General Information
Type Tu-154
Function Medium range passenger aircraft
Year October 3, 1968
Crew 2+1 + attendants
Powerplant (3)
Type NK-8-2
Takeoff Power 9500kg
Cruising Power 2650kg
Fuel consumption 38.5 g/pass/km
Length 47.90m
Height 11.40m
Wingspan 37.55m
Tailspan 13.4m
Wing area 180m2
Fuselage diameter 3.80m
Weights and loads
Empty 43500kg
Normal 84000kg
Maximum 90000kg
Wing load 500kg/m2
Thrust -to- Weight (takeoff) 11.3
Thrust -to- Weight (cruise) 3.16
Maximum 950km/h
Cruising 850km/h
Landing km/h
Roll (normal conditions)
Landing 2060m
Takeoff 1840m
Maximum 3200?km
Ceiling (Cruising)
Maximum 11900m
Nominal 11000m
Fuel (max) 41400l
Normal load 16000kg
Max load 20000kg
Cabin size LxWxH m3 ?x3.58x2.0
Seats 158

Tu-154 by S.Yeger (Tupolev OKB)
(NATO "Careless")

Tu-145 prototype (CCCP-85000) at Le Bourget in 1969
photo by J.M.G.Gradidge from "Russian aircraft since 1940"

Tu-154 is the first Soviet aircraft since the 1930s developed under pressure of the economical factors. The early 60's were marked by rapid expansion of aerial transportation in the USSR and simultaneous growth of competition on the international market. The medium-range routes were dominated by three types: An-10, Il-18 and Tu-104. There were no need for three different types operated by single state-controlled company (Aeroflot), while operation and financial penalties became obvious.

Most of the best features were combined in the new set of the MGA requirements:

One of the 1st pre-production batch Tu-154 (CCCP-85005) at the VDNKh, May 25, 1995
photo by T.Gardiner from

After examining the submissions from O.K.Antonov, S.V.Ilyushin and A.N.Tupolev, the MGA chose Tupolev's design proposal.

To satisfy MGA demands, S.Yeger (who was chosen by Tupolev to lead the project) had to develope a entirely new wing and provide much more engine power than was common at the time. Choice of three NK-8-2 engines also allowed to keep engine wear and fuel consumption down compared with aircraft already in service. New design inherited Tupolev's distinctive trailing edge fairings for the main landing gear, as well as general outline features of the Tu-134, but inside it was entirely different plane.

There even was a joke that Tu-154 has three where Tu-134 has two (wing spars, main wheels etc). Outer engines are mounted on the shock-absorbing bearers and fitted with thrust reversers. Auxiliary power unit is fitted in the tail root above the central engine, using same intake and exhaust. Titanium firewalls are installed.

Three baggage holds (two pressurized and one unpressurised) have capacity of 21.5+16.5+5.0m3. For the two pressurized compartments baggage may be pre-packed into containers.

The prototype (CCCP-85000) was built at the "Opyt" factory workshop (next to Tupolev's design offices) in Summer 1968. It was transported disassembled to Zhukovskij where after reassembly and ground trials it took off for the first flight (pilot Yuri Sukhov) on October 3, 1968. At that time production blueprints were ready.

First potential manufacturer (Moscow Plant N°30) was rejected due to short runway and pressure form other programs. Production was established at Samara (than Kuibyshev) Plant N°18, where assembly of the last Tu-114 was under way. Since 1968, the Tu-154 and its variants kept Plant N°18 busy for more than a quarter of century.

First five Tu-154s (pre-production CCCP-85005 to 85009) were delivered to Aeroflot in October/November 1970. Those aircraft were used to develope engineering and operating procedures and initial crew training. In May 1971 they began to operate as cargo and mailplane. This was a standard USSR routine to operate new aircraft for at least one year before entering passenger service. Flights were performed on routes from Vnukovo airport to Khabarovsk (via Sverdlovsk, Novosibirsk, and Irkutsk), to Sochi, Mineralnye Vody and Simferopol.

As a matter of historical interest, one of the first five Tu-154 (CCCP-85007) continued its service with Vnukovo until the end of 1993 when it was retired.

Early production Tu-154 (CCCP-85012) on landing approach
photo by Klaus Mohr from "Russian aircraft since 1940"

In February 1972 Tu-154 performed first regular passenger flight from Vnukovo to Mineralnye Vody. In November - first international flight from Sheremetievo to Prague. At this time, the Management of International Air Services (TsUMVS) separated from the Aeroflot. Within a year new management established twelve international routes linking Moscow with major European cities.

At this moment a bad news cane from the SibNII, where extensive fatigue tests were performed on the Tu-154 airframe and wing. Airframe was fine, but the wing had no chances to meet design goals (30,000 flight hours or 20,000 flight cycles). It even could not be upgraded to approach those goals. Entire new wing was needed. 120th Tu-154 was well advanced on the production line, and the situation was close to the industrial disaster for Tupolev. What happened?

First Pilot's instruments Central
Copilot's instruments
Engineer's instruments
Photos by Dmitry Mikhnenko, flight engineer of Tu-154 airliner. Kodak digital camera.
Special thanks to Oleg Devjatkin for providing those pictures.

Tupolev sources today say that only state-funded industry could overcome such a blow. After complete redesign, new wing was fitted to all 120 Tu-154s. Such an effort could easily bankrupt most Western manufacturers.

While the aircraft were grounded, their control systems were upgraded also. Modifications allowed to certify Tu-154 for ICAO Category II automatic landings. First series upgrade with new passenger cabin arrangement for 168 passengers was designated Tu-154A.

In May 1972 first two Tu-154 were purchased by foreign airline - Balkan Bulgarian. The demand was raised to extend aircraft service life and make some other changes. Thus the Tu-154B came to life, and Balkan became the first carrier to operate Tu-154B on the transatlantic.

Upgrades of the powerplant and equipment, specialized and experimental conversions resulted in more than 20 modifications of the plane. By mid-1995, 606 Tu-154s (A, B types) and 307 Tu-154Ms were completed, although near 10 remain unsold. There are still some upgrades under discussion, but even without them Tu-154 is expected to be around for another 20 years.

Series Special Experimental Projects, Prototypes
with NK-8-24 engines
observer for 'Open Sky' program
cryogenic, NK-88 engine
Tu-1X4 (Tu-164)
with D-30KU turbofans, prototype for Tu-154M
cosmonaut training lab (zero gravity)
cryogenic, NK-89 engines
with two PS-90 turbofans
'Buran' automatic landing system
cryogenic, NK-94 engines
project?? 2 NK93 engines
Tu-154Ts (“ů-154÷)
latest upgrade
equipped for Head of State and government service
'Salon' VIP
'Salon' VIP
specialized cargo
recce (?)
recce (China)
  • "Russian aircraft since 1940", pp.161-167
  • "Tupolev, the man and his aircraft", pp.396-400
  • Links
  • Tu-154 @ Aeroflot
  • Tu-154
  • Tu-154
  • Tu-154
  • Flugzeug†Tupolev Tu-154 M
  • Tu-154M
  • Aviakor info
  • Tupolev ANTK
  • Tu-154
  • Tu-154
  • Tu-154
  • Tu-154

  • Modified July 3, 2001 Back to
    Main Gate