Tupolev Tu-114—A Bear of an Airliner

The Tupolev Tu-114 was the Soviet Union’s first long-range (10,900 km) high-speed (880 km/hour) passenger airliner. It made its first flight in 1957, was introduced in passenger service in 1961, with the last plane retired in 1991. Because contemporary turbojets were so fuel-hungry, the plane used turboprop engines to achieve its impressive payload capacity and range.

In fact, the engines, wing, landing gear, and tail structure were largely identical to those of the Tupolev Tu-95 “Bear” strategic bomber, which had been in service since 1956 (and remains in use by Russia today).

With a capacity of 220 passengers in high density configuration, the Tu-114 was the largest airliner in service until the introduction of the Boeing 747. It was also the loudest airliner ever built, with its eight counter-rotating propeller tips rotating faster than the speed of sound.

Only 32 TU-114s were made, but none was lost due to mechanical or design problems. (There was one fatal accident due to a crew trying to take off from a runway which had been incompletely cleared of snow.)

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Interestingly, I watched it over the weekend.

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And imagine how well it might do with today’s high-bypass turbofans.

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Probably does not have the aerodynamics for efficient flight with turbofans.

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Meh. Props are just unshrouded turbofans.

It might work. The Tu-114 (assuming it is the same as the Tu-95 bomber) has a wing sweep of 35°, which is about the same as the Boeing 777 (31.6°). Both have similar tail structures. The TU-114 sits so high off the ground to provide clearance for the huge (5.6 metre diameter) propellers that there wouldn’t likely be a problem even with large underslung turbofans. Whether the wing internal structure would be compatible mounting engine pylons I don’t know.

The cruise speeds and service ceilings are comparable (420 knots / 12,000 metres for the Tu-114 and 482 knots / 13100 metres for the 777).

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