Tupolev TU-144

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Europe, Germany, Rhein-Neckar-Kreis

The Tupolev Tu-144 (NATO reporting name: "Charger'") was a Soviet Russian supersonic transport aircraft (SST). The Tu-144 remains one of only two SSTs to enter commercial service, the other being the Anglo-French Concorde. The design, first publicly unveiled in January 1962, was constructed under the direction of the Soviet Tupolev design bureau, headed by Alexei Tupolev. 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. The Tu-144 was outwardly similar to the AĆ©rospatiale/British Aircraft Corporation Concorde, which was under development at the same time, and allegations were frequently made that Soviet espionage services had stolen Concorde technology, giving the Tu-144 the nickname "Konkordski" or "Concordski". A prototype (OKB: izdeliye 044 - article 044) first flew on 31 December 1968 near Moscow, two months before the first flight of the Concorde. The Tu-144 first broke the sound barrier on 5 June 1969, and on 15 July 1969 it became the first commercial transport to exceed Mach 2. The Tu-144 suffered a disastrous crash in 1973 at the Paris Air Show, delaying its development. The aircraft was introduced into passenger service on 1 November 1977, almost two years after the Concorde. In May 1978, another Tu-144 crashed while being delivered, and the passenger fleet was permanently grounded a few days later, after only 55 scheduled flights. The aircraft remained in use as a cargo plane until 1983, by which point a total of 102 commercial flights had been completed. The Tu-144 was later used by the Soviet space program to train pilots of the Buran spacecraft, and by NASA for supersonic research.