A brief history of the Tupolev Tu-144



The Tupolev Tu-144 is one of only two SSTs to enter commercial service, the other being the Anglo-French Concorde.

The prototype first flew on 31 December 1968 near Moscow, two months before the first flight of the Concorde. The Tu-144 first went supersonic on 5 June 1969 and on 26 May 1970 became the first commercial transport to exceed Mach 2.


Photo © Ralf Roletschek commons.wikimedia.org

A Tu-144 crashed in 1973 at the Paris Air Show, delaying its further development. The aircraft was introduced into passenger service on 1 November 1977, almost two years after Concorde because of budget restrictions. In May 1978, another Tu-144 (an improved version, named Tu-144D) crashed on a test flight while being delivered and the passenger fleet was permanently grounded after only 55 scheduled flights.

The aircraft remained in use as a cargo aircraft until 1983, by which point a total of 102 commercial flights had been completed. The Tu-144 was later used by the Soviet space program to train pilots of the Buran spacecraft and by NASA for supersonic research.

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