Exactly 59 years ago today, the first Tu-124A prototype, SSSR-45075, took to the skies on July 29, 1963. The design of the Soviet-built airliner was inspired by the French Sud Aviation Caravelle and its rear-mounted engines.
The advantage of having the engines at the plane’s rear was that it allowed for smoother airflow over the wings and reduced cabin noise. However, placing the engines in the back altered the center of gravity in relation to the center of lift created by the wings. This made the need for a larger tail, which also added to the weight at the rear.
The French Caravelle was the inspiration behind the Tu-134
During a visit to France in 1960, Soviet Union leader Nikita Khrushchev got to fly on a Caravelle and was so impressed with how quiet the cabin was he instructed Tupolev to build a similar plane. Aeroflot was looking to replace its old Il-14s with larger capacity jets.
At the same time, Tupolev was building the Tu-134 over in Great Britain; BAC was building the rear-engined One Eleven. On October 22, 1963, while testing the aircraft’s stall capabilities, the tailplane became trapped in the wake produced by the wings preventing the plane from recovering from a stall. The aircraft subsequently crashed, killing all seven people aboard. As a result of the One Eleven crash, Tupolev the enlarged tailplane of the Tu-124A by 30%.
The Tu-134 was the first Soviet plane to receive international certification
Since Aeroflot wanted a larger plane than the design bureau had planned, changes were made, and on November 20, 1963, the Tu-134 was revealed. In 1967 the Tu-134 became the first Soviet aircraft allowed to fly international routes after receiving its certification from the International Civil Aviation Organization.
The Tu-134s first commercial flight took place the same year when a Tu-134 flew from Moscow to the Black Sea resort of Sochi. Because the Tu-134 was certified to fly internationally, Aeroflot put its Tu-134s on non-domestic routes In 1968 the Tu-134 was bought by East Germany’s Interflug, LOT Polish Airlines, and Malév Hungarian Airlines. Now with more Tu-134s in its fleet, Aeroflot began using the planes for domestic flights in 1972, flying from Sheremetyevo International Airport in Moscow (SVO) to the following destinations:
- Omsk Riga
The Tu-134 was a noisy plane
Early on, the Tu-134 developed a reputation for being reliable and more efficient than previously designed Soviet aircraft. Its downside was that it was very noisy and got banned from western European airports when stricter regulations came into force in 2002. In 2006 there were 245 Tu-134s still flying, 162 of which were in Russia.
After a fatal accident in March 2007 involving a UTair Aviation Tu-134, Aeroflot announced that it was retiring its fleet, with the last Tu-134 removed from service in January 2008. Others, however, remained in service with Aeroflot subsidiaries flying domestic routes .
On June 20, 2011, RusAir Flight 9605 crashed while attempting to land at Petrozavodsk Airport (PES) in thick fog. Of the 52 passengers and crew, only five survived. In response to the crash, Russian president Dmitry Medvedev ordered that all Tu- 134s be taken out of service by 2012.