The Soviet Union's supersonic airliner, the TU-144, was tested to almost its maximum rated speed of 2,500 kilometres an hour (1,500 mph) last month.
LV TU-144 taking off past camera (2 shots)
SV PAN Aircraft lands (2 shots)
SV, CU&LV Vehicle pulling TU-144
CU Nose of aircraft
CU Gangway moving towards plane
SV Crew being greeted
Initials PAF/JH/MH/1350 PAF/JH/MH/1403
Script is copyright Reuters Limited. All rights reserved
Background: The Soviet Union's supersonic airliner, the TU-144, was tested to almost its maximum rated speed of 2,500 kilometres an hour (1,500 mph) last month. The TU-144, which is seen as a major rival to the Anglo-French Concorde and--if it goes into production -- the American SST, flew at speeds of 2,430 kph (1,458 mph) at an altitude of 16,900 metres (about 51,000 feet).
The Soviet Union hopes to market the aircraft next year as the world's first supersonic airliner. It has been undergoing tests for almost two years now and last month's test flight was the fastest speed ever flown by a passenger airliner. The crew of the aircraft for the test flight: Commander Yelyan, second pilot Kozlov, engineer Benderov and mechanic Seliverstov, have been with the TU-144 through all the various test stages.
The aircraft can attain supersonic speeds within 18 minutes of take-off. It has a range of 3,900 miles (about 6500 kms) without needing to refuel. Any airport will be able to service the Soviet supersonic airliner as it requires only a very small airstrip. One hundred and twenty two passengers will be accommodated, 16 less than the Concorde, but the Russians say the flight-cost will not exceed that of sub-sonic aircraft.