The Russian Concorde – How Not to Design Reliable Aircraft
Chris and Fred discussing the little known Tupolev Tu-144 or the Russian Concorde. It was developed as a direct competitor to the Anglo-French Concorde, and was also the first commercial aircraft to fly at a speed of Mach 2. It even looks like the Concorde. But there is a reason you have not heard of it. Yup … reliability. And there is much to learn. In fact, Chris decided to write an article about it which can be read here.
Join Chris and Fred as they discuss the Tupolev Tu-144 or the Russian Concorde. It was developed at the height of the Cold War during the 1960s and 1970s in direct response to the Anglo-French Concorde. The Soviet Air Ministry commissioned the design and production of what they hoped to be the first supersonic commercial aircraft. But their focus was almost exclusively on geopolitical prestige … not reliable systems. And it showed.
The 1973 Paris Air Show was the eagerly anticipated stage on which the Concorde and Tu-144 would be compared for the first time. The Concorde’s flight was flawless. The Tu-144’s wing fell off, causing a spectacular crash. The superficially similar aircraft could not be more different within the fuselage. And it is all about culture.
- The importance of testing. The Concorde had logged over 5 000 hours of testing before commissioning. The Tu-144 had logged less than 800.
- The importance of understanding the Physics of Failure. The Tu-144 was made from large molded metal machined parts. Some of this parts were single blocks machined from over 19 meter long pieces of metal. This was considered advanced and novel. But it was not known at the time that such large molded metal parts have lots of defects and flaws. It should have been.
- The importance of ‘core skills.’ The Anglo-French Concorde ‘imported’ much of its technology from a large technical network of designers and suppliers. The Soviet government prohibited the Tu-144 design team from enlisting outside help.
- The importance of reliability culture. The focus of the Soviet Tu-144 design team was to ‘beat’ the Concorde. And they succeeded. But this excluded any significant consideration of reliability.
Enjoy an episode of Speaking of Reliability. Where you can join friends as they discuss reliability topics. Join us as we discuss topics ranging from design for reliability techniques, to field data analysis approaches.