View Full Version : Tupolev Tu144

30th Nov 2002, 03:58
I would greatly appreciate any information on the above aircraft.

Conspiratory theories, Last commercial flight, Where are they all now?

Any help on where to find out more would be most helpful either web based or literature.

Thank you in advance for any help.

30th Nov 2002, 05:17
Just run a google search, and you'll get plenty of results.

Last time it was taken off the grounded status was in the mid-nineties when a few companies including NASA showed interest again. Was it because of the sonic cruiser? I don't know...

t'aint natural
30th Nov 2002, 06:02
Check out some back issues of Pilot magazine. A while ago they ran a full article on NASA's programme with the Tu144.

30th Nov 2002, 11:13
One was for sale last summer on the internet. $10 million. I don't know if it sold.

Tartan Seagull
30th Nov 2002, 14:12
The industrial espionage of the Concorde project was dected by the French Secret Service and the wing geometry used by the Concorde aircraft was subtly changed. Concorde has no lift augmentation devices such as flaps or slats because the wing design is of a complex nature. It is known as an OG wing, or Optimal Geometry. The aerodynamics of it are far to complex to go into here. The Russians used the spoof data provided to them by their spy and went ahead with construction of the aircraft. The low speed handling of the TU-144 was fairly unstable, and required the addition of small wings which popped out just above the cockpit area when the aircraft slowed to the apporach configuration.

The Paris Airshow crash is now accepted as being caused by the presence of a French Airforce Mirage that was taking photographs of the TU-144. The two aircraft nearly collided, but as the Tu-144 bunted over the top, it exceeded its structural limitations and broke up.

Another reason for the commercial failure of the TU-144 was the very high fuel burn of the engines which reduced the range of the aircraft.

The Tu-144 was used on mail flights within the USSR in 1975 to build up operational data of how to handle the aircraft and was put into passenger service in 1977. Another fatal accident shortly after this was the final nail in the coffin. The last passenger service was in 1978.

In 1995 a TU-144 was reactivated for a series of test flights oprated jointly between the Russian Space agency and NASA. That particular aircraft was subsequently put up for sale on e-bay!

Select Zone Five
30th Nov 2002, 14:28
There is a small piece about the TU-144 in "The Concorde Story" by Christopher Orlebar.Another reason for the commercial failure of the TU-144 was the very high fuel burn of the engines which reduced the range of the aircraft.Mr Orlebar reports that the aircraft...

"almost certainly had to use the afterburners (reheat) in the cruise"

Can you imagine the fuel consumption?! :rolleyes:

1st Dec 2002, 03:08

2nd Dec 2002, 06:38
There is 1 Tu144 at the Monino museum just outside Moscow
2 (or 3) no at Zhukovsky - Russian equiavalent of Farnborough
1 no at a museum in Germany not 100% sure where exactly(Speyer maybe) but I remember seeing photos of the fuselage on a barge during its journey there

Corporal Jones
3rd Dec 2002, 15:52
Hi PaulC,

You were correct, I believe. Speyer is the resting place of the Tu144 on the barge.

Allegedly, the museum is also about to aquire a French Concorde and the two will be mounted nose to nose on a building of some sort!

Chocks Away,:)

John Farley
7th Dec 2002, 14:19

The Tu-144 seems to be one of those aeroplanes that has acquired an above average number of half truths and myths as I am sure you are aware. Tartan has given you a pretty typical rundown on some of them but my take would be rather different. This may get a bit long, but without some background you will not be able to calibrate my views.

I was fortunate to meet the crew of an early Tu-144 (no canards) at the Hanover airshow in 1972. The skipper Edward Elyan thrashed me at a pistol target shooting competition down town one evening (as did Adolph Galland who was also in the party – but arguably he was one of the best shots in the Luftwaffe, so there was limited disgrace there) and in the way of aircrew the world over we ignored the reality of our political masters and talked aeroplanes at some length.

In fact Elyan’s copilot, Valezi Moltchenov and I really hit it off as his English was better than mine and he had a very dry sense of humour. Indeed after several days of talking aeroplanes during which time we gave each other a full guided tour of or respective mounts, I asked him if he was married. He said yes and with five kids. I suggested that did not leave much time for hobbies. He strongly disagreed and when I asked him what they were then he replied with a grin from ear to rear “Reading Flight and Aviation Week” My sort of guy. Sadly he was in the right hand seat for the Paris crash the following June.

