The Tupolev Tu-154 is a three-engined medium range airliner seating up to 180 passengers. The Tu-154 has been in widespread use in Russia, in former Soviet Union countries and also in Iran. Only a small number is still in airline service.
The Tupolev Tu-154 was developed as a replacement for the Tu-104, the Antonov An-10 and the Ilyushin Il-18. The first flight took place on 4 October 1968 and Aeroflot started passenger services with the Tu-154 early in 1972. The NATO nicknamed the aircraft 'Careless'.
The Tu-154 is an airliner in the same class as the Boeing 727 and the Hawker Siddeley Trident. These aircraft types have many features in common, like the concept of three engines at the rear of the fuselage, a T-tail and six-abreast seating in the passenger cabin.
A difference is that Tupolev developed the Tu-154 for taking off and landing on unpaved runways. To spread the weight of the aircraft it has six wheels on each undercarriage main bogie, and large low-pressure tyres. The bogies retract into pods at the trailing edge of the wing. The airliner cruises at 975 km/h (526 kts) and that makes it one of the fastest civilian aircraft in the world. The high speed is made possible thanks to a relatively high thrust-to-weight ratio, but this also results in a rather high fuel consumption, what makes the aircraft difficult to operate economically.
Several versions of the Tu-154 exist. The original Tu-154 was powered by three Kuznetsov NK-8-2 turbofans and around 40 have been built. The upgraded Tu-154A was in production from 1974. It has improved and more powerful engines, extra fuel capacity and a higher take-off weight. The Tu-154B has a stronger wing and went into production in 1975. Later variants are the Tu-154B-1 and the Tu-154B-2. A cargo version of the Tu-154B was designated 'Tu-154S'.
The Tu-154M is a much more upgraded aircraft. It first flew in 1982 and is fitted with more fuel efficient Soloviev D-30KU-154 turbofans. Other improvements are aerodynamic refinements, longer range, double-slotted (instead of triple-slotted) flaps and a higher takeoff weight. More than 300 aircraft of this version were produced. The Tu-154M-100 is a variant with Western avionics, of which only three were built.
Several specialised versions of the Tu-154 exist, for tasks like electronic intelligence, cosmonaut training and VIP transport. The Tu-155, first flown in 1988, was a testbed for alternative fuels, like liquid hydrogen and liquid natural gas (see photo).
After the year 2000, th production of the Tu-154 continued at a very low pace. More than 900 aircraft have been built. During the years the Tu-154 has seen quite a number of fatal accidents, although in most cases the aircraft itself was not to blame. Early in 2015 only a few dozen Tu-154s are still flying with airlines.
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