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Tu-144 Charger Supersonic Transport

Andrei Nicholayvich Tupolev was born in 1888 and was responsible for the design of many Russian aircraft. He acted as the general designer for the Tu-144 and after his death in 1972 was succeeded by his son, Alexei. Both Andrei and Alexei Tupolev were present on Dec. 31, 1968 for the maiden flight of a prototype Tu-144, which became the world's first supersonic transport. The Tu-144 was originally designed as a supersonic transport for service in the Russian airline industry.

The Tu-144 was designed by A. N. Tupolev. This aircraft was at first intended to carry 120 passengers over a range of 6500 km at a cruising speed of 2500 km/hr. The Tu-144 was to be as economical as subsonic airliners and will be manned by a crew of three who will have the benefit of the latest navigational aids and the help of electronic computers. The Tu-144 was intended to have a flying weight of 130 tons, to cruise at an altitude of about 20 km and was planned to take-off in a distance of 1,900 meters. What was finally built fell short of these amibitious goals.

Commercial use of the Tu-144 lasted only seven months. Aeroflot stopped flights on this plane after the crash of the prototype TU-144D. Also among the reasons, the non-profitability of flights was also called. Tickets for Tu-144 flights cost 1.5 times higher than usual, but even such a high cost did not cover operating costs.

The Tu-144 was one of only two first-generation supersonic transports or SSTs (the other being the Anglo-French Concorde) to go into actual production and commercial service. The sleek, double-delta-winged craft was the brainchild of famed Russian aircraft designer Andrei N. Tupolev, who oversaw the development of the Tu-144 as general designer. The prototype Tu-144 was first flown on Dec. 31, 1968, about two months before the competing Concorde prototype took to the air.

On Nov. 1, 1977, the Russian airline Aeroflot inaugurated passenger service with a production model Tu-144 when it flew from Moscow to Alma-Ata, Kazakhstan. Limited range and other technical problems led to service being discontinued in 1978 after only 102 passenger flights. By comparison, the Concorde began commercial trans-Atlantic service with British Airways and Air France in January 1976. A total of 17 Tu-144s were completed, the last one coming off the production line in 1981. This sum includes one prototype; two pre-production test aircraft; and 14 full production machines, including nine initial-production Tu-144S aircraft, and five final production Tu-144D with improved engines. One additional Tu-144D was started but not completed. Apart those mentioned machines several additional Tu-144 airframes were built to be used in structural tests.

The Auto & Technik Museum in Sinsheim, partnered with the Speyer Museum, is open all year round from 9 a.m.-6 p.m. Featuring an actual Concorde and its Russian equivalent, the Tupolev Tu-144 (the only one on display outside the former Soviet Union).

The successful building in the 1950s of supersonic combat airplanes, including heavy ones, created a favorable situation to study possibilities for building supersonic passenger airplanes (SST). The first SST projects took their origin in the first post-war years when in the USA and in UK some hypothetical projects were proposed. but the technical approaches were too far from practical realization. In late 1950s on both sides of "iron curtain" there appeared first prototypes and consequently production supersonic heavy airplanes of military purpose and substantially straight away on this basis leading world aircraft companies prepared projects of the SSTs of various aerodynamic schematics and arrangements.

Comprehensive review of these SST projects revealed that building of effective competitive SST by upgrading of military prototype - was extremely complicated task (in contrast to the process of first jet passenger aircraft building basing on subsonic heavy combat aircraft). The first supersonic combat aircraft mainly complied with requirements of relatively short supersonic flight. The SST had to ensure cruising flight at speeds corresponding to at least M=2 plus specific task of passenger transportation required significant increase in safety level of all aircraft components provided the aircraft is operated more intensively by increasing supersonic modes of flight. Step by step making analysis of all possible approaches aircraft specialists both in the USSR and in the West came to a firm opinion that economically efficient SST should be designed as a radically new type of aircraft.

TUPOLEV Design Bureau started SST designing in early 1960s. The first technical proposals were mainly based on large-range bombers. The Tu-144 design owed much to earlier studies of the Tu-125 and Tu-135 bombers. Although these aircraft were never built, they gave Tupolev engineers experience in optimizing the aerodynamic behavior of Mach 2 configurations. Later on when activities started on the Tu-144 aircraft, S.Yeger proposed a preliminary project of Tu-144 powered by NK-144 engines.

