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August 25, 1994 (Phone: 202/358-1983) RELEASE: 94-143 NASA TO USE RUSSIAN SUPERSONIC AIRLINER FOR FLIGHT TESTS NASA, a team of U.S. aircraft and engine manufacturers and the Russian aircraft firm, Tupolev Design Bureau, plan to use a Russian Tu-144 supersonic transport as a flying testbed for conducting flight research on high speed enabling technologies. As part of NASA's High-Speed Research Program, the U.S. industry team, which includes Boeing, McDonnell Douglas, Rockwell International, General Electric and Pratt & Whitney, signed a contract to work with Tupolev to modify its Tu-144 aircraft to meet program research needs and to conduct up to 35 test flights. The flights will provide unique aerodynamic, structures and operating environment data on supersonic passenger aircraft. Funding for the flight research program is being provided by NASA's Office of Aeronautics, Washington, D.C., through its Langley Research Center, Hampton, Va., in a contract with Boeing. The Tupolev effort is budgeted for $8 million over a three-year period. NASA first considered using the Tu-144 in September 1993 as a result of U.S.-Russian joint discussions on aeronautics. Subsequent studies by NASA, U.S. industry and Tupolev engineers concluded that because of its size, performance characteristics and availability, the aircraft would be an effective and economical flying testbed. "Using the Tu-144 is a perfect fit between our needs and their capabilities. It's a model for cooperative technology programs with Russia," said NASA High-Speed Research Program Director Louis J. Williams. "This effort will give us up-to-date information on the 'real world' conditions that a supersonic airliner operates in -- data we wouldn't otherwise be able to
obtain easily." Personnel from NASA's Dryden Flight Research Center, Edwards, Calif., Langley Research Center and Lewis Research Center, Cleveland, will comprise the Agency's flight operations and research team carrying out the Tu-144 project. The first flight in the research program is expected to take place by late summer of 1995. The Tu-144 first flew in prototype form at the end of 1968. The aircraft to be used in the NASA research program is a later production version built in 1982 and has a total flight time of only 87 hours. It has a maximum cruising speed of Mach 2.35 (2.35 times the speed of sound), a range of 2,485 miles (4,000 kilometers) and a maximum altitude of 62,000 feet (18,897 meters). Tupolev most recently used the plane as a flying laboratory; it has an emergency escape system and mounts a significant number of research instruments. The Tu-144 supersonic research program will establish direct working relationships between aircraft manufacturers in the United States and Russia and also enhance the relationship between U.S. and Russian aeronautical agencies. -end-
NOTE TO EDITORS: A photo of the Tu-144 is available to media representatives by faxing your request to the NASA Headquarters Broadcasting and Imaging Branch on 202/358-4333. The photo numbers are: Color: 94-HC-95, 96 B & W: 94-H-99, 100