The Tupolev Tu-134 is a short-range, twin-engined jet airliner seating 50 to 96 passengers, depending on version. For many years it was the short-haul workhorse of airlines in the Soviet Union and Warsaw Pact states. Only a small number is still in airline service. NATO nicknamed the aircraft 'Crusty'.
The Tupolev Design Bureau started designing the Tu-134 in 1960, soon after it developed the Tu-124 jet airliner, which was also intended for short ranges. The work started after Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev visited France, where he flew in a Sud Aviation Caravelle. He became impressed by the low cabin noise in the French airliner and this resulted in a directive to Tupolev to develop an aircraft with the engines mounted at the tail, like the Caravelle had. This layout was later also adopted on the Douglas DC-9, BAC One-Eleven and Fokker F28 Fellowship.
The first Tupolev jet airliners, the Tu-104 and Tu-124, had the engines installed in the root of the wing, like the Tupolev Tu-16 bomber had, from which the early Tupolev jetliners were derived. This engine position resulted in noisy passenger cabins. Like the bomber, they also had a glass nose for the navigator position.
Initially the new aircraft was considered as a version of the Tu-124, and therefore it was first designated 'Tu-124A'. It had the same fuselage cross section and an extended version of the same wing, with the same high lift devices and the same undercarriage. The main differences between the two aircraft were the mounting of the engines at the rear of the fuselage and the T-tail.
The new airliner first flew on 29 July 1963. Later that year it was redesignated 'Tu-134'. Series production began in 1966 and Aeroflot introduced it into service in September 1967. The Tu-134 replaced piston-engined aircraft like the Ilyushin Il-14. Aeroflot initially used it mainly on international routes.
The first Tu-134s had 50 to 56 seats in a four-abreast layout (2+2). Early production Tu-134s didn't have thrust reversers on the engines. Instead a brake parachute was installed, which was deployed at touch-down. The wing has a sharp sweepback, like a fighter jet. The four-wheel main landing gear bogies and low-pressure tyres allow operations at airports with unpaved runways.
In 1968, Tupolev started the development of a stretched variant with 72 seats, the Tu-134A. Other improvements were the installation of an APU (Auxiliary Power Unit) in the tail and thrust reversers on the upgraded engines to replace the parachute. Range was reduced, however. The first Tu-134A, a converted production Tu-134, made its maiden flight on 22 April 1969 and airline operations started on 9 November 1970 with Aeroflot. Tupolev built several sub-versions, like the Tu-134A-1, -A2 and -A3. On the A2 the glass nose was replaced by a radar nose. On some earlier aircraft the glass nose was replaced by modification.
A further upgraded version was the Tu-134B, with 96 seats and also without the glass nose. Tupolev started work on a Tu-134D, but this project was cancelled.
Production ended in 1984 after 852 Tu-134s were built of all versions. Because the Tu-134 didn't comply with stricter European noise regulations, the aircraft became banned from most Western European airports from 2002. The aircraft was also less attractive because of its high fuel consumption and maintenance costs. Several fatal incidents led to accelerated withdrawal of Tu-134s from active service in Russia and other countries. Aeroflot, the largest user of the aircraft type, removed its last Tu-134 from service on 1 January 2008.
Early in 2015 only a small number of Tu-134s is still in service as an airliner. Several aircraft have been converted into business jets. Some Tu-134s are in use with military services and others have been involved in several research projects.
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