Military Review

Tu-104: the story of the tragedy


More than half a century ago, the first flight tests of the first domestic passenger passenger aircraft Tu-104 began. Its creation was an important stage in the development of world aviation.

The successful use of jet aircraft in the air force helped solve the problem of introducing the same machines in civil aviation. The first aircraft of this type appeared in the 1949 year in the UK. After several years of testing, the aircraft entered mass production. However, a large number of accidents in the 50-ies forced to remove the machine from operation. It took the designers four years to fix all the problems, after which the newly re-created aircraft returned to the airline.

While the English Comet was in the process of being finalized, the Soviet Union had a great chance to become the first state in the world to have a jet passenger plane.

Its development began in the 1954 year. The basis of the passenger aircraft was the Tu-16 bomber. This solution was designed to save time on the design development. The first Tu-104 aircraft flew in early November 1955. Thus, the development took quite a bit of time. During this flight, it was not without problems: during the flight, the plane unexpectedly threw up, after which the control of the machine was lost for some time. The pilots called this state a “pickup”. The cause of this phenomenon could not be determined. Despite this, the operation of the aircraft was continued, and the tests did not stop.

The Tu-104 aircraft was so much liked by N. Khrushchev that he even decided to fly it to the UK in the 1956 year. Since the problems with the plane could not be resolved, he was persuaded to abandon such a flight. But it was necessary to demonstrate to the world the successes of the Soviet aircraft industry. Therefore, by order of Khrushchev, the Tu-104 was driven into the British capital.

Appearing in London, the first Soviet jet produced an impression of a bombshell. The next day, another similar aircraft arrived there. The British said that the Russians simply repainted the numbers on their only plane. The chief designer A.Tupolev didn’t like such statements, so he ordered to bring three Tu-104 aircraft to London at the same time. This was truly the triumph of the Soviet Union, because not a single state in the world had passenger jet airliners.

But, as further developments showed, the problems with the “pickup” were not resolved. In August, the 1958 of the year, the Tu-104 plane, having lost control, crashed, resulting in the death of the 64 man. The designer Tupolev in every possible way denied that there were any problems whatsoever, and the crash was the fault of the crew. There is a version that the plane simply did not have enough fuel. But after a while and the second Tu-104 crashed, going into a tailspin and crashing into the ground. And after another two months, the exact same situation was under Kanash. On that fateful day, the plane performed a Beijing-Moscow flight. Flight altitude was 12 kilometers. Suddenly, the plane abruptly threw up, and with such force that such a huge colossus flew up two kilometers!

The crew commander Harold Kuznetsov and the co-pilot Anton Artemyev tried to level the plane, all the way taking the helm. But it did not help. Then the plane abruptly went down, not listening to the controls. Thus, the plane entered a steep unmanaged peak. At supersonic speeds, almost vertically, the plane flew toward the ground.

According to the results of the work of the state commission, the accident lasted no more than two minutes. The commander immediately realized that death was inevitable, so from the 13-kilometer altitude he began transmitting information about what was happening to the ground. The link worked almost until the moment of collision with the ground. The last words of the commander were: "Goodbye. We die.

The information transferred to Kuznetsov was of great value, since all previous incidents remained unsolved. None of the investigations carried out by specialists from the Main Directorate of the Civil Air Fleet, the Air Force, the State Research Institute, or the Tupolev Design Bureau itself could shed light on what actually happened. Many assumptions were made: technical malfunction, design defects, bad weather conditions, crew errors. All the bumps, of course, fell on the heads of the pilots, as no one doubted the technical characteristics of the aircraft. But the information transferred to Kuznetsov dotted the "І". From the information received, the commission concluded that the airliner got into a huge upward air flow. None of the designers could even suggest that this is possible at an altitude of more than 9 kilometers, since simple piston machines could rise to a much smaller height. Therefore, the phenomenon of turbulence, was considered a trifle. Until the tragedy happened ...

Kuznetsov’s crew hit the very center of the vertical airflow. Later, during the flight reproduction, the designers were able to determine its parameters: the width of the air flow was about 2 kilometers, length - about 13, thickness - about 6 kilometers. At the same time its speed was close to 300 kilometers per hour.

