Tupolev Tu-114. A Flying Palace

by O.Tchernikov and D.Samborski


The rapid development of Soviet domestic passenger transport in the end of the 50-ies, revealed a necessity of a big long-range airliner capable of non-stop flights up to 8000km to serve the route from Moscow to Khabarovsk. Moreover, the Khroutchev’s “warming” allowed many Western tourists to visit the USSR, and exterior tourism grew dramatically, as it was never seen before. The best Aeroflot’s airliner – Ilyushin Il-14 needed 27h to fly from Moscow to Khabarovsk – with four intermediate landings (in Sverdlovsk, Novosibirsk, Irkutsk and Chita or in Perm, Tyumen, Krasnoyarsk and Chita). As for transatlantic flights – one couldn’t even dream about them. Two modern and larger passenger aircrafts that appeared in that time – Ilyushin Il-18 and Tupolev Tu-104 – were also relatively small (80 passengers) and haven’t enough range to cross the ocean.

So, in august 1955, Tupolev design bureau received a government demand for a new long-range aircraft. As usually, this task should be done in an extremely short period – to overtake the capitalist’s world. This wasn’t an easy task. Remember that in these times many advanced issues like a big pressurised passenger cabin were yet unknown. It was also very important to develop a highly reliable plane – its routes would pass over large forests of Siberia with almost no airports or over Atlantic Ocean – with no place to land in case of an engine failure. Considering this, Tupolev decided to base the development on an already existing aircraft – the intercontinental bomber Tu-95 (Bear). That is why, in the very beginning, the new passenger airliner received the name of Tu-95P. Later, after the success of the second passenger jet in the world - Tu-104, Tupolev decided to name all his civil planes with a “4” in the end (Tu-104, 114, 124, 134, 144, 154, 204…).

Making a passenger plane from a military one permitted to concentrate the development efforts on passenger cabin and air-conditioning systems and not to spend time on redeveloping vital parts like wings, gears, tail and engines. In fact, Tu-114 was a precursor of modern wide-body jets – it was the first aircraft to implement the modern scheme: lower deck for cargo compartments, upper deck for the passenger cabin. It has also innovated in creating a multi-class cabin layout. Finally the only structural difference with modern jets is that Tu-114 wasn’t a wide-body plane. The existing technologies didn’t allow making a wide fuselage with a convenient weight. In fact, its fuselage is only 20% narrower than Boeing 767’s one.

The main difference between Tu-95 and Tu-114 is of course the fuselage. The wing disposition has also changed passing from middle-mounted wing to low-mounted wing. This made change the nose gear, now measuring at least 3m high. Another important change is adoption of variable pitch stabilizer. The commands were quite hard requiring an important physical effort. Pilots said they should “eat well before the flight”. Nevertheless, there was neither an accident nor even a problem because of the commands hardness. The wings have been slightly modified; their surface has been increased to carry more weight. Many details let us see the military origin of Tu-114. The most obvious one is a glass nose with the navigator’s cabin; it was used for precise aiming when the aircraft was a bomber. In the beginning, the cargo doors should have been placed in the bottom of the fuselage and the luggage – be raised into the aircraft like bombs! The doors were finally placed on the right side, like in all civil planes. Combining high angle of incidence wings with turboprop engines was something really unusual. When Tu-95 appeared, USAF generals didn’t believe such a combination could result in a well flying plane. Nevertheless, this solution has married speed and fuel economy, as was shown some time later. Eight counter-rotating propellers have been developed in TSAGI institute by the team of Zhdanov and Deloveri. They obtained a high effectiveness of propellers at speeds greater than 800km/h (432kts) and conceived mechanisms for powerful thrust reverse and automatic feathering. It’s true that the ground speed of above 850km/h (460kts) is something incredible for a turboprop plane. This is why, during the first years of service on Atlantic routes, USAF pilots were often convoying Tu-114 to verify it really can fly at that speed.