Besides TUPOLEV Design Bureau preliminary study of SST in the USSR was made in Design Bureau-23 named after V. Myasishev. In this Design Bureau in the late 1950s some original SST projects were prepared (M-53, M-55A, M-55B and M-55V).

The early 1960s were characterized by deployment of practical activities on English-French SST "Concorde" (investigation of the subject was started in 1955-1956) with cruising supersonic flight speed more than M=2 and flight range of 6000 - 6500 km carrying 120-140 passengers. Simultaneously leading aircraft USA companies basing on their view of future SST market started working on designing SST much larger than "Concorde" which was intended for transportation of 250-300 passengers at cruising speed up to M=3 for the range of 7000 - 8000 km (projects of Boeing, Lockheed, Douglas).

Analysis of conditions of existing of future SST made in the USSR regarding to the level of native aircraft manufacturing and its closest future and also regarding economical potentials of the country and Civil Aircraft Fleet demands, revealed that for the USSR the most preferable was building of the SST which was close to "Concorde" by its performance data.

In the course of building the Soviet SST a number of scientific tasks were put in front of aircraft science and industry. These tasks have not ever been put in front of the subsonic passenger or military supersonic aviation. First of all to ensure required SST performance data (M=2 flight for the range of up to 6500 km carrying 100-120 passengers in combination with acceptable take-off and landing data) it was necessary to provide significant improvement of aerodynamic cleanness of the aircraft during cruising flights at M=2 -2.2. Under such conditions L/D ration should be increased up to 7.5 - 8.0.

It was necessary to solve stability and controllability problems of a heavy aircraft during flights within subsonic, transonic and supersonic envelopes, to elaborate practical methods for trimming aircraft under all said conditions in view of minimization of aerodynamic loss. Durable flight at the speed of M=2 was associated with strength of airframe design at increased temperatures (close to 100-120C). Tupolev was going to create heat resistant structural material, lubricants, sealant and also to elaborate new types of structures capable for long-term operation under cyclic aerodynamic heating. Very high requirements were established to Powerplant components: it was necessary to build powerful and economically efficient engines capable to operate steadily during supersonic flight.

Also it was necessary to solve problems of controlling air intakes operated within wide range of altitudes and speeds by controlling required inlet air flow at possible less aerodynamic loss. The most efficient was to perform durable supersonic cruising flight at high altitudes. Accordingly main and component Design Bureau were put in front of the tasks of designing of principles of new air-conditioning systems and later specific components and systems ensuring passengers and crew members with comfortable conditions at high altitudes (up to 20 km) and when durable flights at significant heating of airframe components. Tupolev had to design a number of new devices and systems for automatic flight control, precision navigation when performing durable supersonic flight and also automatic landing. The necessity arose to investigate ecological features of the SST operation associated with emission of great amount of engines exhaust gases at high altitudes and their affect upon ozone layer, noise and sound wave affect upon people, animals and buildings, affect of durable flight at high altitudes upon passengers and crew members associated with solar irradiation. When designing the SST it was necessary to take into account particularity of domestic and international air transportation, existing airfields and air traffic control.

All these problems were studied comprehensively with attraction of western practice by TsAGI, TUPOLEV Design Bureau, and other Design Bureaus involved in the Program on designing a Soviet SST.

In the early 1980s when future economic and political crisis became evident in the USSR and Soviet government started money saving policy the Tu-144 aircraft Program was one of the first which was affected. After the death of Brezhnev, the attitude towards the aircraft of the new leadership of the country changed. Preference was given to a simpler and more reliable subsonic IL-86 airbus.

Tu-144 aircraft building and development became the largest and the most complicated program in history of Soviet aircraft industry. As a result of long term activities it was possible to build aerial vehicle of world level class not being inferior to any western production aircraft of such class.

While active works on Tu-144 were substantially closed in the middle of the 1980s, the direction of activities was realized in the Design Bureau in creation of SST-2 - TU-244 aircraft. Within SST-2 activities one of Tu-144D aircraft was re-equipped into flying laboratory Tu-144LL "Moscow" (4xNK-321) which made several tens of experimental flights within joint program on building in future economically and ecologically perfected supersonic passenger aircraft of the 21st century.

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