It was necessary to urgently find a way to deal with such a dangerous phenomenon of nature. As a result, the maximum flight altitude was lowered, the structure itself was modernized, new techniques for centering machines were developed, but still they did not completely solve the problem. High accidents remained at the same level, but what was the cause — either errors in the design, or unavailability of the pilots — was difficult to determine.

It is not surprising that the aircraft gained notoriety. In 1960, the Tu-104 liner was discontinued, and its IL-18 turboprop liners took its place for a while. And since a long strip was needed to disperse the Tu-104, it was not often used on domestic flights.

There was a need to create new passenger aircraft. Tupolev decided not to retreat from the intended path. As a result, the first modification of the Tu-104 was created - the Tu-124, which was also distinguished by a high accident rate. Therefore, another option was created - Tu-134. This aircraft was more successful, so since the start of operation in the 1967 year, it still flies on domestic airlines. And only in 1972, the first Tu-154 jet airliner appeared, which was not converted from a military vehicle, but was originally designed as a passenger aircraft. This is one of their favorite aircraft of domestic experienced pilots.

The last Tu-104 airliners disappeared from regular flights only in the 1979 year, but for some time were used for training sea fighter pilots, as a staff plane, a flying laboratory. Finally, Tu-104 flights stopped only after one of the planes crashed near Leningrad, as a result of which the 52 man was killed.

Such a bitter experience forced domestic designers to think of new aerodynamic forms that could resist air flow.
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  1. Brother Sarych
    Brother Sarych 24 February 2012 09: 35
    It seems that the author was not at the airfields!
    Discontinued in 1960, and flew until 1980? Twenty years of flying is not enough? Tu-104 and IL-18 were always in different niches, but they didn’t seem to interfere with one another ...
    I flew as a passenger both there and there - I didn’t like it, in principle, both of them are hopelessly outdated, so they took them off the lines ...
  2. Civil
    Civil 24 February 2012 10: 40
    55 year ... jet passenger liner!
    1. Capt.stryker
      Capt.stryker 24 February 2012 13: 04
      Quote: Civil
      55 year ... jet passenger liner!

      What do you mean?
      1. Civil
        Civil 24 February 2012 18: 24
        were there many passengers in 1955?
  3. Col.
    Col. 24 February 2012 11: 35
    I had a chance to fly a lot on these airplanes, and for the first time - in the fall of 1959, still almost as a baby, and the last time - in July 1979, from Simferopol to Moscow. So it turns out that he survived the entire history of the liner. Not a bad car for its time. Unfortunately, there were many tragedies. The article did not mention one of the largest disasters, when in 1981 the Tu-104, which was transporting the entire command staff of the Pacific Fleet after training in Leningrad, crashed during the arrival. A terrible tragedy, the Pacific Fleet was "beheaded", everyone was killed: from the fleet commanders to the commanders of subunits of ships and boats. The reason is the overload and misalignment, the commander of the ship did not dare to contradict the big bosses who filled the plane with luggage, "goodies, sevenirs", etc. No wonder the truth says: "Aviation laws are written in blood."
  4. Capt.stryker
    Capt.stryker 24 February 2012 12: 56
    More than half a century ago, the first flight tests of the first domestic passenger passenger aircraft Tu-104 began.

    The fact that the author of the article does not write that the Tu-104 "The world's first jet airliner" is already good in itself.

    The first aircraft of this type appeared in 1949 in the UK. After several years of testing, the aircraft entered mass production.

    Clarification: The prototype "Komet-1" made its first flight on July 27, 1949, the beginning of operation - in January 1952.

    But a large number of disasters in the 50s forced to take the car out of service.
    "A large number of accidents" - this is four aircraft, and due to design flaws, two of them died, one more due to weather conditions - a severe storm, and one due to a crew error.

