Fastest Commercial Airplane

The fastest commercial airplane today is the Boeing 747. It can reach speeds of up to 720 mph. But the fastest airliner ever to fly is the Tupolev Tu-144. Retired in 1978, it can reach speeds of Mach 2.35, equal to 2,500 km/h or 1,550 mph.

Tu-144 Performance Specifications

The Tu-144 has a cruising speed of Mach 2.2 (2,300 km/h, 1,430 mph). The range is 2,920 km with full afterburner (3,500 nm, 4,000 mi). The climbing rate is 3,000 m/min (9,840 ft/min). The service ceiling is 18,000 m (59,100 ft). The wing loading is 410.96 kg/m2 (84.20 lb/ft2). The Tu-144 has a thrust of 0.4.

Other Characteristics

The airliner is piloted by a crew of 3. It usually carried 70 to 80 passengers, but its full capacity is 120-140. Its overall length is 65.50 m (215.54 ft). The Tu-144 is 0.50 m (34.42 ft).

The wing area is 438.0 m2 (4,715 ft2). It has a wingspan of 28.80 m (94.48 ft). Its weight when empty is 85,000 kg (187,400 lb). When loaded, the weight is 120,000 kg (264,555 lb).

The maximum takeoff weight is 180,000 kg (397,000 lb). The powerplant is 4 × Kolesov RD-36-51 afterburning turbojets, 200 kN (44,122 lbf. The fastest commercial airplane has a fuel capacity of 70,000 kg (154,000 lb).

Design and Development

The Tupolev Tu-144, along with the Concorde, were the only supersonic transport aircraft (SST) to be used for commercial flights. The Tu-144 was developed under the supervision of Alexei Tupolev of the Soviet Tupolev design bureau.

In terms of appearance, the Tu-144 closely resembles the Concorde. Both airplanes were developed simultaneously. It has been alleged that industry espionage was used in the creation of the Tu-144. The Tu-144 is the only commercial aircraft made by Tupolev.

Prototypes and Test Flights

A prototype was flown on December 31, 1968 over Moscow. The flight was made a couple of months prior to the Concorde launch. On June 5, 1969, the Tu-144 smashed the speed of sound.

On July 15, 1969, the Tu-144 became the first aircraft to go over Mach 2. Commercial flights began on November 1, 1977. Numerous variants were introduced, including the Tu-144S, the Tu-144D and Tu-144DA. The Tu-144D was designed to have greater range and more fuel capacity.

The Tu-144’s commercial service flights were cancelled after 55 flights. Safety reasons prompted its withdrawal. The Concorde remained in service until 2003. Nevertheless, the Tu-144 remains the fastest commercial airplane ever made.

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