There was no doubt in my mind that the Soviets hoped to sell the Tu-144 around the world and I do not doubt the importance they attached to obtaining any information, by whatever means, on the Concorde. However I believe they wanted this in order to compete effectively in the market place (know thy enemy) and not to copy the thing. We certainly wanted to find out what we could about the Alpha-jet when we were selling the Hawk for example.

If the Tu-144 was a general copy of the Concorde then they went about in a very funny way. The Russian design had a 13% greater span for example, a totally different type of intake system and engine layout plus a double delta plan form rather than an Ogee wing as on Concorde. (Ogee being an architectural term for a very stretched S shape which I had the fun of flying on the Concorde programme back in the 1960’s when an Ogee wing was fitted to one of the FD-2 aircraft and then became the BAC T221 - I really had did smile at the OG Optimum Geometry version – very original!)

At Paris 73 when they pitched up with the clearly more definitive version fitted with canards, we realised they had come up with a masterstroke so far as field performance was concerned. Deploying the very high lift canards (which were fitted with both leading and trailing edged flaps) allowed them to exploit a huge nose up pitching moment by depressing all the normal delta trailing edged surfaces downwards. Thus in the circuit they were flying a flapped delta on which all the aerodynamic forces were upwards. This being in contrast to a plain delta where the trailing edge surfaces are necessarily upwards on finals and so produce a downforce. This latter configuration is essentially a flapped delta flying inverted and one which wastes considerable lift at the limited pitch attitude that is possible with gear restraints.

Their reduction in speed on finals was very obvious, indeed they were landing on the short display runway 03 and turning off at the second exit unlike the Concorde that had to use the long main westerly runway. On their initial arrival on 03 the main wheels hit only a few feet into the runway. Andy Jones (later Mr Hawk) and I were astonished at this performance with such a huge aircraft and we agreed they must have had some form of sensor to tell them the height of the wheels. If not then the next arrival was either going to be shorter in the mud or longer, in which case they would not make the turnoff. Either way it had to be worth watching!

So watch we did very intently on all their flights that week. They always got it just right and to this day I don’t know how.

On the accident flight they repeated their previous display sequence up to and including a touch and go on 03. During the week this touch and go was followed by a steep climb with immediate turn onto the downwind for landing, rather in the form of a semi wing over onto the downwind leg with maximum height restricted by the cloud base at below 2000ft. On the Sunday there was not a cloud in the sky and a very steep climb was continued on the runway heading to perhaps 4000ft. Then suddenly the aircraft violently bunted to level. Both Andy and I said ouch at the thought of such a push in that class of aircraft. As we watched, now looking up the stern of the retreating aeroplane, we had time to say to each other that we thought they may have been heading home (and we were going to be denied watching another full stop). Then down went the nose and it made as if to descend and turn back to the downwind leg. When it was about half way to the ground and having rolled left through 90 giving us a side view of the dive, something made me say to Andy “He’s going in".

(That something which made me realise the crew had lost it was a mixture of height, although it was still well up, unchanging steep nose down attitude, and rate of descent. Suddenly the picture looked wrong. Sadly I have seen 10 aeroplanes hit the ground doing air displays, my first being John Derry. If you are a display pilot yourself and also actually watch the flying at air shows, which a lot of people do not, you do get a feel for when the picture is wrong).

As I said that to Andy, the aircraft started to pull out of the dive. As we watched we had time to say that he might just miss the ground, followed by if those pylons don’t get him. Then at about 1000 ft or more the disintegration happened.

This has gone on too long. My belief is that whatever caused the bunt caused the accident. I don’t believe the engines could have swallowed the appalling flow into the intakes produced by that much negative alpha without surging. I did not see the Mirage, but others did. If the engines did all surge then they would have had to be shut down and relit. This would require a fair bit of speed to obtain the necessary windmilling rpm. Busy trying to get some donks running they suddenly saw the ground coming up and overcooked it, possibly due to the very nasty view of all those 230ft pylons that were out there right across their flight path.

Back to the aeroplane. In my view they aced it with the canards but could never get the efficiency out of their intakes that the Concorde achieved. Thus they needed a single stage of reheat for the supersonic cruise and that did for their specific fuel consumption. A pity. They were good aeroplane men and tried hard. As individual engineers they had no more control over their political system than we have over ours.

Apologies for the length of this post but it is the nostalgia forum!

7th Dec 2002, 16:57
John - thanks for a truly excellent post.

