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Tupolev Tu-154

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Aeroflot Tupolev Tu-154M
Role Airliner
National origin Soviet Union
Manufacturer Tupolev
First flight 4 October 1968
Introduced 9 February 1972
Status In Service
Primary users Aeroflot
Produced 1968-2006[1]
Number built 919[2]
Unit cost 45 Million USD 2008
Variants Tupolev Tu-155

The Tupolev Tu-154 (Russian: Туполев Ту-154) (NATO reporting name Careless) is a Soviet medium-range trijet airliner similar to (but more powerful than) the Boeing 727 designed in the mid 1960s. As one of the 20th Century's most important civilian planes, the Tu-154 has been the mainstay 'workhorse' of Soviet airlines for several decades having carried no fewer than half of all passengers flown by Aeroflot and all its subsidiaries during that time (137.5 million per annum or 244 billion passenger/kms). The aircraft has been exported and operated by at least 17 foreign airlines as well as a number of foreign airforces. It remains the standard airliner for domestic routes across Russia and other states of the former Soviet Union, and to a lesser extent, in eastern Europe. The Tu-154 is designed to handle unpaved and gravel airfields, and often operates in extreme Arctic conditions of Russia's northern territories. With a service life of 45,000 hrs (18,000 cycles), the plane is expected to continue in operation until 2016.


The Tu-154 was developed to meet Aeroflot's requirement to replace the jet-powered Tu-104, and the Antonov An-10 'Ukraine' and Ilyushin Il-18 turboprops. The requirements called for either a payload capacity of 16-18 tons (35,270-39,680 lb) over a distance of 2,850-4,000 km (1,770-2,480 mi) while cruising at a speed of 900 km/h (559 mph), or a payload of 5.8 tons (12,790 lb) over a distance of 5,800-7,000 km (3,600-4,350 mi) while cruising at 850 km/h (528 mph). A take-off distance of 2,600 m (8,530 ft) at maximum take-off weight was also stipulated. The Tu-154 competed with the Ilyushin Il-62. The Soviet Ministry of Aircraft Industry chose the former as it incorporated the latest in Soviet aircraft design and best met Aeroflot's anticipated requirements for the 1970s and 1980s.

The first project chief was Sergey M. Yerger. In 1964 Dimitriy S. Markov assumed that position. In 1975 he turned it over to Aleksandr S. Shengardt.

The Tu-154 first flew on 4 October 1968. Commercial service began in February 1972, and there is still limited production of the 154M model as of January 2009, (photo link) despite previous announcements of the end of production in 2006. Aviakor ends Tupolev Tu-154M production after fulfilling last order 919 Tu-154s have been built, 247 of which are still in service as of 17 June, 2009.


Tu-154M of Rossiya
Tu-154M of Rossiya

Tu-154M on departure at Domodedovo airport
Tu-154M on departure at Domodedovo airport

The Tu-154 is powered by three rear-mounted low-bypass turbofan engines arranged similarly to those of the Boeing 727, and is slightly larger than its American counterpart. Both the 727 and the Tu-154 use an S-duct for the middle (Number 2) engine. The original model had Kuznetsov NK-8-2, while the Tu-154M has Soloviev D-30KU-154s. All Tu-154 aircraft models have a higher thrust-to-weight ratio than that of the 727 - this gives them superior performance, although at the expense of poorer fuel efficiency, which became an important factor in later decades as fuel costs grew.

The cabin of the Tu-154, although of the same six-abreast seating layout, gives the impression of an oval interior, with a lower ceiling than is common on western airliners (Boeing or Airbus). The passenger doors are also smaller than on the Tu-154's western counterparts. Furthermore, luggage space in the overhead compartments is very limited.

Like the Tupolev Tu-134, the Tu-154 has a wing swept back at 35 degrees at the quarter-chord line. The British Hawker Siddeley Trident has the same sweepback angle, while the Boeing 727 has a slightly smaller sweepback angle of 32 degrees.

Like many other Soviet-built airliners, the Tu-154 has an oversized landing gear enabling it to land on unpaved runways, once common in rural areas of the Soviet Union. The aircraft has two six-wheel main bogies fitted with large low-pressure tyres that retract into pods extending from the trailing edges of the wings (a common Tupolev feature), plus a two-wheel nose gear unit. Soft oleo struts (shock absorbers) provide a much smoother ride on bumpy airfields than Western airliners, which only very rarely operate on such poor surfaces.

The passenger cabin accommodates 128 passengers in two-class layout and 164 passengers in single-class layout, and up to 180 passengers in high-density layout. The layout can be modified to what is called a winterized version where some seats are taken out and a wardrobe is installed for passenger coats.

