Tupolev Tu-144

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The Tupolev Tu-144 (NATO reporting name: "Charger'") was one of the world's two supersonic transport aircraft (SST) to enter commercial service, along with the Concorde, and was constructed under the direction of the Soviet Tupolev design bureau headed by Alexei Tupolev.[1]

The Tu-144 was outwardly similar to the AĆ©rospatiale / British Aircraft Corporation Concorde, under development at the same time, and there were frequent allegations that Soviet espionage played a key role, giving the Tu-144 the nickname "Konkordski" or "Concordski". The Tu-144 was Tupolev's only supersonic commercial airliner venture, as the company's other large supersonic aircraft were designed and built to military specifications. All these aircraft benefited from technical and scientific input from TsAGI, the Central Aerohydrodynamic Institute. McDonnell Douglas, Lockheed and Boeing were three other manufacturers who attempted to design SST airliners for the US market during the 1960s without success.

A prototype (OKB: izdeliye 044 - article 044[1]) first flew on 31 December 1968 near Moscow, two months before the Concorde. The Tu-144 first broke the speed of sound on 5 June 1969, and on 15 July 1969 it became the first commercial transport to exceed Mach two. The Tu-144 was introduced into passenger service on 1 November 1977, almost two years after the Concorde, and was withdrawn after 55 scheduled passenger flights due to potentially severe problems with aircraft safety and was not re-introduced to service.

Although the Tu-144 was technically broadly comparable to the Concorde, it lacked a passenger market within the Soviet Union[citation needed] and service was halted after only 102 scheduled flights (55 passenger flights, the rest cargo). The Concorde remained in service until 2003, being withdrawn three years after the crash of Air France Flight 4590 near Paris on 25 July 2000, the only loss of an SST in commercial service.

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