    While the English Comet was in the process of being finalized, the Soviet Union had a great chance to become the first state in the world to have a jet passenger plane.
    Well, I only praised the author for his objectivity, as here you run into the stones of kvass rye-patriotism. Yes, the Soviet Union was not the first operator in the world of jet passenger aircraft! These were the British! And why did they take off - mind you, temporarily removed your airliners from passenger airlines?

    after all, no state in the world had passenger jet airliners.
    Well after all lies all this, - heinous, arrogant, propaganda lies! The Tu-104 was not even the second airliner in the world, nor was it the third. Here is the chronology of the first flights of passenger jets:
    1_Comet-I ............................................... .......... July 27, 1949
    2_Boeing - 367-80 (future "707") .............. July 15, 1954
    3_Caravelle ................................................. ....... May 27, 1955
    4_Tu-104 ............................................... .............. June 17, 1955

    The fact that the Tu-104 entered regular passenger lines earlier than the Boeing-707 and Karavella speaks not of the imaginary technical superiority of the Soviet liner, but of the notorious race for ghostly world leadership. And she, this race, got out for the "carcass" with a large number of accidents, and note (!) - its operation was not interrupted, as the British did, - the planes continued to fly, killing their passengers and crews. By the way, the Tu-104 of this "first four" left the airlines before anyone else, and the "707" is still flying.

    In August 1958, the Tu-104 aircraft, having lost control, crashed, resulting in 64 deaths.
    In 1958, three "carcasses" were broken at once. Here are some more figures. Out of 201 built Tu-104s, 37 cars crashed, or 18,5% of the total built. Komet was built 114 aircraft, twelve or 10% of the total output crashed, and if we take into account that Kometa flew six years earlier, and made its last commercial flight 18 years later than 104, and convert this into the formula LP for 1 million hours of flight, then we can make a simple conclusion about the greater reliability and safety of Western aircraft.
    1. Valboro
      Valboro 24 February 2012 23: 14
      Thank you very much for the truthful information. Unfortunately, illiterate material often appears on this site.
      But nevertheless, I am grateful to the authors of the site: you collect people who are not indifferent to the problems of the army
    2. VAF
      VAF 25 February 2012 22: 21
      Everything is written correctly!
      Statistics and facts are stubborn things!
      But the problems of the Comet were nevertheless initially laid in the design and were also opened during operation.!
  5. Col.
    Col. 24 February 2012 13: 13
    "Kuznetsov's crew got into the very center of the vertical air flow."
    Most likely this is not an upward flow (there are no 300 km / h in upward flows), but a jet stream (all aviators know what it is).
  6. 916-th
    916-th 24 February 2012 13: 15
    He flew (as a passenger) on almost all the carcasses mentioned here. As you can see, I’m alive and well, which I also wish you.

    One story with the Tu-124 is noteworthy (I think I read it in the book by AN Tupolev "The Purpose of Life"). When one of the western journalists reprimanded Tupolev that they say the Tu-124 is just a reduced copy of the Tu-104, and therefore does not present any difficulties in manufacturing, the designer replied that yes, of course, we can proportionally reduce all the dimensions of the aircraft, but how to be with passengers - who will reduce their size in proportion to the plane?
    1. Capt.stryker
      Capt.stryker 24 February 2012 14: 08
      Quote: 916
      in my opinion read in the book of A.N. Tupolev "The Purpose of Life"

      The Purpose of Life is a book by A. Yakovlev.
      1. 916-th
        916-th 27 February 2012 07: 45
        I admit a mistake, somewhere else I read about it ...
  7. black_eagle
    black_eagle 24 February 2012 13: 45
    The Tu-104 is a completely new machine, such as the MiG-15, Tu-144, that is, completely new problems are being created, the machine is entering modes previously considered prohibitive, and no one else has similar work on this topic, so that you can only admire the courage of scientific solutions and the talent of designers, the stamina, courage and mind of test pilots of this machine
    1. Capt.stryker
      Capt.stryker 24 February 2012 14: 17
      Quote: black_eagle
      The Tu-104 is a completely new machine, such as the MiG-15, Tu-144, that is, completely new problems are being created, the machine is entering modes previously considered prohibitive, and no one else has similar work on this topic,

