Jun wrote:The idea of the Russian supersonic plane being used for cargo only seems rather wasteful. Particularly if transporting the kind of worthless junk that the Soviet Union produced..
Certainly wasteful but the plane was so full of technical problems that there was hardly one flight when many did not surface. The plane only flew on the Moscow/Almaty route with only one flight a week in each direction. But these weekly passenger flights were rarely even half full. Then there was another accident in May 1978 when one caught fire and had to make an emergency landing in which two engineers were killed. I guess they switched to cargo traffic simply in order to justify the plane's existence. After all, this was still the height of the Cold War when the Soviets were intent on stressing their advances in technology.
Although it looks a bit like the Concorde, that was not, so I have read, a result of spying. It was very much a different plane. The wings were larger and shaped differently, it was longer, it had lousy engines which resulted in the engine chambers being twice as long as those on Concorde and it had a tendency to go nose down on take off! To counteract that it was fitted with two small retractable winglets behind the cockpit which provided the extra lift to enable it to get into the air. It also had higher take off and landing speeds and required a parachute to slow it down on landing.
For passengers, it was far noisier than for those flying Concorde. To reach supersonic flight, it had to use very noisy afterburners as in military aircraft. Concorde's engine designers modified and significantly refined its afterburners so it was much quieter for passengers.
In its short life as a passenger plane -- only 55 return flights -- the Tu-144 suffered hundreds of failures, many of them inflight, ranging from depressurization to engine failure to blaring alarms that couldn't be switched off. All sorts of stories have surfaced over the years about the plane's woes, including reports that passengers had to communicate through written notes because of the deafening noise. Perhaps more tellingly, each flight from Moscow could only depart after the aircraft had been personally inspected by the plane's designer, Alexei Tupolev himself.
Ironically perhaps, NASA paid for one to be taken out of mothballs in the 1990s for a joint US/Russian research programme on supersonic flight. But it only flew 27 times before the programme was cancelled.https://edition.cnn.com/style/article/t ... index.html