The Tu-144 was to be the Soviet Union's entry into the high-prestige word of supersonic passenger travel. At the beginning of the 1960s, supersonic transports were expected to be the way of air travel in the future. Every industrialised nation was either involved with planning one, or enviously looking on. The SST was the
prestige project of the 1960s. In the Soviet Union, the design bureau of Andrei Tuploev was assigned the task of developing the aircraft. Tupolev's son Alexei was chosen to head the project. Tupolev chose to develop the aircraft in two stages. The first would be an aerodynamic prototype to prove the delta wing concept and aerodynamics, with the fully-developed aircraft to follow along later. This allowed the Soviets to score a propaganda victory by flying the prototype on Dec 31st, 1968 even though it was much smaller and quite different from the aircraft's final configuration. The Tu-144 fell victim to the Soviet Government's indifference to civil aviation, and was handicapped by its politically driven introduction into service before its flight testing and development were complete. The aircraft put into service were handicapped by their engines' high fuel consumption, and by cabin noise levels that were embarrassingly loud. After several inflight equipment failures that were kept from being disasters only by the extreme professionalism of the flight crews, the Soviet Government, not wishing to have a propaganda disaster on their hands, suspended the passenger service less than a year after it began. The Tu-144Ds entered service too late to fly any passengers although they did serve as freighters, a role the aircraft was almost totally unsuited for. Their retirement was equally swift.
The Tu-144 was always in the shadow of Concorde, and its public perception never recovered from the 1973 Paris Airshow disaster where the second development aircraft crashed while attempting to avoid a French Air Force Mirage that may have approached too closely. The exact circumstances of this crash have never been made completely clear. In the latter half of the 1990s, RA-77114 was rebuilt using a set of engines from a Tu-160 and used as a flying laboratory by NASA and several Russian design companies. It made a series of 27 flights exploring the mechanics of supersonic flight. The data obtained from these flights will be kept for use in future supersonic designs.
Perhaps the most famous Tu-144 is CCCP-77112, now owned by the Auto & Technik Museum Sinsheim
Revell and ICM have made a productive alliance, and this kit is another result, combining ICM's plastic with Revell's excellent decals and distribution network. The Tu-144 is quite large for a supersonic airliner, noticeably larger than Concorde, and the model is quite complicated. This release is moulded in Revell's familiar white plastic on 7 sprues plus one of clear for the windows and stand. The plastic has a satin finish, and is soft and easy to work with. The kit depicts an early production TU-144. The Tu-144D's Kolesov RD-36-51 engine nozzles are included on a separate sprue. The modeller will need to do a small bit of surgery to the engine nacelles in order to fit them.
The fuselage is two halves from cockpit to tail. The cabin windows are open, with clear parts provided for them. The cockpit windows are a two piece cockpit cab cover similar to a Heller or Minicraft cockpit, but the two parts make for a tricky glue join in the clear plastic. It would have been simpler to have a one piece cockpit. The panel lines are very fine, nicely engraved and match up well. The vertical fin is moulded into the right fuselage half. The drooping nose is separate, with a clear visor cover. The fuselage is moulded to show the nose drooped. If you want to show yours raised, you will have to trim off the mounting tab under the cockpit. The characteristic canard foreplanes may be mounted extended or retracted. They were often extended when the aircraft was on the ground with the nose lowered, although the aircraft were just as often parked with the nose up and canards retracted. The fuselage halves in the review copy are slightly warped, but much less than the ICM kit previously reviewed. Curing the warp will be a simple matter of gluing the fuselage in small sections rather than all at once.
The wings are each comprised of a one piece lower section and upper right and left halves. The elevons and their actuators are separate but may only be attached in the neutral position. There are 5 ejector pin towers left over inside the lower wing section which must be trimmed down in order for the wings to fit properly. Take care not to trim out the circular pedestals nearby; those are needed to establish the correct wing thickness. The elevons have static discharge wicks moulded into their trailing edges. They are quite delicate while at the same time being out of scale. Care will have to be taken to ensure they are not broken off during construction. The Tu-144D's characteristic wingtips are on the supplemental sprue.
The engines are quite complicated, and include a section of the bottom of the wing centre section. The intakes, including the main landing gear bay, are built from top and bottom sections and inserted into the main engine fairings. Cleaning up the gap should be done before gluing the intake assembly into the engine nacelle. There is an intake guide vane and boundary layer separator plate to insert into the intakes. At the aft end, the nozzles of the Kuznetsov NK-144 engines must be cut off and trimmed in order to allow the TU-144D's Kolesov RD-36-51 engine nozzles to fit. The two engine nacelles mate together to form the lower centre section of the wing and a portion of the aft fuselage. Take care to achieve a correct fit in this complicated assembly. Even though it is not shown on the instructions, an early Tu-144 may be built by leaving the nacelles as moulded and using the NK-144 nozzles on the fuselage sprues instead. There is a supplemental nacelle part which must be glued to hold the NK-144 nozzles in place.
The landing gear struts and wheels are finely moulded and nicely detailed. The main struts are fairly complicated. The nose gear strut is similarly well detailed and has 6 small clear landing lights. The TU-144D's nose wheel FOD guard is provided on the supplemental sprue.The gear legs could use some brake lines and whatever else the modeller likes, but will look good without them. The wheels themselves are properly thick and the detail moulded into the hubs is very good. There is an option for raised gear, and a stand is provided. As with all 1/144 kits, the gear doors are fairly thick but the real aircraft's main gear doors were quite thick. The nose gear doors are a trifle too thick, but there is no significant detail inside them, so they may be sanded down if you wish. ICM's toolmakers did make an effort to get the edges thin.
I don't compare models to drawings or published measurements. When assembled it looks like a Tu-144
Decals and Markings
Revell's decal sheet provides very complete markings for any Tu-144 in the 1973 Aeroflot markings. This sheet is far superior to the ICM kit's sheet and offers much better stencilling. It is important to note that aircraft 77101 - 77110 were Tu-144A aircraft which used the NK-144 engines which are not shown in the instructions. To build one of these aircraft, do not make the cuts Revell indicate on the nacelles and use the engine nozzles moulded on the fuselage sprues.
related reviewsICM's first issue
of the Tu-144A
The real thingCCCP-77110
in Paris, June 1977.
preserved in Sinsheim, Germany. This is perhaps the best known and certainly most visited Tu-144 of the fleet.
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