Tupolev Tu-144
Aeroflot’s Supersonic Dream

Red Star Volume 24
By Yefim Gordon and Vladimir Rigmant
Midland Publications, ©2005
ISBN 1-85780-216-0
Softbound, 128 Pages
Available from Specialty Press for $36.95

Reviewed by Chris Banyai-Riepl

Following the end of the Second World War, civil aviation received an enormous boost with the advent of the jet engine. As military aircraft continued to improve in performance and speed, civil transportation was not far behind. It was not long before the concept of a supersonic transport became the next step in the evolution of the jetliner. The enormous expense killed off US types, and it was only through a collaborative effort between Britain and France that the Concorde was able to take to the skies, becoming the most famous supersonic transport. However, there was another operational SST: the Tu-144. Not needing international collaboration to fund this project, the Tu-144 became an icon of Soviet national prestige, even more so since it first flew before the Concorde. Once in service, though, it proved to have similar problems to the Concorde, namely high operating costs and limited usage. Still, the Tu-144 remained an outstanding aircraft, so much so that it was resurrected in the 1990s for high speed testing with NASA.

The fascinating story of the Tu-144 is well worth reading, and this latest title in the Red Star series provides the most complete reference to date on this plane. As would be expected, this book provides extensive background information on the SST program, as well as the initial development process. A supersonic transport is not a simple craft to build, and the various troubles are all highlighted. Once the aircraft was built, it entered service in 1977, and the text details the operational history of the plane. This is, well, short, as the plane was withdrawn from service in 1978. Complementing the well written text are plenty of great photos, both from the Soviet era and post-Soviet era, including the NASA test aircraft. A set of scale drawings and some information on the new Tu-444 supersonic business jet round out the book.

This is an excellent reference on the Tu-144, one which makes me wish for a nice, new-tool 1/144 kit of this supersonic transport. While that doesn’t exist, at least we have a great book detailing the type. My thanks to Specialty Press for the review copy.

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