Zhukovsky pays tribute to the venerable Tu-144 supersonic airliner

Tu-144 The last time this Tu-144 left the ground was 20 years ago (Marina Lystseva)

A Tupolev Tu-144, the world’s first supersonic passenger aircraft, has started a new life, not in the sky, but on the ground, as a monument. A pedestal with the airliner has been installed at the entrance to Zhukovsky city (in the Moscow region) and was unveiled just before City Day on August 16, ahead of the start of the MAKS 2019 air show there.

The aircraft, with tail number CCCP-77114 and its peer with tail number 77115, have regularly been displayed at the MAKS static display and the aircraft monument has been aptly located in front of the central entrance to the Gromov Flight Research Institute.

The modified Tu-144D (77114), powered by RD-36-51A engines, was used in civil aviation between 1981 and 1990, setting three world records in the process. Between 1995 and 1999 it was used by NASA as a test-bed for the development of modern supersonic passenger aircraft research. The aircraft was reconfigured and equipped with NK-32-1 engines (which power the Tupolev Tu-160 strategic bombers). These changes increased the speed of the aircraft from mach 2.15 to 2.3. Following its decommission, the Tu-144 was stored at the Gromov Flight Research Institute.

Meanwhile, the installation of another tribute to the Soviet supersonic passenger aircraft era – consisting of four more Tu-144 aircraft – is at Monino (Moscow region), Ulyanovsk, Kazan, and Germany’s Sinsheim, in a project supervised by the Avia Legends charity foundation which was created in 2015 to establish the National Aviation Museum at Zhukovsky.

The foundation’s chairman Mikhail Agafonov told Show Observer, Russian Aviation Insider’s sister publication, that the first stage of the project has been implemented thanks to Yuri Prokhorov, the head of Zhukovsky city and Andrey Vorobyov, the governor of the Moscow region. The project has also found support from the Central Aerohydrodynamic Institute (TsAGI), the Tupolev Design Bureau and the Research and Engineering Company, as well as (NIK) Zhukovsky International Airport Cargo, some industry veterans and enthusiastic aviators and some individual Russian residents. Furthermore, with the help of volunteers, the aircraft has been restored and painted in its original Soviet-era Aeroflot colours.

The restoration and installation of the Tu-144 monument cost some 20 million roubles (US$315,000), but it is only at the first stage. In the future it is planned to create an interactive museum inside the aircraft, where part of the experimental equipment and cockpit with all flight controls have been preserved. The ultimate goal of the project is a museum complex, including an exhibition pavilion and a nicely maintained area around the aircraft.

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