Regarding the 'flapped delta' nature of the '144, would you say that it was more similar in nature to the Vulcan at low speed, rather than a slender delta such as Concorde? I only ask because, on a programme about the Tu-144 on Discovery, there was a clip of a very poor landing in the Tu-144N. It showed exactly what not to do with an all-elevon jet if you bounce on landing. The pilot clearly checked forward, 'adverse flap effect' promptly got it airborne again, briefly, then it started to descend as it ran out of IAS. So the pilot checked back, lost the additional CL from downward deflected elevons and thumped it in fairly firmly. It's interesting to run such clips on a VCR at high speed, flight path deviations are very obvious then!

Incidentally, what's the betting that the accurate touchdowns of which you wrote were probably down to some simple bit of wire poking out of the airframe which the pilots merely aimed at the touchdown point? That or some equally simple but effective Russian solution!

John Farley
7th Dec 2002, 20:01

Glad you enjoyed the reminiscence. I think there is a great difference between the steady state approach case and the flare with any of the deltas. In free air it is pretty obvious that a flapped delta will fly more slowly than one which is not – all other things being equal. But in the flare I suspect things start to get quite type related because of the nature of the ground effect. I remember Brian Trubshaw saying how easy it was to stuff the wheels down hard into the ground if you pulled instinctively at the last moment, whereas if you just waited, the ground effect reduced the rate of descent at constant attitude. I never noticed the driving the wheels downward effect on the Vulcan but that beauty had a very low wing loading and a very steep lift curve gradient, so a very small nose up change produced a huge amount of lift. In fact the Vulcan was the only aeroplane I have never felt short of lift in whatever the height or speed. In difficulty with lateral and directional control especially at low speed yes, but short of lift never.

Your idea about a bit of wire may well have been true! They are a very practical bunch. I always like the story (which had a terrible ring of truth) that when the early cosmonauts and astronauts were finding their biros did not work in zero g NASA started a multi-million dollar exercise to sort out the biro while the Russians used a pencil.

Dr Jekyll
8th Dec 2002, 10:11
As a matter of slightly morbid interest. The Paris display was (I believe) at le Bourget, which is where F-BTSC was heading for when it crashed.

Does anyone know how far apart the crash sites were?

Genghis the Engineer
8th Dec 2002, 10:25
I can't for a moment claim JF's in-depth knowledge but about ten years ago I had a chance to crawl over a grounded Tu144 in Samara for a few hours. I'd also (probably like everybody else here) had a good look over the prototype at Duxford a few times. To my shame, I didn't take any detailed notes (although I've some good photos tucked away somewhere) but my impression was firmly that these were two substantially different aeroplanes. There were undeniably similiarities - but if you have two design teams trying to solve the same problem at the same time, you will get reasonably similar solutions.

Regarding the pencil .v. biro thing, the story isn't quite as JF tells it. NASA went to a stationery company who entirely at their own cost developed the pen, NASA got it for free, and the company has been selling them with pictures of assorted American spacecraft on the packet ever since - and have vastly repaid their original investment. The company is called Fisher and I own one, it writes moderately badly, but no worse under any condition I've ever tried it (including negative g at FL250 in an unpressurised cabin), so I'd say that NASA got a bargain there !


8th Dec 2002, 10:42
John - fascinating stuff - don't apologise!

Out Of Trim
8th Dec 2002, 18:32
John ~ Very interesting read indeed.

Please, If you have anything similar? Take as long as you like!
I'm sure there are plenty of us eager to gain some further insight into your interesting career and views.

Shaggy Sheep Driver
8th Dec 2002, 21:30
John - if there isn't a book in the offing, then I think there should be. I'm not being a sycophant - I really believe that guys with your experience and the ability to put it across are not exactly 10 a penny and If you are not already planning a book I feel I've not done my duty 'till I've prompted you.

Get it on the page - put it down for posterity. You don't owe that to anyone, but it would be a tragic waste if you took it all to the (hopefully far off as yet) grave with you.

Of course if there is one 'on the blocks', I quite understand you'd not want to talk about it until its out. In that case. please ignore this post.

Hope you don't mind this suggestion. Also hope you act on it, if you haven't already.


Shaggy Sheep Driver
9th Dec 2002, 09:23
Widening out this debate slightly, and picking up on some excellent observations by John Farley and Ghengis, being a part owner and a flyer of a Yak 52 for a few years really changed my attitude to Russian technology.

The received wisdom in the west is that Russians are way behind, they copy what we do, and copy it badly. Certainly, Russian cars are poor compared to western ones. But the Yak, and its M14P engine, are just superbly engineered - and very different to a western aeroplane. The Chipmunk, my other mount, fine aeroplane though it is, seems cobbled together by comparison.

The Russians have a practical approach to engineering (certainly not 'agricultural'), and it owes nothinmg to the west. Their aeroplanes are just 'different', both in the way are built and the way they perform. They take a bit of getting used to if you've been brought up on UK and US machinery, but it's worth it.

