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Tupolev Tu-104

Aeroflot Tupolev Tu-104B at Arlanda Airport in 1972
Role Narrow-body jet airliner
Manufacturer Tupolev OKB
Designer Andrei Tupolev
First flight 17 June 1955
Introduction 15 September 1956 (Aeroflot)
Retired 1986
Primary users Aeroflot
Produced 1956–1960
Number built 201
Developed from Tupolev Tu-16
Variants Tupolev Tu-110
Tupolev Tu-124
Aeroflot Tupolev Tu-104B at Arlanda Airport in 1968.

The Tupolev Tu-104 (NATO reporting name: Camel) was a twin-engined medium-range narrow-body turbojet-powered Soviet airliner and the world's first successful jet airliner. Although it was the sixth jet airliner to fly (following, in order, the British Vickers Type 618 Nene-Viking, de Havilland Comet, Canadian Avro Canada C102 Jetliner, US Boeing 367-80 and French Sud Caravelle), the Tu-104 was the second to enter regular service (with Aeroflot) and the first to provide a sustained and successful service (the Comet had been withdrawn following a series of crashes due to structural failure). The Tu-104 was the sole jetliner operating in the world between 1956 and 1958.[1]

In 1957, Czechoslovak Airlines – ČSA, (now Czech Airlines) became the first airline in the world to fly a route exclusively with jet airliners, using the Tu-104A variant between Prague and Moscow. In civil service, the Tu-104 carried over 90 million passengers with Aeroflot (then the world's largest airline), and a lesser number with ČSA, while it also saw operations with the Soviet Air Force. Its successors include the Tu-124 (the first turbofan-powered airliner), the Tu-134 and the Tu-154.


  • Design and development 1
  • Operational history 2
  • Variants 3
  • Former Operators 4
  • Accidents and incidents 5
  • Illustration (Tu-104A) 6
  • Specifications (Tu-104B) 7
  • See also 8
  • References 9
  • External links 10

Design and development

At the beginning of the 1950s, the Soviet Union's Aeroflot airline needed a modern airliner with better capacity and performance than the piston-engined aircraft then in operation. The design request was filled by the Tupolev OKB, which based their new airliner on its Tu-16 'Badger' strategic bomber. The wings, engines, and tail surfaces of the Tu-16 were retained in the airliner, but the new design adopted a wider, pressurised fuselage designed to accommodate 50 passengers. The prototype (SSSR-L5400) first flew on June 17, 1955 with Yu.L. Alasheyev at the controls at the Kharkov plant in Ukraine. It was fitted with drag chutes to shorten the landing distance by up to 400 metres (1,300 ft), since at the time, not many airports had sufficiently long runways.[1]

The arrival of the Tu-104 in London during a 1956 state visit by Nikolai Bulganin and Nikita Khrushchev totally surprised Western observers who, at the time, thought the Soviets lacked the advanced technology required to build a commercial airliner with such performance.[1] By the time production ceased in 1960, about 200 had been built.

The Tu-104 was powered by two Mikulin AM-3 turbojets placed at the wing/fuselage junction (remotely resembling the solution used on the de Havilland Comet). The crew consisted of 5 people: two pilots, a navigator (placed in the glazed "bomber" nose), a flight engineer and a radio operator (the radio operator was later eliminated). The airplane raised great curiosity by its lavish "Victorian" interior – called so by some Western-hemisphere observers – due to the materials used: mahogany, copper and lace.[1]

Tu-104 pilots were trained on the Il-28 bomber, followed by mail flights on an unarmed Tu-16 bomber painted in Aeroflot colors, between Moscow and Sverdlovsk. Pilots with previous Tu-16 experience transitioned into the Tu-104 with relative ease. The Tu-104 was considered tricky to fly, as it was heavy on controls and quite fast on finals, at low speeds it would display a tendency to stall, a feature common with highly-swept wings. Experience with the Tu-104 led the Tupolev Design Bureau to develop the world's first turbofan series-built airliner Tupolev Tu-124, designed for local markets, and subsequently the more commercially successful Tu-134

Operational history

On September 15, 1956, the Tu-104 began revenue service on Aeroflot's Moscow-Omsk-Irkutsk route, replacing the piston-engined Ilyushin Il-14. The flight time was reduced from 13 hours and 50 minutes to 7 hours and 40 minutes, and the new jet dramatically increased the level of passenger comfort.[1] By 1957, Aeroflot had placed the Tu-104 in service on routes from Vnukovo Airport in Moscow to London, Budapest, Copenhagen, Beijing, Brussels, Ottawa, Delhi, and Prague.

In 1957, ČSA Czechoslovak Airlines became the only export customer for the Tu-104, placing the aircraft on routes to Moscow, Paris and Brussels. ČSA bought six Tu-104As (four new and two used examples) configured for 81 passengers. Three of these aircraft were subsequently written off (one due to a refuelling incident in India and another to a pilot error without fatalities).[1]

In 1959, the plane was leased to Sir Henry Lunn Ltd. (Lunn Poly) of London which used the plane for 12 holidays to Russia and boasted of a 4.5 hours flight.