The development of Tu-114 took place in a close collaboration with the best Aeroflot pilots. Designers and pilots met very often and pilots’ remarks were always carefully taken in account. The aircraft was piloted by a crew of five, including the captain, the second pilot, the navigator, the radio and the flight engineer. A cook was affected to every plane until the mid 60-ies.

The first Tu-114 has been rolled out from the plant N°156 in a really record time: in summer 1957. The experience of transforming a military Tu-16 in a civil Tu-104 helped this time too. This first experimental Tu-114 got the registration number CCCP-L5611 and a proper name “Russia”. Testing began on November 10, 1957 at Zhoukovski airbase. On November 15, 1957 Tupolev Tu-114 made its maiden flight.

The aircraft has been first shown to the Western world, during 1958-1959 and made a considerable number of flights to Western Europe. In 1958, Tu-114 received the Grand Prix at the World Exhibition in Brussels. On June 2, 1959 Tu-114 flew to Tirana (Albania), then to Budapest and finally – to Paris where it was exposed at Le Bourget international airshow. On June 28, it made the first transatlantic flight – to a military base in the USA. A bit later, on September 15, 1959, this aircraft brought Nikita Khrushchev (and his famous shoe) to Washington. On October 29, 1959, the same CCCP-L5611 flew from Moscow to Beijing in a non-stop flight. Aside from international flights, Tu-114 made a domestic demonstration flight with journalists on May 19, 1959.

Tu-114 CCCP-L5611 in New York JFK International Airport. July 1959 (c) Airliners.net

In Production

While the experimental Tu-114 CCCP-L5611 was being tested, Kouibyshev aircraft plant N°18 was preparing for its production. The aircraft has been in production until 1964. Here is the list of all the aircraft produced: So the number of produced aircrafts is 31. Taking in account the first experimental unit and a unit for static ground tests, the total number of Tu-114 is 33.

In Service

First production Tu-114s were given to Moscow Vnukovo airport. In 1962, some aircrafts were given to Moscow Sheremetievo airport. When, in 1966, a new Moscow airport Domodedovo opened its doors, all the Vnukovo’s Tu-114s have been sent there. On February 25, 1961, the USSR government decided the end of the test period and authorized the entry in service of the aircraft. The first regular passenger flight has been initiated on April 24, 1961 on the route Moscow-Khabarovsk. During the following 15 years, this route was the major Tu-114 destination. There were two weekly flights until July 1961, then one more weekly flight has been added. In 1966, the frequency of flights grew up to 2 daily flights and in 1969 – up to five daily flights on this route.

On July 10, 1962, two crews commanded by A.K.Vitkovsky and H.N.Tskhovrebov made a flight to Havana with an intermediate landing in Conakry (New Guinea) in an airport built by the Soviets few years earlier. After the take-off from Conakry, the aircraft ran into heavy turbulent flows because of a weather service mistake. Here, the pilots and the passengers have greatly appreciated the flight qualities and the robustness of the aircraft. With its heavy weight and an incredible power of its “muscles”, it just slightly quaked in the violent storm outside. Cuban authorities asked the crew to make a demonstration flight above the airport to show the craft “in action” to thousands of Cubans expecting the plane. The total flight time was 21h16. After this flight, it seemed that Cuba was no longer isolated from the USSR and regular flights can start. But in this time of cold war, US government tried to make their best to hinder flights between the USSR and Cuba. So, they asked New Guinea’s government to refuse landing Tu-114 to Conakry formally explaining that the airport can no longer accept aircrafts of more than 150 tons. Only four flights have been made through Conakry. Then, the route has been modified and passed by Dakar (Senegal). After four flights, the Soviets were refused in this airport too; this time the reason was “they are transporting arms”. Three more flights were made through Alger, and finally Aeroflot could land nowhere in Africa; so it had to search for another route. Abandon flights to Cuba was the last thing to do – it was exactly what US government was trying to obtain.

