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Meanwhile # 1 | October 2003
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The Communists meant business when they were trying to take over the world. They built some of the meanest killing machines the world has ever seen. Whatever it took, they had to have it bigger and better. What they couldn’t think of themselves, they stole from the west. Many Russian aircraft bear more than just a passing resemblance to western counterparts. Not that the west didn’t use every chance it got to have a good look at what the soviets were doing!

One of the most controversial aircraft to come out of Russia was the Tu-144 supersonic airliner dubbed the “Konkordski”. The Soviets got their hands on the blueprints of the French/British Concorde project. With a few modifications here and there they got their version of it into the air two months before Concorde. At the 1973 Paris Airshow, the Concorde and the Tu-144 was showcased against each other. Concorde flew first and amazed the crowds with maneuvers never seen before in a commercial airliner.

The Tu-144 flew a very similar display to the Concorde, but then the unthinkable happened. As one spectator witnessed;

"Because there was no cloud, he could go up and up and up, and, I don't know, three and a half, four thousand feet. This thing was just going up, looking at it as we were, you know, going away from us like this. And then suddenly, it just very abruptly leveled off. I mean, really violently. And it did something that you never see big airplanes do: Really violently change their pitch attitude. And both Andy and I went, "Ooooh!" You got this vision of this aircraft coming down. And it has to do with the angle, the speed, and the distance remaining when you think.

'That's not right.' And I said to Andy, "He's lost it." And at that point, with the aircraft still fairly well up, probably -- I don't know -- 1,500 feet or a bit less, it started to break up and had clearly been overstressed."


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The Tu-144 crashed into houses near the airport. Six crew members onboard and 8 French citizens on the ground died. The accident was never fully explained, years later it emerged that there was a second aircraft in the air that day. A French Airforce Mirage took off just before the Tu-144 with orders to photograph the russian plane as it performed. The Tupolev pilot lost control of the aircraft as he tried to avoid a mid-air crash with the mirage!

Konkordski never made it as a commercial success after Paris. It was finally put into service with Aeroflotin 1977 but was eventually withdrawn due to unreliability “issues” and put into storage. It wouldnever have flown again but in the nineties NASA and Boeing made a deal with the Russians to use on of the retired Tu-144’s as testbed for high-speed research. It flew with the Americans between 1996 and 1998, performing numerous experiments and tests in high-altitude/high- speed flight.

Type | Super Sonic Transport
Made by | Tupolev 1968
Top Speed | Mach 2+ (2488km/h)
Maximum Take-off weight | 81,650 kg \ 180 000lbs
Thrust | 4 x Afterburning Turbofans