we would be in the sky

It so happened – and this is a good formula that allows us to avoid unnecessary explanations when everything is already clear (“it happened”) – we may soon have nothing to fly over our ever-expanding homeland. Accordingly, the domestic aircraft industry will need to be revived. He was in the USSR at a decent level, as is widely believed. Citizens flew only with domestic planes. Including abroad, where they practically do not fly anyway. Soviet planes were supplied to the Warsaw Pact countries and other friends of the USSR. The cars were pretty good for their time. And even a dream plane was created – the supersonic Tu-144. As it was also called the “Soviet Concorde”.

Let’s remember how. Moreover, there is a reason: on May 23, 1978, during the next test flight, the Tu-144D crashed, after which it was decided to stop using it for passenger transport (the last flight took place in 1999, the plane was successfully operated) There were also times to work in a joint program with NASA ). However, the swing was pretty earth-level steep at the time. But one thing – many things – went wrong.

Let’s get back to the facts and simple logic we need to answer the question – why?

First of all, you must understand that the supersonic passenger plane in the USSR appeared precisely as a dream and as a product of competition with the capitalist West, on the instructions of the Communist Party.

“External challenge” – competition with capitalists and the desire to prove the “advantages of the socialist system” – was the most important factor driving technological progress in the Soviet Union and displacing market mechanisms as well as other mechanisms of self-dependence. development. In this sense, “party plans” were not only ahead of their time, but also far ahead of their economic interests. By the way, not bad in itself – trying to look too far ahead.

And more than anything else, it should be explained by the notorious arms race. For example, in terms of the arms race, launching an astronaut first into space was largely pointless. It was enough to launch a satellite to show that we now have intercontinental ballistic missiles. The same as the passenger supersonic ship: when it appeared, supersonic fighters were already flying. But at that time we were “running into the future”, trying to show that we are the first in everything. Often without taking into account the economic costs.

The party, for example, decided that the Soviet people should go from Moscow to Khabarovsk quickly, in 3.5 hours and without painful transfers. In addition, the task of developing Siberia and the Far East (as it is now clear) was set. And for this you need a plane that flies very fast. For purely rational reasons, an insignificant number of Soviet people had to go from Moscow to Khabarovsk at that time, and, as a rule, they were in no hurry to get anywhere. The explorers of Siberia could also be abducted by train.

However, after the Second World War, the race for leadership began almost in the world in creating a supersonic passenger plane. After all, the West also competed with the USSR and constantly “proved” something to it. And if Gagarin did not fly into space, it is still unknown when the American lunar program will take place. Those were glorious times. When it is not harmful to dream, and even budget money is allocated for this.

The Americans quickly abandoned the idea of ​​​​developing such a cruise ship, although it was the first to go “supersonic”. This is because, habitually counting money, the American Congress has decided that Greater America does not need a Boeing-2707 with a variable sweep blade made of titanium, capable of carrying 300 passengers at a speed of 3,000 km / h. But the Boeing-747, which can carry more than 500 passengers for a three times cheaper ticket price, is very useful. And they did not give money for the first project.

In our country, of course, the Supreme Soviet of the USSR did not engage in such matters, collectively looking into the mouth of its own communist party. The party watched what Westerners did, especially the British and French. In the early 1960s, they designed the Concorde with a speed of crossing the Atlantic at 2000 km/h. Apparently, not the desire to deliver Vasya Pupkin from Moscow to Khabarovsk in 3.5 hours played a decisive role. And Khrushchev – a great dreamer no worse than Kennedy, but different – ordered the Soviet supersonic passenger plane to be.
Yet the Tu-144 did indeed take to the skies two months before Concorde (in December 1968). Even before that, there was a moment when the idea of ​​making a joint plane with the French and the British arose, and there were even some discussions on this subject. Isn’t it from here that the wings of the Superjet will grow years later? However, the idea was quickly abandoned. Since all Russians were considered intelligence officers, as they are now, and all Westerners were spies. Then there was the mysterious accident of the Tu-144 at Le Bourget in 1973 (the reasons were not determined, although there are many versions, including the technical part). However, this did not stop the project. After the French bragged to Brezhnev about the flying Concorde, they once again gave the designers a magic pendel. Tu-144 flew to Alma-Ata in November 1977. Doletev (3.2 thousand km) 2 hours 10 minutes.

In many ways, it was a “futuristic” machine. It really had many of the most advanced, daring and unique engineering solutions. But the car was damp, according to experts.

The Tu-144 can reach speeds of up to 2500 km per hour (faster than the Concorde) and fly at an altitude of 15-18 km (also a record). However, there was such a terrible noise in the cabin that it was impossible to talk. The cooling system was very noisy. But for the first time there were lockable shelves for luggage under the roof. According to experts, the problem was also that in the body (by the way, for the first time titanium was used for its manufacture), due to large inhomogeneous parts, there were problems with excessive local stresses (their level exceeded the calculated one), and the resulting cracks can spread over long distances. Therefore, the trunk resource was very short – many times shorter than the legendary Tu-104.