The only solution was to make non-stop transatlantic flights over the Arctic Ocean with an intermediate landing in Murmansk, not so far from Moscow. Theoretically, the aircraft was able to cover the distance of 10900 km (6700mi) between Murmansk and Havana. In practice, it wasn’t always the case. On January 7, 1963, the route Moscow Sheremetievo – Murmansk – Havana was inaugurated by Tu-114 CCCP-76480. The route followed the Finnish, Norwegian and British coast, passed Reykjavik, southern Greenland, then passed Gander, New-York and Varadero. As the fuel was consuming, the total weight was decreasing and the plane could climb on higher flight levels saving fuel and increasing the ground speed. This route appeared to be the optimal and was never changed. Normally, the aircraft had enough fuel to make the trip. But several times, due to strong front winds, the plane was considerably slowed and ran out of fuel before Havana. In this case, it landed on …American military airbase Nassau (Bahamas). In spite of the cold war, it was always well received and refuelled. Pilots paid with Shell vouchers for fuel, as there was a commercial according between Shell and Aeroflot. The airbase fees were paid US$ cash. It cost only $310 to touch-and-go at this time.

Thanks to the same winds, the back route was much faster. Many times, Tu-114 made non-stop flights Havana-Moscow, without landing in Murmansk. Pilots reported up to 1100km/h (593kts) ground speed.

In 1967, Tu-114 opened simultaneously six new international flights, relying Moscow Sheremetievo to New-York, Montreal, Tokyo, Beijing, Delhi, Accra and Brazzaville. In addition, Japan Air Lines decided to use Tu-114 together with Aeroflot on the following routes: Tokyo-Moscow-Paris, Tokyo-Moscow-London, Tokyo-Moscow-Roma and Tokyo-Moscow-Copenhagen. Four aircrafts were used by Japan Air Lines: CCCP-76464, CCCP-76470, CCCP-76474 and CCCP-76490. They were carrying a little JAL logo and an inscription Japan Air Lines on the front of the fuselage, in addition to a big Aeroflot inscription and the red banner on the tail. This was the first time, a Soviet and a capitalist companies flied together. The first joint flight with JAL took place on April 17, 1967 on CCCP-76464.

Tu-114 in joint Aeroflot - Japan Air Lines flight in Tokyo Haneda Airport. June 1967. (c) Airliners.net

Production Tu-114 had the cabin for 170 passengers. What makes Tu-114 unique is the presence on board of a restaurant and sleeping compartments. On domestic flights, the restaurant was used as just another cabin. Each compartment had two lower and one upper beds, a table and a lamp. Passengers received sheets and blankets after two hours of flight. The incredible growth of demand made Aeroflot replace sleeping compartments with ordinary seats in 1969, increasing the seats capacity from 170 to 220. In 1968-1969, Sheremetievo airport received a big number of new long-range jets Ilyushin Il-62 that started to replace Tu-114 on its routes. In terms of prestige, it was considered better to use a jet on international flights. From 1968 to 1971 all the Tu-114 has been transferred to Domodedovo airport.

At the same time, Tu-114 started to deserve more domestic flights. The passenger flow increased in such a big rate that it was impossible to get a ticket less than 15 days before the flight. Aeroflot’s domestic department has greatly appreciated the arrival of more Tu-114s to its domain, as it was the biggest passenger aircraft in the world (before the Jumbo Jet appeared). On April 30, 1969 Tu-114 opened domestic flights Domodedovo (Moscow) – Tashkent, then in October, Domodedovo – Alma-Ata. On June 22, 1970 Tu-114 started non-stop flights to Anadyr, replacing Il-18 with two its intermediate landings in Hatanga and Tiksi. In the summer 1971, Tu-114 deserved the route Domodedovo – Novosibirsk and made a test flight to Sukhumi (Georgia).