The original requirement was to have a 3 man flight crew - Captain, First Officer and Flight Engineer - as opposed to 4 or 5 man crew on other Soviet airliners. However, a fourth crew member, a navigator, is usually also present, at least in the former Soviet Union, due to the union rules. Navigators are no longer trained and this profession will become obsolete with the retirement of older Soviet planes.

The plane's avionics suite, for the first time in the Soviet Union, is built to Western airworthiness standards. It includes an NVU-B3 doppler navigation system, a triple autopilot, which provides an automatic ILS approach according to ICAO category II weather minima, an autothrottle, a Doppler drift and speed measure system (DISS), "Kurs-MP" radio navigation suite and others. Modern upgrades normally include a TCAS, GPS and other modern systems, mostly Western-made.

Early versions of the Tu-154 cannot be modified to meet the current Stage III noise regulations and are banned from flying where those regulations are in force, such as Europe. The Tu-154M may use hush kits to meet Stage III and theoretically Stage IV. However current European Union regulations forbid the use of hush kits to meet Stage IV. The Tu-154M would need to be re-engined to meet Stage IV within the EU, an extensive and potentially expensive upgrade.


Rossiya Airlines Tu-154M
Rossiya Airlines Tu-154M

Turan Air Tu-154M
Turan Air Tu-154M

Ural Airlines Tu-154B-2
Ural Airlines Tu-154B-2

Many variants of this airliner have been built. Apart from the normal differences between weights and powerplants, the Tu-154 was produced in variants which used exotic fuels. Like its western counterpart, the 727, many of the Tu-154s in service have been hush-kitted, and some converted to freighters.

Tu-154 production started in 1970, while first passenger flight was performed at 9 February 1972. Powered by Kuznetsov NK-8-2 turbofans, it carried 164 passengers. About 42 were built. Tail numbers from 85006 to 85055.
The first upgraded version of the original Tu-154, the A model, in production since 1974, added centre-section fuel tanks and more emergency exits, while engines were upgraded to higher-thrust Kuznetsov NK-8-2U. Other upgrades include automatic flaps/slats and stabilizer controls and modified avionics. Max. take-off weight - 94,000 kg (207,235 lb). There were 15 different interior layouts for the different domestic and international customers of the airplane, seating between 144 and 152 passengers. The easiest way to tell the A model from the base model is by looking at the spike at the junction of the fin and tail; this is a fat bullet on the A model rather than a slender spike on the base model. Tail numbers from 85056 to 85119.
As the original Tu-154 and Tu-154A suffered wing cracks after only a few years in service, a version with a new, stronger wing, designated Tu-154B, went into production in 1975. It also had an extra fuel tank in fuselage, extra emergency exits in the tail, and the maximum take-off weight grew to 98,000 kg (216,053 lb). Also important to Aeroflot was that the increased passenger capacity led to lower operating costs. As long as the airplane had the NK-8-2U engines the only way to improve the economics of the airplane was to spread costs across more seats. The autopilot was certified for ICAO Category II automatic approaches. Most previously built Tu-154 and Tu-154A were also modified into this variant, with the replacement of the wing. Max. take-off weight increased to 96,000 kg (211,644 lb). 111 were built. Tail numbers ran from 85120 to 85225.
Aeroflot wanted this version for increased revenue on domestic routes. It carried 160 passengers. This version also had some minor modifications to fuel system, avionics, air conditioning, landing gear. 64 were built from 1977-1978. Tail numbers from 85226 to 85294.
