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Tu-144D Charger Production Aircraft

Activities on an alternative RD-36-51 engines for Tu-144 aircraft started in 1964. Flight range at takeoff weight of 150 ton with 150 passengers on board was stipulated as 4500 km, while with 120 passengers and at takeoff weight of 180 ton the range was to be 6500 km. The modification of the Tu-144 aircraft with new engines was designated as Tu-144D ("004D") - D for Dal'nyaya - long range. By the middle of the 1970s the RD-36-51 engine became real. The first RD-36-51A engines had takeoff weight of 20000 kg thrust, cruising thrust of 5100 kg thrust and Specific Fuel Consumption at cruising supersonic flight equal to 1.26 kg/kg thrust h. Lter it was supposed to have takeoff weight of 2 1000 kg thrust and cruising Specific Fuel Consumption not more than 1.23 kg/kg thrust h (in future it could be 23000 - 24000 kg thrust at takeoff and 5400 kg thrust at cruising flight).

The first Tu-144 aircraft provided with RD-36-51 engines was the aircraft No.03-1. Before mid-1976 a new powerplant was developed on this machine. On 05 June 1976 the aircraft performed its long range flight for a distance of 6200 km at payload of 5 tones. This flight confirmed realizability and perspecrtiveness of continuation of works on Tu-144D aircraft.

In the late 1970s Voronezh plant began serial production of Tu-144D. The Tu-144 No.06-2 (side number 77111) was the first production aircraft. The first flight was performed on 27 April 1978. The aircraft started joint testing but on 23 May 1978 it crashed near Yegorievsk. The reason for the crash was break of a fuel line in engine compartment. The aircraft was piloted by test pilot Popov, co-pilot was Yelyan. The flight crew managed to performed forced landing with retracted landing gear. During the landing Yelyan was injured and two test engineers were killed. This crash was a direct reason to suspend Tu-144 operation with passenger and later on to complete termination of such flights.

The French eventually acknowledged that they had sent up a Mirage III jet to photograph the TU-144 in flight, without telling the Russians. The French also allegedly shortened the TU-144's demonstration flight at the last minute, and extended one by the Concorde. The crew aboard the 144 were forced to improvise a landing and apparently tried to do so on the wrong runway. As they went around to make another attempt, they were on a collision course with the Mirage.

Four more machines were produced and developed - Tu-144D 07-1, 08-1, 08-2 and 09-1. The first two machines were subject to joint government tests which were finalized in mid-80s. Basing on results of these tests the Tu-144D was recommended to be operated with passengers as well as Tu-144 aircraft with NK-144A. The aircraft was given an airworthiness certificate but was not operated. The program was cut back. The last production machine Tu-144 D No.09-2 CCCP-77116 was not demanded and stood for a long time on Voronezh airfield.

Tu-144D aircraft takeoff weight exceeded 200 tons, during joint government tests supersonic a range was reached equal to 5330 km at payload of 15 ton, and with 11-13 ton - the range if 5500-5700 km, and with payload of 7 ton - the range of 6200 km all these with fuel reserve of 10 tons.

In the 1980s some Tu-144 aircraft were used as flying laboratories for various test programs to build advanced supersonic heavy aircraft including the programs of further SST development. In July, 1983 on one of Tu-144Ds the flight crew headed by test pilot S.Agapov (co-pilot B.Veremey) established 13 world records of flight speed flight altitude with different cargo ( the machine was designated as "101"). In the 70-s there were projects for further modernization of Tu-144 aircraft.

Practice of development, test and initial operation of Tu-144 aircraft with NK-144A engines showed that only minimum program could be provided - operation on airlines as long as 4,000 km. The beginning of works on Tu-144 with RD-36-51 engines showed that Tu-144 aircraft is capable to reach demanded range and has further margins for modernization. First of all they refused from unification of the structure regarding powerplant. By review of airframe structure, aircraft systems and equipment fuel load ratio was supposed to be increased.

The new project was designated as Tu-144DA. Initial studies revealed that there was the possibility to increase fuel reserve up to 125 tones (instead of 90-95 ton on Tu-144D) at takeoff weight of 235 ton, in this case wing area should be increased up to 544 sq.m (instead of 507 sq.m on Tu-144D). Powerplant was moved to "61" type engines with thrust reverser (development of RD-36-51 A engine) with Specific Fuel Consumption=1.23 kg thrust/kg h at cruising flight and maximal takeoff thrust of 21,000 kg thrust. The number of passengers reached to 130-160 persons, with a designed operational flight range with normal payload increased up to 7,000-7,500 km. Work on Tu-144DA was not further developed because of cutting down of entire Tu-144 program. However work done on the project was used in investigations for SST-2 (TU-244) which started.

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