23.4 C
New York

Inside graveyard of abandoned Soviet Concorde that could go 1,400mph… before fireball crash saw plane AXED from service

Published:

A SOVIET Concorde that once soared through the sky at blistering speeds now sits in a graveyard after it met a tragic end.

Following a fireball crash the plane has now been left to rot – surrounded by bits of scrap metal and debris.

A soviet version of the Concorde has been left to rot

8

A soviet version of the Concorde has been left to rotCredit: East2West
Concordes could travel at incredible speeds of up to 2,179 km/h

8

Concordes could travel at incredible speeds of up to 2,179 km/hCredit: Reuters
The plane was once luxurious but is now eroding

8

The plane was once luxurious but is now erodingCredit: East2West
The nose of the air-craft pokes over the fence in the backyard of a military base

8

The nose of the air-craft pokes over the fence in the backyard of a military baseCredit: VseDomaRossii.ru

The Tupolev Tu-144, inevitably dubbed Concordski, was once the pride of its nation.

But jaw-dropping pictures show one of the 1400mph super-planes now in a sorry state.

The Concordski had a tragic fall from grace when appearing alongside a Anglo-French Concorde at the Paris Air Show in 1973.

Rivalry grew as pilots fought over which plane was “sexier” and the Tu-144 was pushed too far.

As horrified spectators watched on, the Russian plane entered into a steep nose dive and broke up mid-air, killing all six on board.

The remains of the exotic bird now sit in the city Kazan in Russia in the backyard of a military base, its distinctive nose poking over the fence.

It sits in what appears to be a sad looking museum at a university in the city.

The interior of the plane – that was once a lavish space for deep-pocketed passengers – is now grubby and moulding.

From the outside the plane has lost its shine as the paint is peeling off and dirty marks are spread all over it.

Despite its condition a few years ago a group of enthusiasts did manage to get the mechanism that lowers the nose working.

The origins of the Tu-144 date back to the 1960s when Cold War rivalry between the West and the Soviet Union became increasingly fierce.

Soviet prestige relied on its technological prowess particularly in areas such as space flight and aircraft technology.

Eerie tale of doomed ‘gargantuan of the SKIES’ – 72 tonne prop plane which cost £6million… but never carried passengers

So when the UK and France announced plans for a supersonic airliners in the early 1960s, the Soviets decided they had to get in on the act.

“Development started in the midst of a rivalry between two political systems,” Ilya Grinberg, a Soviet aviation expert, told CNN.

In fact the Soviets appeared to be ahead of their western rivals and the Tu-144 was unveiled to world at the end of 1968, a few months ahead of Concorde.

Suspicions were immediately raised about the similarity between the two planes and before long rumours began circulating the copcat Russians had stolen the plans for Concorde.

Western observers who believed in the superiority of their technology thought the only way the Soviet Union could have come up with the Tu-144 was through industrial espionage.

But says Grinberg “the design of the Tupolev was not a result of espionage” and that although they look alike, they are different planes with many different aspects. 

At first it appeared the Soviets may have stolen a March on their Western rivals.

The Tupolev was slightly bigger and faster than Concorde and made its supersonic flight four months ahead of its competitor.

It came with distinctive winglike projections on the front called canards, which were advanced tot the era.

“Expectations were high,” said Grinberg, an engineering professor at Buffalo State University.

“The entire USSR was extremely proud of the Tu-144, and the Soviet people had no doubt that it was better than Concorde. And it was so pretty!”

Jock Lowe, a former Concorde pilot and British Airway flight operations manager, said like the space race, the plane was another front in the Cold War.

“The rivalry between Concorde and the Tu-144 was symptomatic of that international era,” he said.

“There was the space race and the race to put a man on the Moon race happening at the same time.”

Compared to Concorde, the Tu-144 was around 12ft longer than its rival and had more powerful engines.

Concorde’s were so fast that a flight from London to New York would take less than 3 hours – although it would come with a hefty price tag.

A seat on the jet would likely cost around £2,200 as that was the average Concorde seat price – and so attracted mainly the elite passengers.

This image shows the exploded engine of the Tu-144 after the crash

8

This image shows the exploded engine of the Tu-144 after the crashCredit: Keystone
The Tu-144 was so similar to the Concorde that some people thought the Russians had stolen the plans

8

The Tu-144 was so similar to the Concorde that some people thought the Russians had stolen the plansCredit: AP:Associated Press
A seat on the aircraft is thought to have costed roughly  £2,200 as that was the price for a seat on the Concorde

8

A seat on the aircraft is thought to have costed roughly £2,200 as that was the price for a seat on the ConcordeCredit: Reuters
It would take just under 3 hours to fly from London to New York on the planes

8

It would take just under 3 hours to fly from London to New York on the planesCredit: Wikipedia

1973 Paris Air Show Tu-144 crash

The Paris Air Show was the beginning of the end for the Tu-144.

Concorde took to the skies first without a hitch and determined not to be outdone, the Tu-144 went for a more audacious show.

As it approached the runway as if to make a landing it then climbed rapidly, with its engines at full power.

Seconds later, it pitched over, broke up in the air and dived into a nearby village, destroying 15 houses.

All six of the crew on board and eight people in the village were killed.

Conspiracy theorists Tupolev claimed it crashed to avoid collision with a French Mirfighter that was trying to photograph it,

But Grinberg says the explanation is much more straightforward.

“The pilots attempted to impress the public and the world’s press, to show that the Soviet plane could be “sexier” than the more conservative display of Concorde.”

“Just wait until you see us fly,” Tu-144 test pilot Mikhail Koslov had apparently taunted the Concorde team.

The crash set back the project with the Soviet authorities nervous about allowing passengers on board.

There were also numerous problems that made it unattractive.

Not all the toilets worked and the air, the huge air-conditioners and the massive engines created an ear-shattering roar.

On-board speakers played the theme from Love Story, Gloomy Sunday, and Raindrops Keep Falling but few aboard could hear it.

After a Tu-144 crashed on a pre-delivery test flight in June 1978, Aeroflot pulled the plug on its career.

It had flown only 102 commercial flights, and only 55 of those had carried passengers.

In contrast Concorde flew for more than 25 years, racking up thousands of flights and becoming one of the most iconic designs of the 20th Century.

Related articles

Recent articles

spot_img