General Information
Type Tu-144S
Function Passenger
Year 1971
Crew 3...4
Type 4xNK-144A
Cruise thrust 4x5500kg
Max. thrust 4x15000kg
Boosted thrust 4x18150kg
Fuel Consumption (cruise) 1.27kg/kg/h
Fuel Consumption (boosted) 1.81kg/kg/h
Length 65.70m
Height 12.85m
Wingspan 28.80m
Wing area 507m2
Weights and loads
Empty 91800kg
Takeoff 195000kg
Landing 120000kg
Wing Load (kg/m2) 385
Maximum (18000m) 2500km/h
Cruise 2200km/h
Landing 270km/h
Landing 1500m
Takeoff 1900m
Supersonic 3240km
Subsonic 4300km
Practical 20000m
Fuel 98000kg
Cargo 15000kg
Cabin diameter 3.3m
Seats (tourist) 150
Seats (tourist+first) 100

Tu-144 by A.N.Tupolev and A.A.Tupolev (NATO 'Charger')

29k photo of Tu-144S, from Tu-144S page

Extensive program of the Tu-144 prototype resulted in numerous design changes. Those changes were put together in the series aircraft Tu-144S. New aircraft had larger wing (span increased by 1.15m) and fuselage (6.3m longer). Number of fuselage windows (one side) was increased from 24 to 35. Upgraded NK-144A engines provided more thrust in all regimes, but still suffered from high fuel consumption on supersonic regime.

Tight 'package' of engines on the prototype caused excessive heating of the tail section and vibrations generated by jet exhaust interference. To cure this engine were re-arranged into two separated pairs, and their exhaust nozzles were extended behind the wing trailing edge. Engines also were upgraded.

Wing plane became more angular, closer to double delta. At the same time wing twist and droop was increased to improve supersonic performance. Retractable high-aspect canards with double-slatted flaps and slats were added to improve handling on takeoff/landing. Main landing gear of Tu-144S has eight (2x4) wheels and retracts into an engine nacells between the air intake channels. This allowed to delete special fairings of the prototype and at the same time increase capacity of the wing fuel tanks. Nosewheel now retracts forwards into the fuselage.

B/W drawing of Tu-144S canards, from Tu-144S page

Droop section of the fuselage of the Tu-144S has no windshield glazing, while the side windows were enlarged. Crew ejection seats of the prototype were deleted. All-new avionics included inertial navigation system. Selector located on the control column allowed pilot to select auto-throttle and computerized takeoff, cruise, approach, landing and missed approach operation mode.

Substantial changes introduced in the airframe. In the Tu-144S titanium alloys comprised 18% of the weight (higher than any other contemporary Soviet aircraft), used where high stress, heat or corrosion are a concern. Integrally milled wing panels replaced 'stacks' used in prototype.

Tu-144S first flight took place on July 1, 1971. On June 3, 1973 infamous accident at Paris Air Show delivered a heavy blow to international reputation of Tupolev's aircraft. What caused the crash? Failure of control system, provocative maneuver of French 'Mirage', dropped camera that blocked control column? Combination of few factors? None of the above?

The fact is that Tu-144S (CCCP-77102) performed high-g maneuver, capable to destroy any passenger plane. One of canards fell off and hit the fuel tank...

On December 26, 1975 Tu-144S started commercial operation on route Moscow - Alma-Ata as a cargo/mail carrier. Passenger operation - since November 1, 1977. Ticket price was only 30...40% higher than for Il-62 on same route. Nonetheless, Tu-144 usually flew half-empty. It's fuel consumption and range fall short compared to Concorde.

Tu-144 were built at Voronezh Aviation Plant, two at a time. About 14 Tu-144S were built, with interior equipment provided by Eastern Germany.

31k photo of Tu-144S, from Tu-144S page

There were plans to put Tu-144 on the route Moscow-Khabarovsk. Fifty familiarization flights were since February 22, 1978. But May 23 accident wit modified version (Tu-144D) during certification flight put end to Tu-144 commercial operation. On June 1, 1978 aircraft was withdrawn from service, performing only 102 passenger flights.

But program was not closed. As an experimental platform, Tu-144's were flying. In 1981 re-introduction of the aircraft into civil service was discussed. There were some projects for Tu-144 military usage:

  • Escort aircraft for strategic bombers, combining AWACS and jamming capabilities with wealth of the R-33 air-to-air missiles;
  • 160M supersonic strategic bomber of early 70's, abandoned in favour of Tu-160;
  • Interestingly, the Tu-144S of the Monino Museum (CCCP-77106) was flown there and successfully landed on unpaved airstrip!

    Drawing from Tu-144 prototype page, used as a background for this page;

    Tu-144 prototype
  • 'Tu - person and aircraft' by L.L.Kerber
  • 'Supersonic aircraft' by E.Tsihom
  • 'Development of the World aircraft' by P.I.Vinogradov and A.N.Ponomarev /1991/
  • 'Aircraft of the Soviet State' by B.L.Simakov and V.B.Shavrov /1974/
  • 'Arms Encyclopedia' CD-ROM by 'Kirill and Mefodij'
  • 'Russian aircraft since 1940' by Jean Alexander, pp401...410
  • "Russian Aviation and Air Power in the Twentieth Century", edited by Robin Higham et al, pp11...12, 174...175, 261
  • Tu-144S page
  • Tu-144 site in English (excellent!)
  • Type of Aircraft: Tupolev Tu-144
  • Encore for an SST
  • Tu-144
  • Tu-144 page

  • Created January 20, 2000 Back to
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