Tupolev Tu-104

Aeroflot Tupolev Tu-104B at Arlanda, July 1972.jpg
Aeroflot Tupolev Tu-104B at Arlanda Airport in 1972
RoleNarrow-body jet airliner
ManufacturerTupolev OKB
DesignerAndrei Tupolev
First flight17 June 1955; 63 years ago (1955-06-17)
Introduction15 September 1956 (Aeroflot)
Primary usersAeroflot
Number built201
Developed fromTupolev Tu-16
VariantsTupolev 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 twinjet medium-range narrow-body turbojet-powered Soviet airliner. It was the second to enter in regular service, behind the British de Havilland Comet, and was the sole jetliner operating in the world between 1956 and 1958, when the British jetliner was grounded due to safety matters.[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]

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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