It is well known that supersonic aviation turned military affairs along with the development of missile weapons, bringing combat aircraft to a fundamentally new level of development. However, today very few people remember that in the history of civil aviation there were also attempts to use supersonic aircraft to transport passengers and cargo. The Soviet Union was the first in this field.
In the history of aviation, there were only two supersonic passenger liners. The British-French Concorde aircraft appeared on March 2, 1969 and became the second aircraft in its family. The first was the Soviet Tu-144, which entered service on December 31, 1968. It is about the Soviet revolutionary machine that will be discussed today. Already in 1971, the Tu-144 was partially redesigned and improved, after which it was presented at the Le Bourget Aviation Show in France, where it made a splash. It was there that for the first time it was possible to compare the Anglo-French car and the Soviet one. After that, Aeroflot of the USSR planned to place an impressive order for the production of Tu-144, which were to gradually replace all the old passenger aircraft of the country.
Two years later, the supersonic airliner from the USSR was again presented at Le Bourget. 1973 was a sad year for Russian aviation. During the show, the Tu-144 crashed. The crash killed all crew members. The exact cause of the incident is still unknown. According to some reports, the crash occurred due to an attempt by the Tu-144 to avoid a collision with the French Mirage.
The investigation gave nothing. The aircraft was partially reworked and already in 1975 the first commercial flight was made on the route Moscow - Alma-Ata. A plane ticket cost 68 rubles. For comparison, a ticket for a regular flight cost about 48 rubles. It is also interesting that Aeroflot pilots were allowed only to co-pilot seats. The first pilot has always been a Tupolev Design Bureau specialist. In total, the Tu-144 made about 50 flights, carrying 3194 passengers. Already in 1978, it was decided to close the project, and they put an end to commercial flights of supersonic liners.
There were several reasons for this. First, there was another disaster during the tests. The plane, just delivered from the factory, caught fire in the air and crashed. Secondly, the commercial operation of the Tu-144 was frankly not profitable. The tickets were too expensive, as was the maintenance of the unique car. In total, 16 such aircraft were built in the USSR.
Interestingly, the British-French Concorde had a similar fate. It was nominally used until 2003. A total of 20 such aircraft were made. The end to the program of supersonic passenger aviation in the West was also put by the plane crash that happened on June 25, 2000. This is the end of the history of supersonic passenger airliners. Is it a period or a comma? Only the future will show.
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