The Tupolev Tu-114 Rossiya (Russian: Tyполев Тy-114 Poccия) (NATO reporting name Cleat) is a turboprop powered long-range airliner designed by the Tupolev design bureau that holds a number of civil aviation records. It was the largest, most capacious and fastest passenger plane of its era, and also had the longest range (10,900 km). It created a sensation when first seen in the west arriving at airports like London, Paris, Tokyo and New York which did not have staircases high enough to reach its doors. With swept wings and contra-rotating propellers powered by four Kuznetsov engines (the most powerful ever fitted), the Tu-114 was able to reach speeds typical of modern jetliners (880 kph). It could accommodate 224 passengers if required, although a more usual number was 170 provided with sleeping berths and a dining lounge. The plane had an excellent safety record, and was only withdrawn from service upon the introduction of the IL-62 jet after carrying over six million passengers with Aeroflot and Japan Airlines.
The Tupolev design bureau was instructed by the government of the Soviet Union to develop an airliner with intercontinental range based on the Tupolev Tu-95 strategic bomber. The result was a large airliner powered by 4 powerful Kuznetsov NK-12 engines driving massive contra-rotating propellers which was similar to the later Antonov An-22. It came as a surprise to Western observers that a propeller-driven aircraft could operate at jet-like speeds. It was huge by 1950s standards, the largest landbased airliner of its time, with accommodation for 120-220 passengers.
In response to a demand from the Soviet Civil Aviation Authority for a long range passenger aircraft, the Tupolev Design Bureau was ordered in 1955 to create an aircraft that had a range of 8,000 km (4,971 mi). Given the technology available at that time, the best starting point was the existing Tu-95 bomber. An interim design, originally designated Tu-95P (p for Passenger), later known as the Tu-116, was a simple adaptation of the existing Tu-95 bomber. Two Tu-116s were built, and were used to pioneer some of the routes and operational procedures for the dedicated passenger version, to be known as the Tu-114.
The Tu-114 used the basic wing, empennage, landing gear, and powerplants of the Tu-95 bomber, mated to a totally new pressurized fuselage of much larger diameter. To cope with its higher weights, increased landing flap surface area was required, and the flap chord was increased compared to the bomber's flaps. The wing was mounted low on the fuselage, giving the Tu-114 a much higher stance on its landing gear than the bomber. As a result a new nose landing gear strut was required, although the main gear remained unchanged. Part of the Tu-114's bomber heritage remained in the navigator's glass nose.
This airliner has several unique technological features for its time such as:
The production version originally seated 170 passengers, with an additional dining salon (sometimes used as regular seating) and sleeping area. Later, the sleeping area was converted to normal seating, raising the capacity to 200 passengers. Initially it was used on the main international routes for Aeroflot, but when the Ilyushin Il-62 started to appear, it was relegated to domestic flights. The main problem for these domestic operations was the large amount of runway needed for takeoff and landing.
For operating the Moscow - Tokyo route, Japan Air Lines made an agreement with Aeroflot to use the Tu-114 on that route. For these flights, the seating arrangement was changed to a two-class layout with 105 seats. In 1969 the Tu-114 flights were stopped, and the four involved planes converted back to the 200 seat domestic layout.
The Tu-114 had a fairly short commercial service life, being operated on regular flights from 1962 to 1976. While in service the plane was known for its reliability, speed and fuel economy, as it used less fuel than the Ilyushin Il-62 that replaced it.
In regular service with Aeroflot, the plane was first used for flights to international destinations like Copenhagen, Havana, Montreal, New Delhi, Paris, Belgrade and Tokyo (in co-operation with JAL). After being replaced by the Il-62 on these routes, the Tu-114 was frequently used on long range domestic flights. The end of the commercial use was set at around 14 thousand flying hours. After the end of commercial service, it was used by the Soviet Army and Air Force until 1991.
The Tu-114 was the aircraft that ferried Nikita Khrushchev to the United States on his first visit in 1959. The plane was so tall upon landing in the United States, it was realized that no staircase was high enough to reach the door. Embarrassingly, Khrushchev had to climb down on a ladder in front of the U.S. press.
The first produced Tu-114, registration CCCP-L5611 was first shown to the west in 1958 at the Brussels World Exhibition. It later carried Nikita Khrushchev to on his first trip to the United States, and the first visit to the U.S. by any Soviet leader. The last flight of this plane was in 1968, and it is now on display at the Monino museum.
Long range version of the Tu-114, specially adapted for non-stop flights to Cuba. After US policy helped persuade West African countries like Senegal from granting refueling rights to Aeroflot, the Cuba flights had to be operated non-stop. To make these flights possible, the seating of the plane was reduced from 170 to 60, and 15 extra fuel tanks were added. In most cases, this fuel load was enough to make it to the intended destinations, but in case of strong headwinds, a refuelling stop in Nassau on the Bahamas was necessary. All planes operating this route were converted back to the normal specifications after the Ilyushin Il-62 began flying the Moscow - Havana route.
A nuclear powered version called Tu-114PLO was suggested, although it was deemed impractical and never got further than drawings.
The Tu-116 was a Tu-95 bomber fitted with passenger cabins.
The Tu-126 (NATO reporting name Moss) was used by the Soviet Air Force in the AEW role until being replaced by the Beriev A-50.
During its service life the plane gained an enviable safety record, there being only one operational accident (due to pilot error) when a Tu-114 crashed whilst trying to take-off in bad weather after hitting a large snow mound that had not been cleared from the runway. Another non-operational example was written off after an undercarriage nosegear collapsed during servicing.
Published in July 2009.
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