On October 28, 2020, an Alrosa Airlines Tupolev Tu-154, a flagship model of Soviet aviation, performed its last civil flight for the type in Russia.
The 28-year-old aircraft, with registration RA-85757, took off from Mirny Airport in Yakutia with 140 passengers, for a flight of two hours to Novosibirsk-Tolmachevo Airport.
Fifty years ago, the famous Tupolev Airliner Tu-154 made its first flight marking. It was the beginning of a long career for an iconic aircraft of the Soviet era and a real breakthrough for the national aviation industry.
Tupolev Tu-154 was developed by the Tupolev Design Bureau, and in the 1960’s competed with the Ilyushin Il-74 to be the replacement for Aeroflot’s older and outdated aircraft. All the airliners previously operated by the Soviet Union (Tu-104, Tu-114, Tu-124 and Tu-134) were designed on the basis of pre-existing combat aircraft, while the Tu-154 was the first aircraft originally intended for civil flights. The designers planned to apply a maximum number of innovations to create a device capable of replacing several models in operation
The Soviet Ministry of Aircraft Industry chose the Tu-154 because it best met Aeroflot’s anticipated requirements of the 1970s and 1980s, and represented the latest in Soviet aircraft design.
The Tu-154 was powered by three rear-mounted low-bypass turbofan engines arranged similarly to those of the Boeing 727. The passenger cabin could accommodate up to 180 passengers in high-density layout with a range of 5,800–7,000 km. With a cruising speed of 975 kilometres per hour (606 mph), the Tu-154 was with the US made Convair 990 Coronado, the fastest civilian aircraft in use at that time.
First flight was made on October 3, 1968 by test-pilot U.V. Suhov. First production airplane took off in 1970, and the same year, serial production of Tu-154A aircraft, with maximum takeoff weight of 94 tons, began. The first deliveries to Aeroflot were in 1970 with freight services beginning in May 1971 and passenger services in February 1972. In 1972, the Tu-154 made its first international flight Moscow-Berlin.
The mass production of the aircraft lasted 45 years, during which a thousand aircraft were built.
Designed to be the workhorse of the Soviet aviation industry, flying into some of the harshest airfields in the world, the Tu-154 went places other jet powered aircraft of its size could not. With its oversized landing gear, the Tu-154 was even able to land on unpaved runways. The aircraft tirelessly served the booming oil and gas industry for several decades through the immense Siberia and its extreme climate.
Contrary to popular belief, the Tu-154 was not an unsafe aircraft. According to the Aviation Safety Network, the Soviet built aircraft has been involved in 110 serious incidents, 68 of which resulted in a hull loss. Most of the accidents were caused either by factors unrelated to the aircraft, or by its extensive use in demanding conditions.
In January 2010, Russian flag carrier Aeroflot announced the retirement of its Tu-154 fleet after 40 years, with the last scheduled flight being Aeroflot Flight 736 from Ekaterinburg to Moscow on 31 December 2009. Following the crash of a TU154 in the Black Sea on 25 December 2016 with the Red Army Choir singers on board, the Russian Ministry of Defense announced that it had grounded all of its Tu-154s. North Korean Air Koryo and Air Kyrgystan appeared to be the last operators to use the iconic aircraft.
Jason Rabinowitz, Airliner Reporter correspondent said: “The Tu-154 will forever have a place in aviation history as a tank of an aircraft, going where other aircraft wouldn’t even dream of. Although it had its fair share of black eyes along the way, this Soviet designed aircraft stood the test of time”.
(Source: Aeroflot/Tupolev/flyhistoria/Wikipedia/Airline Reporter/IPFS – Image: TU-154 at Moscow Vnukovo airport in February 2005/energy global news/Ren.B)