The biggest problem of Tu-114 was the absence in the USSR of airports sufficiently big to receive such a monster. That is why the geography of its flights has been limited to the mentioned routes. The lack of airport equipment made Aeroflot turn back to Il-18 on the route to Anadyr and finally never start using Tu-114 to Sukhumi. Moreover, the new quadrijet Il-62 was taking more and more Tu-114 destinations. In the end 1971, Tu-114s were making three daily flights to Khabarovsk, Yuzhno-Sakhalinsk and Vladivostok, two daily flights to Novosibirsk and one to Tashkent.

First withdrawals of Tu-114 started in 1970 with just 11000-14000 flight hours.

1974 was the last year of intense Tu-114 use. It flew nine daily flights to Khabarovsk, Yuzhno-Sakhalinsk, Petropavlovsk-Kamtchatski and Vladivostok, one daily flight to Novosibirsk and one to Tashkent. In 1975 it flew six daily flights and in 1976 – only three. In the end of its service, structural fatigue has been reported in the engine’s pylons that put under question the future of the Tu-114’s service. All the Tu-114s needed costly repairing. The aircraft has already been almost replaced by Il-62 and repairing Tu-114 has been judged useless. On May 11, 1976, the ministry of transport decided to retire all the Tu-114 from service. On December 2, 1976, the aircraft CCCP-76485 made the last Tu-114 flight. It was the flight 31-32 Moscow-Khabarovsk-Moscow.

Nowadays, when every fuel drop is counted, it seems very strange to retire such an economy aircraft and to replace it with a more fuel-hungry jet. Ilyushin Il-62 consumes about 7 tons of fuel per hour, while Tu-114 just 4,2 tons (5,6 during the first hour). So what was the real reason of such a decision?

Pilots say that the ministers of civil aviation (Bugaev, then Mamsurov) “didn’t like this plane”. At this time, civil aviation was interested in jets and long-range turboprops looked some aged. Moreover, new requirements were gaining importance: comfort, low noise, facility of maintain… Even if Tu-114 was far more fuel-economy than Il-62, the latter had better flight characteristics, maniability and comfort. In case of an engine failure during the takeoff, Tu-114 had to interrupt the takeoff and the long distances required to stop it made every failure a possible fatal accident. Fortunately, this had never occured. Tu-114 wasn't well-considered by the airport stuff either. It was difficult to repare, needed frequent maintain interventions, was unable to manoeuvre by itself in most airports. It also needed special giant stairways that normally no airport was equiped with. Il-62 was better in all these points.

Military Service

A big, economy and reliable aircraft could not stay unnoticed by the Army. In the beginning of the 70-ies when Tu-114 started to be withdrawn from civil service, it was decided to use it as transport for troops. Passenger seats should be replaced by benches and in such a configuration, 300 troopers could be transported. However, the conversion didn’t take place for several reasons, although four Tu-114 (CCCP-76465, 76467, 76468, 76473) were used by Soviet Army for its needs from November 1971 to May 1975, carrying officers from Moscow to Germany – Sprenberg, Templin and Grossenheim. Two more aircrafts – CCCP-76480 and 76490 were also used by Soviet Army from February 1973 to spring 1981 (76480) and even to May 1983 (76490) – making this aircraft the last Tu-114 to fly. After resource expiration, the latter Tu-114 has been given to Ulianovsk Museum of Civil Aviation, where it is exposed nowadays.

Aside from the converted Tu-114, there was a special military version of this aircraft : Tu-126 (see below).


Flying to Havana, Cuba, on a very long haul route and in difficult weather conditions made necessary some modifications of Tu-114. A special version Tu-114D (D=”dalniy”=”long haul”) was conceived. It could carry only 60 passengers but added more fuel tanks with capacity of 15 tons, allowing the aircraft stay airborne for more than 16 hours. The first Tu-114 converted into 114D was the CCCP-76480 in June 1962. Some months later, CCCP-76479 and 76482 were converted too. In 1969-1970, when Il-62 replaced Tu-114D on routes to Cuba, the CCCP-76480 and 76482 were transformed in standard domestic variant with 220 seats.