A minor modernization of Tu-154B-1. The airplane was designed to be converted from the 160 passenger version to a 180 passenger version by removing the galley. The procedure took about two and a half hours. Some of the earlier Tu-154B modified to that standard. Max. take-off weight increased to 98,000 kg (216,053 lb), later to 100,000 kg (220,462 lb). 311 aircraft were built, including VIP versions. Tail numbers (new-built) from 85295 to 85605. A few of them are still in use.
The Tu-154S is an all-cargo or freighter version of the Tu-154B, using a strengthened floor, and adding a forward cargo door on the port side of the fuselage. The airplane could carry 9 Soviet PAV-3 pallets. Max. payload - 20,000 kg (44,092 lb). There were plans for 20 aircraft, but only nine aircraft were converted; two from Tu-154 model and seven from Tu-154B model. Trials were held in the early 1980's and the aircraft was authorized regular operations in 1984. By 1997 all had been retired. Tail numbers: 85019 (Tu-154), 85037 (Tu-154), 85060, 85062, 85063, 85067, 85081, 85084, 85086.
The Tu-154M is the deeply upgraded version, which first flew in 1982 and entered mass production in 1984. It uses more fuel-efficient Soloviev D-30KU-154 turbofans. Together with significant aerodynamic refinement, this led to much lower fuel consumption and therefore longer range, as well as lower operating costs. The aircraft has new double-slotted (instead of triple-slotted) flaps, with an extra 36-degree position (in addition to existing 15, 28 and 45-degree positions on older versions), which allows reduction of noise on approach. It also has a relocated auxiliary power unit and numerous other improvements. Manufacture continued through 2006, and there is still limited manufacturing as of January 2009.. Max. take-off weight increased first to 100,000 kg (220,462 lb), then to 102,000 kg (224,872 lb). Some aircraft are certified to 104,000 kg (229,281 lb). Tail numbers are 85616 (prototype), production aircraft from 85606 and on (except 85804, which is re-imported Tu-154B-2). About 320 were manufactured. Mass production ended in 2006. No new airframes have been built since the early 1990s, and production since then has involved assembling airplanes from components on hand. This is the most widely used version in the former Soviet states.
Cosmonaut Trainer. This was a Salon VIP aircraft modified to train cosmonauts to fly the Buran reusable spacecraft, the Soviet equivalent of the US Space Shuttle. The Tu-154 was used because the Buran required a steep descent, and the Tu-154 was capable of replicating that. The cabin featured trainee work-stations, one of which was the same as the Buran's flightdeck. The forward baggage compartment was converted into a camera bay, because the aircraft was also used to train cosmonauts in observation and photographic techniques.
Tu-154M-ON Monitoring Aircraft
Germany modified one of the Tu-154's it had on hand from the former East German Air Force into an observation airplane. This airplane was involved with the Open Skies inspection flights. It was converted at the Elbe Aircraft Plant (Elbe Flugzeugwerke) at Dresden-Klotzsche, and flew in 1996. After two dozen monitoring missions, it was lost in a mid-air collision in 1997.
The Russians also converted a Tu-154M to serve as an Open Skies Monitoring aircraft. They used the Tu-154M-LK-1, and converted it to a Tu-154M-ON. When the aircraft is not flying over North America, it is used to ferry cosmonauts around.The Chinese are also believed to have converted one Tu-154 to an electronic countermeasures aircraft.
Design of this variant started in 1994, but the first aircraft were not delivered until 1998. It is an upgraded version with western avionics, including the Flight Management Computer, GPS, EGPWS, TCAS, and other modern systems. The airplane could carry up to 157 passengers. The cabin featured an automatic oxygen system and larger overhead bins. Only three were produced, as payment of debts owed by Russia to Slovakia. Three aircraft were delivered in 1998 to Slovak Airlines, and sold back to Russia in 2003.


