3 June 1973: While maneuvering at low altitude at the Paris Air Show, the first production Tupolev Tu-144S, CCCP-77102, Aeroflot’s new Mach 2+ supersonic airliner, broke apart in midair and crashed into a residential area. All six crew members and eight people on the ground died. Another 25 were injured.
The Tu-144 was built by Tupolev OKB at the Voronezh Aviation Plant (VASO), Pridacha Airport, Voronezh. It was a large delta-winged aircraft with a “droop” nose for improved low speed cockpit visibility and retractable canards mounted high on the fuselage behind the cockpit. It was flown by a crew of 3 and was designed to carry up to 140 passengers.
The airliner was 65.50 meters (214.895 feet) long, with a wingspan of 28.80 meters (94.488 feet). The tip of the vertical fin was 10.50 meters (34.449 feet) high. Empty weight was 85,000 kilograms (187,393 pounds) and the maximum takeoff weight was 180,000 kilograms (396,832 pounds).
The Tu-144S was powered by four Kuznetsov NK-144F afterburning turbofan engines, producing 45,000 pounds of thrust, each.
The airliner’s cruise speed was Mach 1.88 (2,000 kilometers per hour/1,243 miles per hour) with a maximum speed of Mach 2.15 (2,285 kilometers per hour/1,420 miles per hour). The service ceiling was 20,000 meters (65,617 feet).
The cause of the accident is not known, other than the obvious structural failure, but there is speculation that the Tu-144 was trying to avoid another airplane. You Tube has several video clips of the accident. This one, beginning at 1:10, has the best visuals of the inflight break up:
© 2016, Bryan R. Swopesby