The aircrafts used together with Japan Air Lines, (CCCP-76464, 76470, 76474 and 76490) were transformed in a two-class layout, the front cabin was First Class, so the number of seats was only 105 on these four planes. In 1969, all these aircrafts were put back to domestic routes and transformed in standard variant with 220 seats.

220-seats layout (project)

In 1970, another modification was planned, introducing new wings and flaps design, but for some reasons it only stayed at a stage of development.

Not really a version, but a sister: Tu-116. It was directly derived from Tu-95 bomber and developed even before Tu-114 - in January 1957. Tu-116 had a pressurised 24-seats V.I.P. passenger cabin instead of the bomb compartment and was made especially for Khrushchev’s visit to USA in case Tu-114 wasn’t ready. The 70m3 cabin has two compartments - one luxury three-places compartment for "The Main Passenger" (Khrushchev) with sofas and decorated like a Kremlin office, and another - less luxury for other government members, their guards and servants. The aircraft was supplied with the most advanced navigation equipment and was secured for landing in difficult conditions, including on water. However, this plane has never entered the service. Official reason was that it hadn't automatic propellers feathering. In fact, Khrushchev just refused to fly with this aircraft abroad; he said “American mass media will be waiting for me at my arrival. I would like to salute them from the door. I don’t want to exit the plane by the ass” – the passenger door was in the bottom since the plane still had middle-mounted wings. Two were built for tests (CCCP-76482,76483), and have been used some time by local government on domestic flights. One is conserved in Ulianovsk Civil Aviation Museum, the other has been cut for pieces.

In 1962, appeared Tu-126: a military version carrying AWACS equipment with a big rotating plate over the fuselage. The amount of radio equipment required a big aircraft and the mission required an aircraft able to stay airborne for a very long time. Adopting Tu-114 solved both problems. Moreover, special compartment has been reserved so that two crews can board at the same time and rely themselves to avoid tiredness and make flights safier. Nine Tu-126 (NATO name "Moss") were built: one test unit 61M601 and eight production units from 1965 to 1967 (65M611-65M613, 65M621-65M625).


The first unit CCCP-L5611 was painted in a proper scheme: white top, then grey with blue and red stripes on white background below the windows (this is the livery of our package) and silver bottom. After it has been given to Monino Air Museum, it was painted in the scheme that was standard in the 60-ies for Tu-114s: white top with a dark blue stripe below the windows, silver bottom. As it was already said, four units was wearing Japan Air Lines logo and inscription during their joint service (this livery is available separately for our model). The inscription AEROFLOT was black. Finally, in the beginning of the 70-ies, Aeroflot introduced a unique scheme for all its aircrafts : white top, dark blue stripe across the windows, silver bottom. The inscription AEROFLOT was dark blue too (this livery is also available as a separate download). Most of the Tu-114 still in service have been repainted in the new livery, but some of them weared the old one until their retirement. Among the repainted Tu-114, little differences can be noted, especially on planes given to the Army - some planes haven't the dark stripe along the tail (76478, 76485), propellers were painted either in black or in dark blue.

Has been painted in new Aeroflot livery: 76475, 76478, 46480, 76485, 76486, 76488, 76490.

Flied in old livery until retirement: 76459, 76460, 76470, 76472

76464 flied in old livery until it has been placed as a monument in front of Domodedovo airport. Then it has been painted in new Aeroflot livery

Standard Aeroflot livery introduced in the mid 70-ies. (c) Airliners.net


During its short life, Tu-114 gained a reputation of a very reliable aircraft. Pilots called it “Zmei Gorynych” (a three-headed fairytale dragon).

