6 The Last of Tu 144 Planes

The Last of Tu 144 Planes

Posted on February 23, 2014 by team


The Tu-144 is a supersonic Soviet transport aircraft. There were sixteen Tu-144’s built.

Tu-144D USSR-77115 is the last Tu-144 still flying, and right now we have chance to have a close look at it and to even get inside.

The engines of the Tu-144 were developed by the mid 70s – RD-36-51A had a takeoff power rating of 20000 kgf, cruise power – 5100 kgf and specific fuel consumption at the supersonic cruising speed – 1,26 kg/kgf per hour. They planned to improve on these values.

The first Tu-144 that performed a flight with an RD-36-51A engine was plane No 03-1 – it happened in November 30, 1974. In June 1976 the plane performed a long-distance flight for 6200 km with a load of five tons and it was subsequently decided to continue development of this model.

It was not all plain sailing, though. Even when provided with new engines, the flight to Khabarovsk was made with only minimal loading. Besides, one of the inspections revealed that the combustion chamber of the RD-36-51A almost burned to ashes after several tens of flying hours.

Serial production of the Tu-144D started in the latter half of the 70s. The first flight was performed in April 1978 but by May of the same year the first accident happened – the crash was caused by the destruction of the fuel line in the engine compartment.

That catastrophe was the reason they postponed, and later fully stopped, using the Tu-144 as a passenger plane.

However, in the early 80s four more Tu-144’s were made and tested. Following the test results they were cleared for flying with passengers again.

They performed 50 test flights from Moscow to Khabarovsk, but no risks was taken when flying with passengers. Eventually the program was scrapped. The last plane, No 09-2, remained unneeded and was standing in Voronezh at the factory airfield for a long time.

In the process of development, the takeoff weight of the Tu-144D exceeded 200 tons, the supersonic flying range with a 15 ton payload was equal to 5330 km, with 11-13 tons – to 5500-5700 km, with 7 tons – 6200 km.

In the 80s some of Tu-144 were still used as flying labs for implementation of different test programs connected with the creation of heavy supersonic planes. They were also used for research of the upper-atmosphere and the ozone layer, acoustic impact, thermal field influence on various construction materials, the study of aerodynamics, testing of flying characteristics, research of boundary layer laminarization, and anomalous phenomena in the atmosphere.

In July 1983 one of the Tu-144D planes set thirteen world records of speed and altitude with a load of 5-30 tons.

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6 Responses to “The Last of Tu 144 Planes”

  1. Fred says:

    Well, no prizes for guessing that the Russians stole the plans for this from Concorde. A little obvious considering the design is almost exactly the same, but the engines are nowhere near as advanced as the proper Concordes. Interior looks similar but the real one had proper leather seats and polished wood desks.

    • zax says:

      Well, Tu-144 was the first to fly, so Russians could say that Concorde was a copy of Tu-144. It is also larger, faster and has _more_ advanced engines than Concorde (afterburning turbofans instead of afterburning turbojets). The truth is nobody stole anything from anybody – concepts of supersonic transport were publicly known and well discussed in scientific circles. SST concepts from other countries also looked similar.

    • Spoon says:

      The origins of the designs are still the subject of much debate, the English & French say flawed plans were leaked on purpose, but there’s never been any proof of that.
      As far as I know, no Concorde had polished wooden desks due to space restrictions, just pulldown seat back trays.
      The Tu 144 also had some very interesting design features that Concorde didn’t, such as the forward canards which made the aircraft a lot easier to fly at low speed for take off and landing.

  2. john says:

    Still interesting aircraft to look at,it is a first for me to see inside one. good posting.

  3. Peter R says:

    Very interesting, the only thing I know If Soviet-union were free at the time, the private competition would make much better and efficient airplane. Unfortunately this one of the situation that Russian had no freedom, “who cares if is well build or not either way I get my payment” that was for the most people mentality. That mentality is reflected from hair drier to cars, to TV’s,to weapon etc etc etc. But still a very interesting and unique concept the Tu-144. Nice posting.

    G’day

  4. Leena Lounsbury says:

    Awesome article Thanks for sharing.

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