Possible causes of the crash of the Tu-144 in Le Bourget
On June 3, 1973, a tragic event occurred at the Paris Air Show Le Bourget, which radically affected the development of supersonic passenger aircraft both in the USSR and throughout the world. The Soviet aircraft Tu-144 with tail number 77102 crashed, killing all six crew members and eight French citizens on the ground. Fallen airliner destroyed several houses.
The causes of the disaster, despite the investigation, with one hundred percent probability has not been established so far. Of the two black boxes, only one was found, and it turned out to be badly damaged. The glider assembled in fragments did not add clarity either. In the Soviet Union, rumors began to circulate that envious Europeans carried out a sabotage to undermine the reputation of our aviation and eliminate a competitor to their Concord, a strange, at first glance, coincidence very similar to the Tu-144.
The history of the Tu-144
Work on the creation of supersonic aircraft for peaceful purposes began in the early sixties. By that time, the leading global manufacturers had already accumulated quite a wealth of experience in creating high-speed combat vehicles, defeating the effect of flutter and significantly increasing the reliability of aircraft technology. The Anglo-French concern, composed by Süd Avionion, Rolls-Royce BIC and SNECMA, was the first to announce an ambitious project. But in the USSR, too, they didn’t sleep - the answer to such a move was the start given in the Tupolev Design Bureau to work on creating a domestic airliner capable of performing transcontinental flights at a speed of two and a half thousand kilometers.
Already in 1965, models of supersonic airliners were presented to the general public. The Soviet plane has already received the official index of the Tu-144. Concorde, which was at about the same design stage, did have many similar design solutions with it, but in aviation this is not uncommon, the same technical requirements dictate the generality of schematic solutions. Lowering the nose provided better visibility from the pilot's cabin, a delta wing and the absence of tail horizontal tail were also the best option for this type of machine.But still it is impossible to assert that one of the machines was copied from another, the difference in the characteristics between them is significant, and not always in favor of the “European”.
Who was profitable?
And yet, was the Tu-144 crash profitable for its competitors? It is unlikely. The export potential of Soviet aircraft was severely limited to political reasons, the international situation was tense, so this aircraft was clearly not threatening the world market. All the same, only the socialist countries could buy it, and even if there was enough money, the car would have turned out to be not cheap. Operation of the liner was also expensive, it consumed eight times more kerosene than any other aircraft of similar capacity. In the conditions of state-controlled prices for everything, including airline tickets, using it for passenger traffic would become unprofitable, and it would be too expensive for the Soviet citizens to pay the actual cost of the flight. In a certain sense, the Tu-144 was doomed even if no disaster at Le Bourget had happened. The problems were aggravated when in 1978 another aircraft of this type crashed, this time in Yegoryevsk.
Most likely version
With a high degree of probability, aviation engineers determined that the cause of the death of the Tu-144 in Paris was an emergency situation in the area of demonstration flights. Interceptor "Mirage" filmed our aircraft, in turn, the co-pilot also went around the cabin with a movie camera, he shot a report for television in France. The commander of the Soviet aircraft was warned about the presence of the fighter and, apparently, made a mistake by turning in the wrong direction. Departing from a collision, he abruptly took the helm, creating supercritical overloads in the glider, which led to the destruction of the wing structure. It is possible that this was also facilitated by too abrupt horizontal maneuvers performed at the beginning of the flight to give the spectacle more glamor. The Tu-144 carried a little more than three thousand passengers during its operation.