I love them!


Genghis the Engineer
9th Dec 2002, 10:44
SSD makes some salient points, and if I may, I'll digress slightly...

I've had the privilege of working with some excellent Engineers of several nationalities, including the Russians.

Russia has a peculiarity in its approach to Engineering design which I've not seen to the same extent elsewhere. Whilst a Brit, American, Frenchman, etc. when asked to design an aeroplane, will generally start with the specification, basic principle and a blank drawing board, the Russian won't. He (or she) will go to great lengths to research every solution that has gone before. A Russian Engineer will only try something entirely new if he's been satisfied that the problem hasn't been adequately solved before.

Russian Aeronautical Engineering textbooks are full of pages of solutions to problems, which young Engineers are supposed to learn their way around thoroughly. British Aeronautical Engineering textbooks are full of pages of basic theory, which young Engineers are supposed to learn how to adapt to any given problem. Both work.

In my experience the Russian "evolutionary" approach to design usually gives excellent products, quickly and cheaply. The British "revolutionary" approach to design gives more radical products and bigger steps forward, but sometimes at greater cost and with a fair bit of re-inventing the wheel that shouldn't happen but does.

I suspect that in the case of Concorde .v. Tu144, the revolutionary approach was the best way because it was inevitably such a huge step forward in technology. In other cases, for example the YAK-52 .v. the Tucano or Bulldog, the Russians got a much more sound and economical aircraft by putting good WW2 technology together with as little innovation as possible.

To give a real-world example, I was having a conversation with a couple of Russian Engineers at one of the smaller design Bureaux about WW2 aircraft. I mentioned the unusual cooling system (through a double skinned float) of the Supermarine S6b. "Aha", said my colleage, "you mean the new English method of cooling" and diving into a filing cabinet produced a textbook on aircraft cooling systems where, amongst pages upon pages of radiator designs, was a diagram of the Supermarine S6b with it's double skinned float.

IMHO, the best designer is the one who can apply both methods, but they are sadly far too far apart, in any country. Darrol Stinton with his 2 design books is the only person I know actively encouraging the mixed approach in Britain.


PPRuNe Pop
9th Dec 2002, 15:05
G I am just a tad picky here but you always spell Darryl Stinton's name with an 'o' but I expect you will change it now won't you :D

Don't expect Darryl would mind though!

Genghis the Engineer
9th Dec 2002, 15:33
So does he, or at least the two copies of his books and couple of his papers in my office use that spelling, as does Amazon, his business card, last years Christmas card....


12th Dec 2002, 06:07
In fact the Tu144 is not situated in Speyer but at the Auto & Technik Museum Sinsheim (http://www.technik-museum.de/) click Sinsheim -> Museum Sinsheim -> Tupolev 144 to find lots of pictures and the story about the transport from russia to germany.
The Tu 144 can be seen north of the Motorway 6 running from Mannheim to Heilbronn. Looks pretty small on the roof of the museum, I have to visit it next time I travel to this area of germany.

12th Dec 2002, 21:31
Take the post from SSD suggesting that JF writes a book and reread it substituting your name for Johns`. Some of the best aviation reads I`ve had have been engineer orientated.

Mike W

Shaggy Sheep Driver
13th Dec 2002, 08:37

There's room for both, I think. I, too, enjoy Genhis' posts very much and would welcome a book from him.

However, JF has had such an eventful life aviation-wise during a stage in UK aviation that was fast changing and rich in interesting types (and aeroplanes as well ;~) that his experience alone is of great value to those of us interested in such things. We get snippetes of it on PPRuNe and in his 'Flyer' column. It just whets the appetite for more!

Time passes quickly, the world moves on, and if people like JF don't commit their reminicences to paper they will be lost for ever.


Genghis the Engineer
13th Dec 2002, 09:29
Many thanks for the complements.

As it happens I'm talking to Bob Pooley about something at the moment, that is entirely technical, but I'm optimistic may appear before the end of 2003. However, maybe one of these days when my life becomes a little more quiet I'll think about something more "human".

Regarding our esteemed ex-Harrier colleague, I agree entirely, JF has too many good stories to keep to himself.


13th Dec 2002, 11:07
Get writing both of you (and BEags as well...).

I look forward to getting my copies autographed at a Bash some time!

14th Dec 2002, 22:40
I`ll second BEagle.

Propose Cat Driver / Lou Zuckerman ( I think they are one and the same).
And Chimbu Chuckles.
And Camel Pilot.

Mike W