The Tu-104 continued to be used by Aeroflot throughout the 1960s and 1970s. Some 16 aircraft were lost in crashes (some due to hijackings/bombings).[1] The safety record is comparable to other early jet airliners of its day, but was poor compared to more modern airliners. Aeroflot retired the Tu-104 from civil service in March 1979 following a fatal accident at Moscow. Following this, several aircraft were transferred to the Soviet military, which used them as staff transports and to train cosmonauts in zero gravity. However, after a Tu-104 crash in February 1981 killed 52 people (17 of whom were senior army and naval staff), the type was permanently removed from service. The last flight of the Tu-104 was a ferry flight to Ulyanovsk Aircraft Museum in 1986.

A Tu-104 near Vnukovo Airport


Data from: [1]

  • Tu-104 – initial version seating 50 passengers. It used 2 Mikulin AM-3 engines, each with 6,735 kg of thrust. 29 airframes were built.
  • Tu-104A – Improved version appearing in June 1957; continued improvements of the Mikulin engines (Mikulin AM-3M each with 8,700 kg of thrust) permitted significant growth in capacity, resulting in a 70-seater variant. The Tu-104A became the definitive production variant. On September 6, 1957, it flew with 20 t of payload at 11,211 m of altitude. On September 24, 1957, it reached 970.8 km/h average speed with a 2 tonne payload. A total of 80 airframes were built, of which six were exported to Czechoslovakia.
  • Tu-104B – Further improvements made by stretching fuselage 1.2 meters and fitting new Mikulin AM-3M-500 turbojets (9,700 kg of thrust each). The Tu-104B was able to accommodate 100 passengers. This variant took advantage of the newer fuselage from the Tupolev Tu-110 and the existing wings. It began revenue service with Aeroflot on April 15, 1959 on the Moscow-Saint Petersburg route. A total of 95 airframes were built. Most were subsequently re-equipped as the Tu-104B-115 with 115 seats; sporting new navigation, flight and radio equipment;
  • Tu-104V – The first use of this designation was for a projected 117 seat medium haul version with six-abreast seating. Project cancelled.
  • Tu-104D – VIP version with two sleeper cabins forward and a 39-seat cabin aft.
  • Tu-104G – VIP version for the Federal government with two VIP cabins forward and a 54-seat cabin aft.
  • Tu-104E – A higher performance Tu-104 powered by RD16-15 engines giving better fuel economy as well as higher thrust. Two prototypes were converted from Tu-104B's CCCP-42441 and CCCP-42443, but the programme was cancelled in the mid-1960s in favour of the Tu-154.
  • Tu-104V – The second use of this designation was used for Tu-104A airframes rebuilt to accommodate 100/105 passengers. A later version packed 115 passengers in by reducing seat pitch and adding seat rows.
  • Tu-104D-85 – Tu-104A airframes rebuilt to accommodate 85 passengers.
  • Tu-104V-115 – Tu-104B airframes rebuilt to accommodate 115 passengers, with new radio and navigational equipment.
  • Tu-104AK – one unit modified for Zero-G Cosmonaut training
  • Tu-104SH – Navigator trainer in two versions
  • Tu-104LL – Several serial numbers converted for use in testing Tu-129, Tu-22M electronics, and air-to-air missile systems (including launch).
  • Tu-107 – Proposed military transport version with rear loading ramp and defensive turret armed with paired cannon. One prototype built; project cancelled
  • Tu-110 – Four-engined version intended for export. A number of prototypes were built; project cancelled.
  • Tu-118 – A projected turboprop powered medium haul airliner variant to be powered by Kuznetsov TV-2 or NK-8 turboprop engines.
  • Tu-124 – Turbofan powered short-haul redesign of the Tu-104.

Former Operators

CSA Czechoslovak Airlines Tupolev Tu-104A at Arlanda Airport in 1971.
 Soviet Union

Accidents and incidents

Wreckage of the Czechoslovak Airlines Tupolev Tu-104 (OK-MDE) near Nicosia airport

According to the American Flight Safety Foundation, between 1958 and 1981, 16 Tu-104s were lost in crashes out of 37 aircraft written off (hull loss rate = 18%). Noted incidents include:

  • June 30, 1962 – Aeroflot Flight 902 was shot down by an anti-aircraft missile during a training exercise, killing all aboard.
  • May 18, 1973 – A hijacker detonated an explosive device on a scheduled flight from Irkutsk to Chita, it crashed near Lake Baikal killing all aboard.
  • October 13, 1973 – While on approach to Domodedovo International Airport, an Aeroflot Flight 964 suffered an electrical power failure, disabling the compass and gyros. Due to the difficulty of establishing their heading, the plane crashed into the ground, killing all 5 crew and 114 passengers. This was the largest single accident involving the Tu-104 and led to the aircraft being removed from commercial service.
  • February 7, 1981 – A Soviet Navy Tu-104A crashed after takeoff killing all aboard, including most of the senior staff of the Soviet Pacific Fleet. The accident was due to improper loading and caused the grounding of all remaining military Tu-104s.
Date Tail number Crash Site Casualties Brief description
19 Feb 1958  USSR Л5414  USSR Savasleyka 0/3 crash-landed after running out of fuel
15 Aug 1958  USSR Л5442  USSR Chita 64/64 stalled and went into spin
17 October 1958  USSR 42362  USSR Kanash 80/80 went into spin
20 October 1960  USSR 42452  USSR Ust-Orda 3/68 crashed on landing
1 February 1961  USSR 42357  USSR Vladivostok 0/no data rough landing; overran runway
16 March 1961  USSR 42438  USSR near Koltsovo 7/51 forced landing after engine failure
10 July 1961  USSR 42447  USSR Odessa 1/94 rough landing in storm
17 September 1961  USSR 42388  USSR Tashkent 0/no data rough landing
2 November 1961  USSR 42504  USSR Vladivostok 0/no data rough landing
4 June 1962  USSR 42491  BUL Sofia 5/5 crashed into mountain after engine failure
30 June 1962  USSR 42370  USSR Krasnoyarsk 84/84 mistakenly shot down by anti-aircraft missile
3 September 1962  USSR 42366  USSR Khabarovsk 86/86 lost control on takeoff
25 October 1962  USSR 42495  USSR Sheremetyevo 11/11 Test flight (rudder controls reversed)
16 March 1963  Czechoslovakia OK-LDB  India Bombay 0/0 caught fire during refueling
18 May 1963  USSR 42483  USSR Leningrad 0/no data stalled on approach
13 July 1963  USSR 42492  USSR Irkutsk 33/35 incorrect instrument indications, short landing 2 km from runway
9 June 1964  USSR 42476  USSR Novosibirsk no data Overran runway while landing in storm
28 April 1969  USSR 42436  USSR Irkutsk no data landed 600 meters short of runway
1 June 1970  Czechoslovakia OK-NDD  Libya Tripoli 13/13 crashed 5.5 km short of runway
25 July 1971  USSR 42405  USSR Irkutsk 97/126 landed 200 meters short of runway; caught fire
10 October 1971  USSR 42490  USSR Vnukovo 25/25 bombed
19 March 1972  USSR 42408  USSR Omsk 0/no data struck snow wall while landing
24 April 1973  USSR 42505  USSR Leningrad 2/57 failed hijacking; explosion caused depressurization[2]
18 May 1973  USSR 42411  USSR Buryat ASSR 82/82 hijacking on flight from Irkutsk to Chita; exploded mid-air
29 August 1973  Czechoslovakia OK-MDE  Cyprus Nicosia 0/70 rough landing due to pilot error
30 September 1973  USSR 42506  USSR Sverdlovsk 108/108 mechanical failure on flight between Sverdlovsk — Khabarovsk
13 October 1973  USSR 42486  USSR Domodedovo 122/122 power failure and loss of control
7 December 1973  USSR 42503  USSR near Moscow 16/75 rough landing in poor weather
5 November 1974  USSR 42501  USSR Chita 0/no data overran runway
30 August 1975  USSR 42472  USSR Novosibirsk 0/no data landing gear failed on landing
9 February 1976  USSR 42327  USSR Irkutsk 24/115 crashed on takeoff
17 July 1976  USSR 42335  USSR Chita 0/no data crashed on takeoff due to overloading
28 November 1976  USSR 42471  USSR Sheremetyevo 72/72 instrument failure, loss of control
1976  USSR 42371  USSR Kiev no data engine failure on landing
13 January 1977  USSR 42369  USSR Alma-Ata 96/96 engine failure; mid-air explosion
17 March 1979  USSR 42444  USSR near Moscow 58/119 Encountered false fire alarm from engine during takeoff; the crew turned back to Vnukovo. The plane crashed while attempting to return to the airport.
7 February 1981  USSR 42332  USSR Pushkin 51/51 Soviet Navy flight; failed takeoff due to shifting cargo

Illustration (Tu-104A)


Specifications (Tu-104B)

Data from [4]

General characteristics
  • Crew: 7
  • Capacity: 50–115 passengers
  • Length: 40.05 m (131 ft 5 in)
  • Wingspan: 34.54 m (113 ft 4 in)
  • Height: 11.90 m (39 ft 0 in)
  • Wing area: 184 m² (1,975 ft²)
  • Empty weight: 43,800 kg (96,560 lb)
  • Loaded weight: 78,100 kg (172,180 lb)
  • Powerplant: 2 × Mikulin AM-3M-500 turbojets, 95.1 kN (21,400 lbf) each



See also

Related development
Aircraft of comparable role, configuration and era
Related lists


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h
  2. ^
  3. ^
  4. ^ Tupolev Tu-104: Aeroflot's first jet; (C) 2007 Yefim Gordon and Vladimir Rigmant; Dimitriy Komissarov, Translator; ISBN 978-1-85780-265-8; Midland Publishing / Ian Allen Publishing Ltd, UK
  5. ^

External links

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