result of the cold war's technology rivalry when the Soviet Union
copied many things the west made including the Concorde and Space
Shuttle. The Tupolev TU-144 was one of the Soviets least successful
project. Built as a competitor to the Anglo-French Concorde from
modified plans stolen from the French it was the first supersonic
commercial aircraft beating Concorde by two months.
The programs first disaster was when a TU-144 (or Concordski as the
media called it) crashed in front of TV-cameras during a presentation
at the Paris Air Show 1973. The French had sent up a Mirage III jet to
photograph the TU-144 in flight, but did not tell the Russians. The
plane found itself on a collision course with the Mirage when they took
evasive action the plane stalled and then when they tried to recover
from the stall they overstressed the air frame causing the plane to
break-up and crash, It was also suggested that the pilot who was under
pressure to show off the planes abilities against the Concorde,
possible was pushing the plane too hard when he attempted the steep
climb that caused the stall.
After several modifications the Concordski was put back into service on
mail and cargo runs as the TU-144D between Alma Ata and Moscow in 1975.
The Russians wanted to prove the plane was safe before starting
passenger service in 1977. A second crash soon after passenger service
began put commercial service on hold again in 1978. while a third crash
landing sealed the fate of the TU-144 with the last jet to fly in 1985.
The TU-144 could hold 40 more people than the Concorde and was slightly
faster but it used more fuel and had less range, only 17 TU-144's
including 1 prototype and 5 TU-144D models were built, while there were
16 production and 4 prototype Concorde's built, 14 of which went on
sale to Air France and British Airways.
The TU-144 flew again in the mid-1990s, when Boeing and NASA partnered
with Tupolev to test supersonic flight. using a heavily modified
TU-144D was renamed TU-144LL and set up as a flying test laboratory for
future supersonic development. Developed for NASA's High-Speed Civil
Transport program it made 32 flights up to 1999 near Moscow. Since then
Boeing has shelved plans for a supersonic plane deciding to continue
improvements on their 777 series jets. NASA's part in the project has
also stopped as their hopes for large scale use of supersonic aircraft
had proven too costly.