Voronezh (WASO)|
|06-1||СССР-77110||Aeroflot||last 144S, in passenger service between 1977 and June 1978||February 14, 1977||June 1, 1984||since 1984 in the Museum of Civil Aviation in Ulyanovsk|
|06-2||004D||Tu-144D||СССР-77111||RD-36-51A||Aeroflot||first 144D||April 27, 1978||May 23, 1978||scrapped after crash landing in Yegorievsk|
|07-1||СССР-77112||Aeroflot||the only Tu-144 that can be viewed outside of Russia, stored in Zhukovsky until 2000||19th February 1979||November 12, 1981||exhibited in the Technikmuseum Sinsheim since 2001 with Concorde No. 207-200 ( )|
|08-1||СССР-77113||Aeroflot||structural damage in a supersonic test on August 31, 1980, then stored in Zhukovsky without engines||2nd October 1979||August 31, 1980||Scrapped in Zhukovsky in 2001|
|In use for research purposes until 1990.
From 1995 in cooperation and a. made airworthy again with NASA and Boeing and converted to a flying laboratory with the designation Tu-144LL, re-registered to RA-77114 in 1996, completed the last Tu-144 flight ever and set 13 world records in the course of time.
|April 13, 1981||April 14, 1999||issued at Schukowski Airport since August 2019 ()|
|09-1||Tu-144D||СССР-77115||RD-36-51A||Aeroflot||Last completed Tu-144D, never delivered to Aeroflot. Used for training purposes for the Buran space shuttle in the late 1980s . Was also intended for the conversion to the 144LL. Never flew above Mach 1.||4th October 1984||May 12, 1986||restored, last seen at MAKS in August 2015, will be exhibited at Moscow-Zhukovsky Airport .|
|09-2||(СССР-77116)||not completed after the end of the program in 1985||allegedly unfinished at the Voronezh plant|
|Number (manufactured)||1 copy||9 copies
+1 not completed
1 later converted to Tu-144D
1 → converted to Tu-144LL
→ 1 copy
converted from Tu-144D
|Length (nose extended)||59.50 m||65.70 m|
|span||27.65 m||28.00 m||28.80 m|
|height||11.35 m||12.50 m|
|Wing area||438.04 m²||502.97 m²||506.35 m²|
|Empty mass||85,000 kg||91,800 kg||99,200 kg||103,000 kg|
|Max. Takeoff mass||180,000 kg||195,000 kg||207,000 kg||203,000 kg|
|Engine||4 × Kuznetsov NK-144||4 × Kuznetsov NK-144A||4 × Kolessow RD-36-51||4 × Kuznetsov NK-321|
|Start thrust||176.6 kN each||178.0 kN each||196.1 kN each||245.0 kN each
without afterburner 137.20 kN each
|Cruising speed||2430 km / h (Mach 2.20)||2200 km / h (Mach 2.07)||2120 km / h (Mach 2.00)||2300 km / h (Mach 2.17)|
|Top speed||2587 km / h (Mach 2.40)||2500 km / h (Mach 2.35)||2285 km / h (Mach 2.15)||2500 km / h (Mach 2.35)|
|Altitude||up to 20,000 m|
|Range||2920 km||with 7 t payload: 3600 km
with 15 t payload: 3080 km
|with 7 t payload: 6200 km
with 15 t payload: 5330 km
|approx. 6500 km|
|Fuel supply||approx. 80 t|
|Total volume of
|approx. 105 m³|
|Take-off run||2600 m||1900 m|
|Landing runway||1600 m||1200 m|
|Landing speed||approx. 330 km / h|
With the Tu-144 a total of 13 world records were set in 1983.
OKB Tupolev proposed various military variants of the Tu-144, such as a bomber version with a four-man crew and a radar-TV-controlled rear cannon (comparable to the rear armament of the Tu-22M ), which was installed in two bomb bays (formerly the passenger cabin of the civilian TU 144) should carry cruise missiles comparable to the Ch-55 . This project was discarded in favor of the Tu-160 . It was also proposed to use the Tu-144 as a heavy escort fighter for bombers. This project gave rise to the idea for the Tu-144PP, a long-range jamming aircraft with powerful jamming transmitters, some of which were to be installed in cylindrical containers under the outer wings. With the Tu-144R, a long-range reconnaissance aircraft was proposed, which should also serve as a carrier aircraft for the Voron drone. The Tupolev Voron was a planned copy of the American D-21 drone. None of these projects was realized.
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