The Russian Concorde Tupolev TU-144



Pictured; the Concordski Tupolev TU-144


A result of the cold war's technology rivalry when the Soviet Union copied many things the west made including the Concorde and Space Shuttle. The Tupolev TU-144 was one of the Soviets least successful project. Built as a competitor to the Anglo-French Concorde from modified plans stolen from the French it was the first supersonic commercial aircraft beating Concorde by two months.

The programs first disaster was when a TU-144 (or Concordski as the media called it) crashed in front of TV-cameras during a presentation at the Paris Air Show 1973. The French had sent up a Mirage III jet to photograph the TU-144 in flight, but did not tell the Russians. The plane found itself on a collision course with the Mirage when they took evasive action the plane stalled and then when they tried to recover from the stall they overstressed the air frame causing the plane to break-up and crash, It was also suggested that the pilot who was under pressure to show off the planes abilities against the Concorde, possible was pushing the plane too hard when he attempted the steep climb that caused the stall.

After several modifications the Concordski was put back into service on mail and cargo runs as the TU-144D between Alma Ata and Moscow in 1975. The Russians wanted to prove the plane was safe before starting passenger service in 1977. A second crash soon after passenger service began put commercial service on hold again in 1978. while a third crash landing sealed the fate of the TU-144 with the last jet to fly in 1985.

The TU-144 could hold 40 more people than the Concorde and was slightly faster but it used more fuel and had less range, only 17 TU-144's including 1 prototype and 5 TU-144D models were built, while there were 16 production and 4 prototype Concorde's built, 14 of which went on sale to Air France and British Airways.

The TU-144 flew again in the mid-1990s, when Boeing and NASA partnered with Tupolev to test supersonic flight. Using a heavily modified TU-144D renamed TU-144LL and set up as a flying test laboratory for future supersonic development. Developed for NASA's High-Speed Civil Transport program it made 32 flights up to 1999 near Moscow. Since then Boeing has shelved plans for a supersonic plane, deciding to continue improvements on their 777 series jets. NASA's part in the project has also stopped as their hopes for large scale use of supersonic aircraft had proven too costly.

Despite this, Tupolev (the Russian company behind the TU-144 and Buran space shuttle) are still hopeful to not only forge ahead with plans to update the TU-144 but also get the planned next-generation TU-244 supersonic plane flying within a decade. But it expected that the funding that Tupolev want to build their TU-244 will never come and their dream will never go further than the plastic model in their boardroom.

  The Concorde
  Concorde Specifications
  Boeing Sonic Cruiser
  The Russian Space Shuttle Buran
  The Russian Soyuz Spacecraft
  The Russian Ekranoplan (Sea Plane)

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Did You Know?

The Concorde was not the only supersonic commercial jet, the Russian Tupolev TU-144 was a copy of the Concorde and its first flight was 3 months prior to the Concorde. After many problems and several crashes it stopped service in 1985.



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