Aerospace in 1973: Tupolev-144 (TU-144) crash was one major incidence that ignited some skeptics about the safety and viability of the product. On the afternoon of June 3, during the Paris air show, the Soviet Tupolev-144 supersonic transport exploded in flight and crashed, killing the six Soviet crewmen aboard and seven residents of the village of Goussainville, upon which the wreckage fell. The cause of the accident was not immediately determined.
The crash created further doubts about the commercial prospects not only of the Tupolev-144 (TU-144) but also of the Anglo-French Concorde. Opposition to supersonic transports has been strong on a number of grounds; critics charge that they cost too much to run and may have deleterious effects on the environment. The accident will be one more piece of ammunition for the anti-SST forces, whether or not the crash is eventually attributed to a design defect and even if such a defect (if shown) bears no relation to the rival Concorde, an aircraft that has already undergone extensive and rigorous safety tests. The problem is to get the Americans to buy. Earlier this year Pan American World Airways, Trans World Airlines, and American Airlines dropped their options on a total of 19 Concordes and it is doubtful that the air show in Paris improved the salability of the Concorde on the opposite side of the Atlantic.
The Tupolev-144 (TU-144) that crashed this year differed markedly from the prototype that appeared at the 1971 Paris air show. Its fuselage was longer and wider, increasing passenger capacity from 120 to 140; canard surfaces had been added on the forward part of the fuselage to improve stability; the four engines were grouped in pairs and moved outboard from the fuselage, again to improve stability; and each engine produced a 44,000 lb. thrust, instead of the 38,580 lb. thrust from each engine in the prototype. The overall length of the new craft was 210.3 ft., the wingspan 90 ft. 8.5 in. Its maximum cruising speed was rated at 1,550 miles per hour, or 2.35 times the speed of sound, and the range was given as 4,040 mi. Aerospace in 1973: The Tupolev-144 (TU-144) crash despite the odds was one with some improved features compared with the 1971 model.