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    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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