The only catastrophe with Tu-114 occurred early in the morning on February 17, 1966. The CCCP-76491 was on departure from Moscow to Brazzaville (Congo). Just before the flight, the crew was changed and it was decided to take off regardless a heavy snow storm. The decision was made by the chief of civil aviation department Y.Valerius in his will to accelerate the departure at any price and to please the chief of the Soviet delegation on board - general V.Bashkirov. The captain V.Filonov protested but had to obey the orders. The runway was partially cleared from snow - not at all its width. In the end of the runway, few seconds before the takeoff, pilots realized they can’t see the runway lights because of snow covering them. The aircraft derived left, stroke a snow heap on the runway’s side, returned and crashed killing 21 of 68 passengers and crew members. No mecanical failure has been detected.

Another Tu-114 was lost during repairing. The nose gear of the CCCP-76479 hasn’t been locked after tests and suddenly collapsed. The aircraft fell on the cabin and has been hardly damaged. No one of repairing stuff was injured. This plane spent then some twenty years in the backyard of Vnukovo repairing factory.

The table below lists all the produced items:

Registration NumberFactory NumberRegistration DateOwner of the Aircraft
76458 88401 22.04.1960 State Institute of Civil Aviation
76459 88402 27.11.1967 International Airlines Transport Management
76460 88412 17.11.1961 MTMCA (Moscow Transport Management of Civil Aviation)
76464 98413 30.06.1961 MTMCA
76465 98421 23.04.1963 MTMCA
76466 98422 05.05.1961 MTMCA
76467 98423 17.11.1961 MTMCA
76468 98424 27.12.1961 MTMCA
76469 608425 30.06.1961 MTMCA
76470 608431 05.05.1961 MTMCA
76471 608432 05.05.1961 MTMCA
76472 618433 28.06.1961 MTMCA
76473 618434 02.08.1961 MTMCA
76474 618435 25.10.1961 MTMCA
76475 618441 25.10.1961 MTMCA
76476 618442 01.03.1962 MTMCA
76477 618443 02.02.1962 MTMCA
76478 628444 11.05.1962 MTMCA
76479 6201445 28.06.1962 MTMCA
76480 62M451 27.07.1962 MTMCA
76480 62M451 13.02.1973 Ministry of Defense. 223-d Squadron
76481 62M452 10.01.1963 MTMCA
76482 62M453 07.01.1963 MTMCA
76483 62M454 07.01.1963 MTMCA
76484 63M455 10.01.1963 MTMCA
76485 63M461 24.08.1963 MTMCA
76486 63M462 23.09.1963 MTMCA
76487 63M463 22.02.1964 MTMCA
76488 64M464 01.07.1964 International Airlines Transport Management
76489 64M465 30.07.1964 MTMCA
76490 64M471 25.06.1965 International Airlines Transport Management
76490 64M471 19.01.1973 Ministry of Defense
76491 64M472 18.11.1965 International Airlines Transport Management

To fill the gap in numbering between the third and the fourth units:
76461 was probably the aircraft for static ground tests
76462 and 76463 were Tu-116s


In the end of their service, some of the aircrafts got the chance not to be sawn into pieces.

World Records

Tupolev Tu-114 has set 31 world records.
1-2climb with payload 25000kg/30000kg12073m (39714ft)June 12, 1961
3-10speed at 1000m (3300ft) without payload/with 1000kg/2000kg/5000kg/10000kg/15000kg/20000kg/25000kg871.38km/h (470.5kts)March 24, 1960
11-18speed at 2000m (6600ft) without payload/with 1000kg/2000kg/5000kg/10000kg/15000kg/20000kg/25000kg857.28km/h (462.9kts)April 1, 1960
19-26speed at 5000m (16500ft) without payload/with 1000kg/2000kg/5000kg/10000kg/15000kg/20000kg/25000kg877.21km/h (473.7kts)April 9, 1960
27-31speed at 10000m (33000ft) without payload/with 1000kg/2000kg/5000kg/10000kg737.35km/h (398.1kts)April 21, 1960

Thanks to Valery M. Afanasiev for giving the access to rare documents on Tu-114 history and service.