The second jet airliner in the world made its first flight on this day 65 years ago. It was the Tupolev Tu-104. When the de Havilland Comet fleet got grounded over safety concerns, it was the only jet airliner operating in the world between 1956 & 1958.
In the early 1950s Aeroflot had the requirement for a modern airliner with better payload and performance than the piston aircraft. The request for the design was handed to the Tuplove factory. they based their design on the Tu-16 'Badger'.
Tupolev Tu-104 passenger jet Tupolev Tu-16 Bomber
As is obvious from the drawings above, the similarity between the two airframes is large. Wings, engines and tailplane were the same as the Tu-16. the difference is the fuselage, which was wider and pressurised compared to the Tu-16.
The cabin design had space for 50 passengers. It was powered by two Miulin AM-3 turbojet engines, housed in the wing root. It initially required a crew of 5 to operate it;
1 navigator (in the glazed nose)
1 flight engineer
1 radio operator (this crew function was later eliminated)
Initial training for the pilots was on the Il-28 bomber, after the initial training crews would transfer to an unarmed Tu-16 bomber in full Aeroflot colours and operate inter Russia mail flight to build up experience. Another "route" would be for Tu-16 bomber experienced pilots that would transition to the Tu-104. It is reported that the Tu-104 was considered a difficult aircraft to fly, mainly due to its flight characteristics (high Vref on approach and heavy flight controls).
Entry into service was with Aeroflot on the 15th of September 1956, on the Moscow - Omsk - Irkutsk route, nearly halving the flight time. By 1957 Aeroflot would also use the aircraft for international routes from Mosco's Vnukovo Airport. A total of 17 versions were developed over the years from the initial version Tu-104 to the Tu-104V-115 with an extended fuselage, newer engines and a passenger capacity of 100 passengers. A total of 201 Tu-104 of the different variants were built. That the TU-104 was a tricky aircraft ot fly shows from the hull loss rate for the Tu-104. A total of 37 airframes where written of during the period 1958 - 1981, given the Tu-104 a hull loss raet of 18%. 16 of the airframe losses where crashes, with a total of 1140 fatalities.
Some specifications of the base model Tu-104 as operated by Aeroflot. crew: 7
Capacity: 50–115 passengers
Length: 40.06 m (131 ft 5 in)
Wingspan: 34.54 m (113 ft 4 in)
Height: 11.9 m (39 ft 1 in)
Wing area: 183 m2 (1,970 sq ft) less LERX
Empty weight: 43,800 kg (96,562 lb)
Gross weight: 78,100 kg (172,181 lb)
Fuel capacity: 21,000 kg (46,297 lb) normal; 26,500 kg (58,422 lb) maximum
Powerplant: 2 × Mikulin AM-3M-500 turbojet engines, 95 kN (21,400 lbf) thrust each
Maximum speed: 950 km/h (590 mph, 510 kn) Cruising speed: 750–850 km/h (470–530 mph; 400–460 kn) at 10,000–12,000 m (32,808–39,370 ft)
Range: 2,120 km (1,320 mi, 1,140 nmi) with 12,000 kg (26,455 lb) payload and 5,650 kg (12,456 lb) fuel reserve
2,750 km (1,709 mi) with 8,150 kg (17,968 lb) payload and 5,650 kg (12,456 lb) fuel reserve
Service ceiling: 12,000 m (39,000 ft)
Rate of climb: 10 m/s (2,000 ft/min)
Take-off run at MTOW: 2,200 m (7,218 ft)
Landing run at normal landing weight: 1,450–1,850 m (4,757–6,070 ft)