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Tu-144

ICM 1/144 Tu-144 Kit First Look

by Michael Benolkin

Date of Review December 2011 Manufacturer ICM
Subject Tu-144 Scale 1/144
Kit Number 14401 Primary Media Styrene
Pros Best Tu-144 in this scale Cons See text
Skill Level Experienced MSRP (USD) $47.95

First Look

There has been some interesting 'politically correct' history written about the Tu-144 which was the first commercial airliner to break Mach 2. There were many accusations made against the Soviets for stealing Concorde technology in order to build the Tu-144 and there was one good story running around in the 1970s that really illustrates the concepts of irony and karma. You see, Aerospatiale and British Aerospace were hard at work on Concorde and had experieced a number of set-backs. One such delay was reportedly over a defective wing design that would lead to in-flight break-up had they used that design. Instead, the engineers went back to the drawing board and the defective plans went into the trash. As the story goes, Soviet industrial spies would routinely go 'dumpster diving' at various locations and came up with these plans that were rushed back to Moscow.

Soon the plans were presented to Andrei Tupolev where they were to become the basis of the Tu-144. While the Tupolev OKB started working at a rapid pace to get a prototype built, the design bureau and the aviation institute had some catch-up learning to do and they built the MiG-21I Analog which was a MiG-21 with a Tu-144 (Concorde) wing. The small-scale wing performed nicely and the full-scale prototype was flown two months prior to Concorde. In the type's brief service with Aeroflot as a passenger aircraft, the Tu-144 indeed suffered catastrophic wing failure on several occasions, one of which was at the Paris Airshow in 1973, and all of which killed everyone aboard. The Tu-144 went through safety modifications but was withdrawn from passenger service and became the world's only supersonic cargo aircraft.

The initial prototypes were powered by the inefficient NK-144 engines which created excessive drag with their nacelles and limited the range of the aircraft. This was resolved with the NK-144F engines that powered the Tu-144S, which allowed this variant greater range, but still not comparable to the Concorde. The final production variant was the Tu-144D which was powered by the RD-36-51 engines which nearly doubled the range of the aircraft.

Tu-144
Tu-144
Tu-144
Tu-144
Tu-144

ICM has released the first plastic kit of the Tu-144 in 1/144 scale though there have been several previous attempts at this subject in the past in different scale and materials. This is an all-new-tool kit that really nicely captures the lines and details of this distinctive Tupolev.

Molded in gray styrene, this kit is presented on six parts trees plus one tree of clears. Among the features of this kit:

  • Enclosed engine intake ducts with NK-144 engine faces at the ends
  • Positionable elevons
  • Positionable rudder
  • Positionable nose (take-off/landing or cruise)
  • Positionable landing gear
  • Nicely detailed landing gear
  • Positionable canards (take-off/landing or stowed)
  • Optional display stand

I've marked the instructions down a little as these will need to be studied a bit before building since these are not the clearest drawings I've seen. Don't get me wrong, assembly should be straightforward, but given the CAD technology used to make this kit, I would have expected to see some of these CAD illustrations in the instructions as well.

The kit doesn't skimp on external details though there is no flight deck provided, so the inside of that cockpit will be barren.

Markings are provided for two aircraft:

  • Tu-144, Bort 77109, Aeroflot, Moscow-Alma-Ata Line, 1977
  • Tu-144, Bort 77110, Aeroflot, Paris Airshow, 1977

ICM has done a nice job on this kit and it will blend in nicely with the variety of other airliners available in 1/144 scale.

This kit is definitely recommended!

My sincere thanks to Squadron Mail Order for this review sample.

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