Tupolev Tu-104

Aeroflot Tupolev Tu-104B at Arlanda, July 1972.jpg
Aeroflot Tupolev Tu-104B at Arlanda Airport in 1972
Role Narrow-body jet airliner
Manufacturer Tupolev OKB
Designer Andrei Tupolev
First flight June 17, 1955; 62 years ago (1955-06-17)
Introduction 15 September 1956 (Aeroflot)
Retired 1986
Status Retired
Primary users Aeroflot
Produced 1956–1960
Number built 201
Developed from Tupolev Tu-16
Variants Tupolev Tu-110
Tupolev Tu-124
Aeroflot Tupolev Tu-104B at Arlanda Airport in 1968, with drag parachute deployed.

The Tupolev Tu-104 ( NATO reporting name: Camel) was a twin-engined medium-range narrow-body turbojet-powered Soviet airliner and the world's first successful jet airliner. Although it was the sixth jet airliner to fly (following, in order, the British Vickers Type 618 Nene-Viking, de Havilland Comet, Canadian Avro Canada C102 Jetliner, US Boeing 367-80 and French Sud Caravelle), the Tu-104 was the second to enter regular service (with Aeroflot) and the first to provide a sustained and successful service (the Comet which had entered service in 1952, was withdrawn from 1954-1958 following a series of crashes due to structural failure). The Tu-104 was the sole jetliner operating in the world between 1956 and 1958. [1]

In 1957, Czechoslovak Airlines – ČSA, (now Czech Airlines) became the first airline in the world to fly a route exclusively with jet airliners, using the Tu-104A variant between Prague and Moscow. In civil service, the Tu-104 carried over 90 million passengers with Aeroflot (then the world's largest airline), and a lesser number with ČSA, while it also saw operation with the Soviet Air Force. Its successors included the Tu-124 (one of the first turbofan-powered airliners), the Tu-134 and the Tu-154.

Design and development

At the beginning of the 1950s, the Soviet Union's Aeroflot airline needed a modern airliner with better capacity and performance than the piston-engined aircraft then in operation. The design request was filled by the Tupolev OKB, which based their new airliner on its Tu-16 'Badger' strategic bomber. The wings, engines, and tail surfaces of the Tu-16 were retained with the airliner, but the new design adopted a wider, pressurised fuselage designed to accommodate 50 passengers. The prototype build in MMZ 'Opit' first flew on June 17, 1955 with Yu.L. Alasheyev at the control. It was fitted with a drag parachute to shorten the landing distance by up to 400 metres (1,300 ft), since at the time not many airports had sufficiently long runways. [1]

Although a popular story says Westerners were surprised by the arrival of the Tu-104 in London during a 1956 state visit[ dubious ] by Nikolai Bulganin and Nikita Khrushchev, the airplane had already been revealed at the July 1955 Tushino airshow. [2] In either case, Western observers at the time thought the Soviets lacked the advanced technology required to build an airliner suitable for commercial performance. [1] By the time production ceased in 1960, about 200 had been built.

The Tu-104 was powered by two Mikulin AM-3 turbojets placed at the wing roots (remotely resembling the solution used on the de Havilland Comet). The crew consisted of five people: two pilots, a navigator (placed in the glazed "bomber" nose), a flight engineer and a radio operator (the radio operator was later eliminated). The airplane raised great curiosity by its lavish "Victorian" interior – called so by some Western-hemisphere observers – due to the materials used: mahogany, copper and lace. [1]

Tu-104 pilots were trained on the Il-28 bomber, followed by mail flights on an unarmed Tu-16 bomber painted in Aeroflot colors, between Moscow and Sverdlovsk. Pilots with previous Tu-16 experience transitioned into the Tu-104 with relative ease. The Tu-104 was considered difficult to fly, as it was heavy on controls and quite fast on final approach, and at low speeds it would display a tendency to stall, a feature common with highly-swept wings. Experience with the Tu-104 led the Tupolev Design Bureau to develop the world's first turbofan series-built airliner, the Tupolev Tu-124, designed for local markets, and subsequently the more commercially successful Tu-134

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