He had bit parts as an actor, usually playing heavies, in films including The China Syndrome (1979), F.I.S.T. (1978) and the 1976 remake of King Kong.He collected over 400 versions of his hit song (including covers by Mae West and the Sex Pistols) and created a museum to himself in his own house. He released his own instrumental version of “Rock Around the Clock” in 1979.Spencer Leigh. Alexei Andreyevich Tupolev, aircraft designer: born Moscow 20 May 1925; died Moscow 12 May 2001.
Alexei Andreyevich Tupolev, aircraft designer: born Moscow 20 May 1925; died Moscow 12 May 2001.
Alexei Tupolev was one of the key designers behind Soviet Russia’s supersonic airliner, the Tu-144, and the son of Andrei Tupolev, who was himself one of the world’s leading aircraft designers.British and American investigations into supersonic transport aircraft (SSTs) from 1956 had led to design studies’ being undertaken in the Soviet Union. It was a formidable task, but although the cost of research and development would be enormous, a 100/150-seat airliner cruising above Mach 2 could generate passenger-kilometres so fast that few such aircraft would be required. In the Soviet Union, the world’s largest country, 75 SSTs could have transformed travel times on trunk routes.In 1962 Aeroflot reckoned that it saved its passengers an average of 24.9 hours on each journey, but that this saving could be increased to more than 36 hours using 75 SSTs. After Britain and France decided to proceed with Concorde in November 1962, and the US Federal Aviation Agency funded a nationwide SST design competition, the Soviet Union’s Council of Ministers gave the go-ahead for a Soviet SST on 16 July 1963.The ensuing programme was extremely expensive and the aircraft’s designation, Tu-144, came to be applied to a succession of completely redesigned SSTs. Not surprisingly the Tu-144, which bore a superficial resemblance to Concorde, quickly earned the sobriquet “Concordski” in the West. When it made its maiden flight, on 31 December 1968, the first Tu-144, designed by a team that included Alexei Tupolev, under the leadership of Yuri N. Popov, was the world’s first SST to fly.In the early 1970s, Tupolev was appointed chief designer on the Tu-144, and the pre-production aircraft has been described as “virtually a different design”.
A major setback occurred when the second pre-production aircraft suffered a fatal in-flight breakup at the 1973 Paris Salon, but work continued. Proving flights were followed by passenger services on the Moscow-Alma Ata route, inaugurated on 1 November 1977, some five years behind schedule, but after 102 revenue flights the service was abruptly terminated after a fatal accident on 28 May 1978. The Tu-144 was noisy, inefficient and had limited range, and was never the success that had been hoped.In 1983 it was announced that 14 records had been set up by a Tu-144D, including a speed of 1,262.344mph round a 1,000km circuit carrying a 30-tonne payload and 1,250.358mph round a 2,000km circuit with the same load. Although most Tu-144s were scrapped or relegated to use as instructional airframes, a few were used for atmospheric research and for tests concerned with the Soviet Union’s space shuttle Buran, on which Alexei Tupolev also worked, but which was scrapped owing to funding problems after one unmanned test flight in 1988. One Tu-144 was resurrected in the 1990s to serve as a flying laboratory for research into the Tu-244, which it is hoped to launch in the next decade.Alexei Andreyevich Tupolev was born in Moscow in 1925 and graduated from the Moscow Aviation Institute in 1949.