Civil operators

Aeroflot Tu-154M
Aeroflot Tu-154M

S7 Airlines Tu-154M
S7 Airlines Tu-154M

As of 17 June, 2009 a total of 247 Tupolev Tu-154 aircraft (all variants) remained in airline service. Major operators include: Aeroflot (16), Aeroflot-Don (7), Air Koryo (4), Alrosa Mirny Air Enterprise (6), Atlant-Soyuz Airlines (3), Azerbaijan Airlines (5), BAL Bashkirian Airlines (5), Belavia (4), Dalavia (8), Iran Air Tours (10), Kavminvodyavia (10), Kogalymavia (7), KrasAir (15), Kyrgyzstan Airlines (10), Moskovia Airlines (6), Rossiya (25), Samara Airlines (8), Tajik Air (7), Turkmenistan Airlines (1), Ural Airlines (10), UTair Aviation (21), Uzbekistan Airways (5), Vladivostok Air (6) and Yakutia Airlines (7).

Past and present operators:
Abakan Air Enterprise, Abakan Avia, Active Air, Aerocom, Aeroflot, Aeroflot-Don, Aeroflot-Nord, Aerokuznetsk, Aeronica, Aeroservice Kazakhstan, Aerotrans, Aerovolga, Air Georgia, Air Great Wall, Air Koryo, Airlines 400, Air Moldova, Air Savari, Air Transport Europe, Air Ukraine, Air Volga, AJT, Albanian Airlines, Alak, Amur Avia, Aria Air, Ariana, Armenian Airlines, Asian Star, Atlant, Atlant-Soyuz Airlines, Atyrau Airways, Aviaenergo,Aviaprad, Aviaprima, Avial, Avioimpex, AVL Arkhangel, Azerbaijan Airlines, Baikal Airlines, Baltic ExpressBarnaul Air, Bashkirian Airlines, Belavia, Bratsk Air, CAAC, Caspian Airlines, Chelal, Chernomoravia, China Glory, China Northwest, China Southwest, China United, China Xingjiang, Chita Avia, Continental Airways, CSA, Cubana, Daallo, Diamond Sakha, East Line, Elk Estonian, Enkor, Georgia Air Prague, Gomel UAD, Greenair, Imair, Iran Air Tours, Iron Dragonfly, Kaliningradavia, Khabarovsk Aero, Kish Air, KrasAir, KMV, Kuban Airlines, Kyrgyzstan Airlines, Latpass, Libyan Arab Airlines, LOT Polish Airlines, Macedonia Airservice, Mahan Air, Malév Hungarian Airlines, Mavial Magadan Airlines, Moscow Airways, MIAT Mongolian Airlines, Murmansk Air, Nizhny Novgorod Air, Odessa Airlines, Omskavia, Orbi Georgian, Orenburg Airlines, Pakistan International Airlines, Perm Airlines, Polet Airlines, Pulkovo Aviation Enterprise, Russian Sky, S7 Airlines ,Sakha Avia, Samara Airlines, Samarkand, Shaheen Air, Sibaviatrans, Sibir, Sichuan Airlines, Slovak Airlines, Spair, Surgut Avia, Syrianair, Taban Airlines, Tajikistan Airlines, Tarom, Tatarstan Airlines, Tavria, Tesis, Tomsk Air, Transair Georgia, Transeuropean, Turanair, Turkmenistan, Tyumen airlines, Ulyanovsk Airlines, Ural Airlines, UTair Aviation, Uzbekistan Airways, Vietnam Airlines, Vitair, Vladivostok Air, Vnukovo, Yakutia Airlines, Yamal Airlines, Yuzhnaya.

Military operators


Polish military VIP transport Tu-154M aircraft from the 36th Special Air Transport Regiment, at Warsaw
Polish military VIP transport Tu-154M aircraft from the 36th Special Air Transport Regiment, at Warsaw
 People's Republic of China
People's Liberation Army Air Force
 North Korea
North Korean Air Force
Polish Air Force - 2 Tu-154M, 36th Special Aviation Regiment
Russian Air Force
Slovak Air Force
Ukrainian Air Force


Bulgarian Air Force
Czechoslovakian Air Force (passed on to successor states)
 Czech Republic
Czech Air Force (replaced by Airbus A319CJ)
Cuban Air Force (out of service)
 East Germany
East German Air Force (passed on to FRG)
Luftwaffe (1 lost, the other one sold)
 Soviet Union
Soviet Air Force (passed on to successor states)


There have been 63 serious flight incidents with Tu-154s, including 36 hull-losses with human fatalities. Six of those incidents resulted from terrorist or military action, several from poor runway conditions (including one which struck snow ploughs on the runway), and mid-air collisions due to faulty air traffic control. Other incidents have resulted from mechanical problems (two cases prior to 1998), running out of fuel on unscheduled extended route, pilot error, and cargo fires. After the Tu-154 had been in service for 26 years (1998) and logged 21 million flight hours, it had a better than average safety record (1.7 times fewer incidents than the world average [ICAO stats]).

