The Russian-built Tupolev Tu-144 was the world's only other supersonic airliner besides the Anglo-French Concorde. It first flew on Dec. 31, 1968, beating the Concorde into the sky by two months. During the Cold War it was a notable achievement for the then-Soviet Union.
With delta wings and a sleek fuselage, the similarities between the Tu-144 and the Concorde are quite evident.
Like the Concorde, the droop nose improved visibility for the flight crew during landing and when the aircraft was on the ground.
The Tu-144LL flying laboratory outside its hanger at the Zhukovsky Air Development Center (now the Gromov Flight Research Institute) at the start of its new life as a research aircraft.
The Tu-144LL takes off from Zhukovsky.
The Tu-144LL just about to land.
The modified Tu-144 touching down near Moscow in 1997, with its three drag parachutes that were required for landing.
Taxiing after a test flight.
An Aeroflot brochure about the Tu-144. Between 1977 and 1978, the Tu-144 made just 55 passenger flights.
Note the small seats.
A Tu-144 arrives at Germany's Technik Museum Sinsheim in 2001.
The only Tu-144 you can tour outside of Russia. It's the only place in the world you can see one next to a Concorde.
We toured both, and the rest of the museum. For that story, check out Civilian supersonic: Exploring Russia's Tu-144 and the Concorde at the Technik Museum Sinsheim.
The Tu-144 is a little chubbier and blockier than the Concorde.
Many of the aircraft at the museum are fully accessible, though they're mounted at an angle, which makes exploring them quite... interesting.
Epically unreliable, the Tu-144 only carried passengers in the years between 1975 and 1978 -- and then rarely.
Under the canards and droop nose.
The Kolesov RD-36-51 engines were beasts, capable of 45,000 pounds (246 kN) of thrust each. The Tu-144 could fly higher and faster (Mach 2.15 vs Mach 2.04) than the Concorde.
Earlier Tu-144s used even more powerful, but far thirstier, Kuznetsov NK-144 engines, limiting range severely.
The Tu-144 had plenty of faults -- it was difficult to handle, and noisy in the cabin during flight -- but given the limited resources and more rudimentary technology, it's impressive it worked at all.
The Tu-144 wasn't flown to the museum; it arrived from Moscow via barge and truck.
You enter and exit at the very rear of the aircraft. When in service, this was storage.
Having been long been fascinated by this plane, getting to go inside was a big thrill for Geoff, who toured the museum for CNET. The angle was quite steep and it's hot inside, so it's quite a climb up to the cockpit.
These are easily the smallest windows Geoff had ever seen on a passenger aircraft. Smaller even than those on the Concorde, which are already pretty small. A paperback book would cover them.
The 144 was enough wider than the Concorde to have a three-two seating layout, accommodating up to 140 passengers (20 more than the Concorde). Most of the seats have been removed to make it easier for visitors to move around.
Not that the Concorde seats are too impressive either, but these don't look like what you'd expect to find on a supersonic airliner.
Like most airliners of the era, it had a crew of three.
The flight engineer station, with duplicate throttles.
Check out Civilian supersonic: Exploring Russia's Tu-144 and the Concorde at the Technik Museum Sinsheim and Before the Concorde, there was 'the Concordski' for more about the museum and this amazing aircraft.