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Tu-144 Charger and Concorde

Tupolev built the Tu-144 airliner, which looked to some like a close copy of the Anglo-French Concorde SST. The TU-144 made its maiden flight on 31 December 1968 - two months before Concorde. Some people called the Tu-144 a "Concordski." The intense competition between the programs was said to have bred industrial espionage among the factions and created private spy programs. It was rumored that the Russians had stolen plans for the Concorde. The Concordski had some individual characteristics that were superficially similar to the Concorde, but the similarities were quite superficial, and bore no witness to espionage.

To the un-initiated the Concordski looked almost like a twin of the Concorde with its ant-eater nose and swept-back delta wings. Also like the Concorde, the Tu-144 had a small cabin with narrow aisles and elbow-to-elbow seating. But it carried a maximum of 140 passengers the Concorde carried only 100. When Concordski turned up for the 1973 Paris Airshow she seemed to look even more like Concorde, because she was redesigned. The wings were more pulled back like the wings of Concorde. The engines had been moved outwards and she had two ear flaps otherwise known as Canards.

It is interesting to compare the origins and destinies of Tu-144 and "Concorde" - the machines that are close by purposes, design approaches and time of building. First of all it should be noted that "Concorde" was designed mainly for supersonic flights over uninhabited ocean spaces - the main purpose was flights between Europe and America. It was the reason for selecting lowere altitudes of crusing supersonic flight which resulted in smaller wing area, smaller takeoff weight, smaller demanded cruising thrust of the powerplant and Specific Fuel Consumption. Tu-144 had to flight mainly over land which lead to higher flight altitudes and respectively increase of parameters and demanded thrust of the powerplant.

It should be added that the engines were less perfect (by specific parameters the engines of Tu-144 aircraft were brought close to "Olympus" only in their last modification). All these negative initial data were compensated in the course of development of the project by high aerodynamic cleanness of Tu-144 which was achieved by making the design more complicated and by lowering maintainability of the aircraft. Quantity of production Tu-144s and "Concorde" was approximately the same.

But opposite to Tu-144 aircraft the English-French SST were in operation substantially till early 90-s. In 1986 ticket price for London-New-York flight made $2,745. It was affordable only for very prosperous people for whom formulae "times is money" is the main credo. There are such people in West and for them flights by "Concorde" are natural saving of time and money. It is confirmed by total flying time of "Concorde" in 1989 equal to 325,000 hours.

Thus the "Concorde" program was more commercial and prestigious to some extent in comparison with Americans. In the USSR there were no people for whom time could turn to money, therefore the natural market of services which could be satisfied by Tu-144s just did not exist. So the aircraft was notoriously unprofitable. Thus from one hand - heroic efforts of Tupolev Design Bureau and other aviation organizations on Tu-144 aircraft development and from the other hand - initial non-professional enthusiasm followed by hamper from Aeroflot side.

The touchdown of the last Concorde at Filton, England, in November 2003, was the first time in human history that progress in travel time had been reversed. Up to that moment the speed of transport had steadily increased with every technological step since humans began riding on horseback.





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