Before we get into where you can see the Soviet Union’s supersonic passenger jet, let’s first look at the plane and see how it came to be. In January 1962, the Soviet government published an article outlining a supersonic passenger jet concept.
Development of the aircraft designated the Tu-144 began on July 26, 1963, after its design was approved by a cabinet of ministers. The plan called for five prototype planes to be flying within four years.
The Tu-144 flew before Concord
The first prototype made its maiden flight from Zhukovsky International Airport (ZIA) in Moscow on December 31, 1968, a full two months ahead of the Anglo-French Concorde. Nicknamed the “Concordski” because of its similar appearance to the British-French jet, the Tu-144 was, in fact, bigger and faster than the Concorde, able to reach speeds of Mach 2.04.
One of the main differences between the two planes was that Concorde used an electronic engine control device manufactured by Lucas Industries. Tupelov could not buy this from the Birmingham firm as it could also be used on military aircraft.
1973 Paris Air Show Crash
During the 1973 Paris Air Show, at the end of a demonstration flight, instead of landing as expected, the aircraft went into a steep climb before making a violent downwards maneuver. The plane broke apart and crashed, killing all six people onboard and eight people on the ground.
The crash and ever-increasing fuel prices restricted the plane’s viability of being a commercial success. Soviet national flag carrier Aeroflot introduced the plane into passenger service on December 26, 1975, flying between Moscow and Almaty in Kazakhstan. Less than three years later, Aeroflot removed the Tu-144 from service following a second crash of the supersonic jet on May 23 1978.
In total, 16 airworthy Tu-144 airplanes were built, with the Tu-144 conducting 102 commercial flights, of which only 55 had passengers.
The decision to cease Tu-144 production was issued on January 7, 1982, followed by a USSR government decree dated July 1, 1983, to terminate the entire Tu-144 program.
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Where to see a Tu-144
Looking back on where things went wrong with the Tu-144 we can see that the aircraft suffered from being rushed from the design process and the need to get it flying as soon as possible. The plane’s parts quality and construction were also deemed to blame for its ultimate failure. The Tu-144 made its final flight on June 26. 1999 with the surviving aircraft now on display at the following locations:
- Two Tu-144s with the tail numbers СССР-77114 and СССР-77115 are displayed outdoors at LII aircraft testing facility in Zhukovsky, 24 miles southeast of Moscow.
- Tail number 77115 was bought in 2005 by the Heros Club of Zhukovsky and remains on display at the MAKS International Aviation and Space Show.
- Tail number 77114 was repainted in Aeroflot livery and put on display at Zhukovsky International Airport (ZIA).
- Tu-144 registration СССР-77106, is on display at the Central Air Force Museum of Russia in Monino in Shchyolkovsky Oblast.
- Tu-144, tail number СССР-77107, is on open display in Kazan in the Republic of Tatarstan.
- TU-144S, tail number СССР-77110, is on display at the Museum of Civil Aviation in Ulyanovsk, Oblast, 483 miles east of Moscow on the Volga River.
- The only Tu-144 on display outside the former Soviet Union was acquired by the Auto & Technikmuseum Sinsheim in Germany. Painted in Aeroflot livery tail number СССР-77112 was shipped to the German museum in 2001 and put on display next to an Anglo-Franch Concord.
The Technikmuseum Sinsheim in the southwestern German state of Baden-Württemberg is the only place globally with both the Tu-144 and the Concord on display together.
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