The NK-144A engines originally delivered to the aircraft were crude, burned out within a few decades, were never debugged. The resource in practice did not meet the reference requirements (range 4000-4500 km under a maximum load of 15 tons) – a maximum of 3500 km (this is half the Concorde). Then they began to install the improved RD-36-51A engines, but they did not completely solve all the problems with resource and efficiency. Although it was claimed that the plane could fly and land in all weather conditions, in practice it flew only during the day, without precipitation and with good visibility. There were several airports to receive the Tu-144. If Alma-Ata did not agree, it was possible to count on only Tashkent, and even then with difficulty landing. In practice, the tests of the aircraft have already continued with passengers. By the will of the party. Therefore, they were guided not by ordinary Aeroflot pilots, but by employees of the Tupolev Design Bureau. The Tu-144 did not make international flights. Only in the movie “Mimino”.

Why did they choose Alma-Ata, where the Tu-144 flew once a week for about a year, and not the cherished Khabarovsk? Mostly by chance. What if the Central Committee of the CPSU realized that for so many people in Khabarovsk (the plane carried about 80 people, worked with a part-time load, Concorde carried about a hundred), there was nothing to do, and Alma-Ata is very beautiful and there is something to see . Or because Brezhnev had a good personal relationship with the first secretary of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of the Kazakh SSR Kunaev.

The Tu-144 project was not about money and profitability. It was not even close, but in the USSR these issues were approached differently than now. Party “We must do it!” What happens to profitability? Although a Tu-144 ticket was 25% more expensive than usual (83.7 rubles versus 62 for flights to Alma-Ata, the average salary in the country at that time was 145 rubles) – this in no way covered the costs. Tickets for transatlantic flights “Concorde” cost about 2.5 thousand dollars.

Only 16 Tu-144 aircraft were built (four fewer than the Concordes), but only a few aircraft were used on passenger flights. They carried 3,824 passengers with 55 flights per year. By the end of operation in 2003 (after the plane crash near Paris in 2000), Concords had carried more than 3 million passengers. The Anglo-French project has finished the market: people don’t need that many people in the Atlantic for that kind of money and in 3.5 hours. Even now, when you can’t fly anywhere and you can’t decide everything on the internet. Disgusting as it may seem, the stingy US Congress of the early 1960s was right.

However, in the USSR they preferred to surrender not to money, but to insurmountable technical problems. In addition, after the death of Brezhnev, the “driver” of the dream project also disappeared. Andropov was not all that “vital”, let alone Chernenko, and Gorbachev quickly became completely indifferent to it. Well, the country’s objective need for such aircraft was not at all clear. It’s still unclear. Moscow and St. Passing St. Petersburg, the transport (aviation) connectivity of different parts of Russia is still at an extremely low level. Regions still need very little of each other. First of all, it depends on economic reasons and the high centralization of everything and everything.

As for the “revival of aviation”, it’s worth taking a sober look at things, dispelling some myths. The most important of these is that the USSR allegedly produced a large number of aircraft per year. Unfortunately not. That’s why Boeing and Airbus were chosen when the market came and people were flying en masse at home and abroad. This is pure economy.

At the end of the existence of the USSR, aircraft of all types were produced, up to a maximum of 200 units (usually less) per year. But of these, only 60-70 aircraft are intended for civil aviation, including small and sports aviation. This concerns all republics of the USSR, including Ukraine and Uzbekistan, where powerful aircraft factories are located. In Russia itself (RSFSR), the maximum number of aircraft was produced in 1980 – 98 units, the minimum – 26 units in 1984. In principle, the release of approximately the same (least) number of civilian aircraft in terms of forces and modern Russia. In this sense, the aircraft industry did not collapse, rather remained at the same level, could not withstand the competition. For example, in 2020, 12 aircraft were collected in Russia, but small aircraft were not taken into account. It is planned to build as many as 22 civil aircraft for 2021 (data on whether they were built or not). But we still make many times more combat vehicles, here we are in second place in the world.

For comparison, Boeing alone produced 300-400 full-fledged passenger aircraft per year in the same 1980s, depending on the number of orders and market conditions. The company has been in a deep crisis for the past two years (due to two plane crashes with the 737-MAX models). Production fell 60% in 2020 (compared to 2019), with only 157 commercial aircraft produced. We would be such a “just”.

In any case, we are talking about economies of scale (economies of scale when there is a decrease in costs per unit of output with the expansion of production), apart from this, in conditions of uncompromising import substitution in a very limited Russian. Today, it is not possible to talk about profitability in the production of high-tech and complex technical products, as well as all kinds of innovations, almost all of which are derivatives of international cooperation.

However, it is still possible to repeat the experience of the USSR to some extent. There is nowhere to go. Obviously it will be expensive, because everything will have to be done alone. It will not be at the highest world level as we fall into technological and scientific semi-isolation. Therefore, we will somehow manage without a “dream plane”, but only so that you can fly safely and cheaply. Because some of us still have to go to Khabarovsk and even to old Alma-Ata. Although not very urgent.

The author expresses his personal opinion, which may not coincide with the editors’ position.

Source: Gazeta


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