  • On 30 September 1975, a Malév flight on the Budapest to Beirut regular route crashed near the Lebanese shoreline. All 50 passengers and 10 crew on board died. No official statement has ever been made.
  • On 8 August 1980, a Tarom flight from Otopeni International Airport, Bucharest to Nouadhibou International Airport, Nouadhibou, Mauritania crashed into the Atlantic Ocean and broke in half 300 m (984 ft) from the runway due to defective apparatus in the control tower at the Nouadhibou International Airport. Only one passenger, an elderly woman suffering from heart disease, died of a heart attack. The other 151 passengers and 16 crew escaped.
  • On 11 October 1984, Aeroflot Flight 3352 crash when approaching Omsk Airport, 169 passengers and 5 crew members out of 170 passengers and 9 crew members, and 4 more on the ground were killed.
  • On 10 July 1985, Aeroflot Flight 7425 stalled and entered an unrecoverable spin at 11,600 m (38,000 ft), 200 were killed.
  • On 8 February 1993, an Iran Air Tours Tupolev Tu-154 was departing on a non-scheduled flight from Mehrabad International Airport, Tehran, to Khoram Dareh when it collided with an Iranian Air Force Sukhoi Su-24 that was on approach. All twelve crew members and 119 passengers were killed.
  • On 6 June 1994, China Northwest Airlines Flight 2303 broke up in mid-air and crashed near Xian, China. A maintenance error was responsible. All 160 people on board died.
  • On 29 August 1996, Tupolev 154M, Vnukovo Airlines. Departing from Vnukovo Airport outside of Moskow. Crashed in Operafjellet (Opera Mountain) on Svalbard. All 141 (128 passengers) lost their lives.
  • On 4 July 2000, MALÉV Hungarian Airlines Flight 262, a chartered Tu-154 landed on its belly in Thessaloniki, Greece because the crew had not extended the landing gear. The plane skidded 400 m (1,312 ft) on the runway and became airborne as the pilots applied throttle. The plane landed successfully on its wheels. There were no injuries, but it was deemed uneconomical to repair the aircraft.
  • On 4 July 2001, Vladivostok Air Flight 352 from Yekaterinburg to Vladivostok crashed while on approach into Irkutsk, an intermediate stop, killing all 145 people onboard. The cause of accident was pilot error resulting in exceeding the safe angle of attack and the subsequent stall.
  • On 4 October 2001, Siberia Airlines Flight 1812 from Tel Aviv to Novosibirsk crashed into the Black Sea, probably shot down by an Ukrainian surface to air missile fired during a training exercise. All 66 passengers and 12 crew were killed.
  • 12 February 2002; Iran Air Tours Flight 956: The aircraft hit high ground in the Sefid Kouh mountains outside Khorramabad, Iran while descending for Khorramabad. All twelve crew members and 107 passengers were killed.
  • 1 July 2002; Bashkirian Airlines Flight 2937 collided with a DHL Boeing 757.The accident was caused by problems with the air traffic control system in Zurich and erroneous instructions given by the air traffic controller on duty (who was controlling the whole aerospace over Lake Constance alone).
  • On 24 August 2004 Sibir Airlines Flight 1047 from Moscow to Sochi crashed after being bombed by an on-board Chechen suicide bomber, killing all 46 people on the aircraft. This happened almost simultaneously with a similar bomb explosion on Volga-Aviaexpress airlines TU-134 flight from Moscow to Volgograd.
  • On 22 August 2006, while en route from the Russian Black Sea resort of Anapa to Saint Petersburg, Pulkovo Airlines Flight 612 crashed near the Russian border over eastern Ukraine in an attempt to fly through a weather front. All 160 passengers (including 45 children) and 10 crew were killed.
  • On 1 September 2006, Iran Air Tours Flight 945 skidded off the runway as it was landing in Mashhad and caught fire after a tire blew during landing. The aircraft was carrying 147 passengers, 29 of them died.

Specifications (Tu-154B-2)

General characteristics

  • Crew: 3-4
  • Capacity: 114-180 passengers
  • Length: 48.0 m (157 ft)
  • Wingspan: 37.55 m (123 ft 3 in)
  • Height: 11.40 m (37 ft 5 in)
  • Wing area: 201.5 m² (2,168 ft²)
  • Empty weight: 50,700 kg (111,920 lb)
  • Max takeoff weight: 98,000 - 100,000 kg (216,335 - 220,750 lb)
  • Powerplant:Kuznetsov NK-8-2U turbofans, 103 kN (23,148 lbf) each


  • Maximum speed: 950 km/h (510 kn, 590 mph)
  • Range: ** With maximum payload: 2,500 km (3,500 km with 164 passengers & baggage) (1,350 nmi, 1,554 mi)
    • With maximum fuel: 5,280 km (2,850 nmi, 3,281 mi))
  • Service ceiling: 12,100 m (39,700 ft)

Specifications (Tu-154M)

S7 Airlines Tu-154M
S7 Airlines Tu-154M

General characteristics

  • Crew: 3-4
  • Capacity: 114-180 passengers
  • Length: 48.0 m (157 ft)
  • Wingspan: 37.55 m (123 ft 3 in)
  • Height: 11.40 m (37 ft 5 in)
  • Wing area: 201.5 m² (2,168 ft²)
  • Empty weight: 55,300 kg (121,915 lb)
  • Max takeoff weight: 102,000 - 104,000 kg (224,871 lb - 229,280 lb)
  • Powerplant:Soloviev D-30KU-154 turbofans, 103 kN (23,148 lbf) each


  • Maximum speed: 950 km/h (510 kn, 590 mph)
  • Range: ** With maximum payload: 3,900 km (5,200 km with 164 passengers and baggage) (2,100 nmi, 2,400 mi)
    • With maximum fuel: 6,600 km (3,600 nmi, 4,100 mi)
  • Service ceiling: 12,100 m (39,700 ft)

See also

Related development

Comparable aircraft

Related lists

External links

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Published in July 2009.

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