      You are wrong, - the Tu-104 was not created from scratch, its base was the Tu-16 bomber, but the Western jet first-born were originally conceived and created as civilian airliners - from scratch. And about "no one else has similar work on this topic", you really bent it laughing
  8. Insurgent
    Insurgent 25 February 2012 08: 43
    What does it mean because of turbulence that fell, the Tu-16 that flew at lower altitudes and did not fall. Some nonsense
  9. VAF
    VAF 25 February 2012 18: 54
    Let me, as a pilot, add from myself. I apologize for the excess technical terminology, and so:
    The pickup phenomenon is expressed as a tendency for the aircraft to spontaneously increase its overload (in this case, the plane lifts its nose and goes abruptly to climb) while reducing the Mach number in the transonic range of speeds and keeping the initial position of the controlled stabilizer (elevator) unchanged. This phenomenon is one of those encountered during the formation of jet aircraft.
    In relation to the Tu-104, the absence of meteorological data at that time that there were zones of high-altitude upward currents at the working echelons of this aircraft, when hit in which the aircraft threw a pitch at a critical angle of attack, also played a role. Next - stall and corkscrew. To counter the casting, the rudder range (and the stabilizer angle) was not enough.
    Pilots of heavy vehicles are usually trained in a corkscrew only theoretically. Even among cadets, this type of flight training is excluded from the training program. In reality, practically only test pilots flying in fighters and athletes are trained in this.
    A pilot who does not have practical experience in pulling out of a corkscrew, at the initial moment, it would seem naturally gives the helm (handle) against the roll. And this just provokes a corkscrew. The second characteristic mistake is an attempt to pull the helm (handle) toward you, as in the derivation from a normal dive, instead of giving it away and reducing the angle of attack. those. when withdrawing from a corkscrew, the pilot has to suppress the accumulated pilot reflexes for a normal flight. - Attempts to pull the helm (handle) toward you.
    Moreover, often a pilot who is not familiar in practice with a corkscrew cannot even determine that the aircraft is in this mode. Typical examples of our time are the catastrophe near Irkutsk in 2001, the catastrophe A-310 near Mezhdurechensk. The pilots tried to fend off the roll with ailerons.
    I ask you not to consider what was written as an attempt to cast a shadow on the first jet pilots.

    And Harold Dmitrievich Kuznetsov is a pilot with a "capital L", a real Hero.
    Photo crew Harold Kuznetsov. Photographer: Howard Sochurek (September-October 1958), i.e. less than a month before the disaster.
    1. 916-th
      916-th 27 February 2012 08: 21
      I still remember how in Kache, in the 2nd year, we performed training flights on the L-29 to a conclusion from a simple corkscrew:

      Corkscrew entry - in horizontal flight, you take turns to a small gas, the speed drops below 300 km / h. You support the height by gradually increasing the angle of attack and when the handle is already at the navel, you give the foot in the right direction. The plane begins to shake (flow stall on the shaded fuselage wing) and it falls into a tailspin.

      Corkscrew Conclusion - you do 2-3 turns, while the nose constantly walks up and down. You catch the moment when the pitch is minimal, give the handle completely away from you and your foot against the corkscrew, increase the speed to 100%. The plane goes into a dive. Then you get out of the dive.

      We did this regularly (with instructors) with single piloting in the zone, L-29 allowed it. Further, flying on the MiG-21, I never met the practice of working out the output from a tailspin. Familiar only for instructions.
      1. VAF
        VAF 27 February 2012 13: 08
        I meant the current training of cadets in the only school of pilots in the Russian Federation, in Krasnodar!
        And in our time, this is understandable, with primary training and familiarization with aerobatics, all this was carried out and was done in all our 18 schools !!!
        Only at the conclusion "you do not give gas immediately to the stop", but after the dolphin slows down the rotation and stops prowling along the pitch, then you add the "gas" - we were taught so!
        1. 916-th
          916-th 27 February 2012 18: 10
          Yes sir! I agree, the technique was the same!
  10. anton107798
    anton107798 27 February 2012 02: 04
    Kharkov did good