The Tupolev Tu-134 (NATO reporting name: Crusty) is a twin-engined, narrow-body, jet airliner built in the Soviet Union from 1966 to 1989. The original version featured a glazed-nose design and, like certain other Russian airliners (including its sister model the Tu-154), it can operate from unpaved airfields.
One of the most widely used aircraft in former Comecon countries, the number in active service is decreasing because of political intention and noise restrictions. The model has seen long-term service with some 42 countries, with some European airlines having scheduled as many as 12 daily takeoffs and landings per plane. In addition to regular passenger service, it has also been used in various air force, army and navy support roles; for pilot and navigator training; and for aviation research and test projects. In recent years, a number of Tu-134s have been converted for use as VIP transports and business jets. A total of 854 Tu-134s were built of all versions (including test bed examples) with Aeroflot as the largest user; by 1995, the Tu-134 had carried 360 million passengers for that airline.
Following the introduction of engines mounted on pylons on the rear fuselage by the French Sud Aviation Caravelle, airliner manufacturers around the world rushed to adopt the new layout. Its advantages included clean wing airflow without disruption by nacelles or pylons and decreased cabin noise. At the same time, placing heavy engines that far back created challenges with the location of the centre of gravity in relation to the centre of lift, which was at the wings. To make room for the engines, the tailplanes had to be relocated to the tail fin, which had to be stronger and therefore heavier, further compounding the tail-heavy arrangement.
During a 1960 visit to France, Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev was so impressed by the quiet cabin of the Caravelle, that on 1 August 1960 the Tupolev OKB received an official directive to create the Tu-124A with a similar engine arrangement. The requirement was also driven by the need to replace slow, aging piston-engined Il-14s on domestic routes. In 1961, the Soviet state airline, Aeroflot, updated its requirement specifications to include greater payload and passenger capacity.
The first Tu-124A prototype, SSSR-45075, first flew on 29 July 1963. On 22 October 1963, the prototype British BAC One-Eleven, which had a similar layout, crashed with the loss of all crew while testing its stalling properties. The aircraft had entered pitch-up: the high-mounted tailplane became trapped in the turbulent wake produced by the wings (deep stall), which prevented recovery from the stall. As a result, the tailplane on Tu-124A was enlarged by 30% for greater control authority. Since Aeroflot's requirements dictated a larger aircraft than initially planned, the Soloviev Design Bureau developed the more powerful D-30 low-bypass turbofan engines. On 20 November 1963, the new airliner was designated Tu-134.
Design curiosities of the Tu-134 included a sharp wing sweepback of 35 degrees, compared to 25–28 degrees in its counterparts. The engines on early production Tu-134s lacked thrust reversers, which made the aircraft one of the few airliners to use a brake parachute for landing. The majority of onboard electronics operated on direct current. The lineage of early Soviet airliners could be traced directly to the Tupolev Tu-16 strategic bomber, and the Tu-134 carried over the glass nose for the navigator and the landing gear fitted with low-pressure tires to permit operation from unpaved airfields.
Serial production began in 1966 at the Kharkov Aviation Production Association, and production of the Tu-124 was discontinued. The Tu-134 was designed for short-haul lines with low passenger traffic. Originally the aircraft had 56 seats in a single class configuration, or 50 seats in a two-class configuration.
In 1968, Tupolev began work on an improved Tu-134 variant with a 72-seat capacity. The fuselage received a 2.1-meter (6 ft 11 in) plug for greater passenger capacity and an auxiliary power unit in the tail. As a result, the maximum range was reduced from 3,100 kilometers to 2,770 kilometers. The upgraded D-30 engines now featured thrust reversers, replacing the parachute. The first Tu-134A, converted from a production Tu-134, flew on 22 April 1969. The first airline flight was on 9 November 1970. An upgraded version, the Tu-134B began production in 1980, with the navigator position abandoned, and seating capacity increased to 96 seats. Efforts subsequently began to develop a Tu-134D with increased engine thrust, but the project was cancelled.
In September 1967, the Tu-134 made its first scheduled flight from Moscow to Adler. The Tu-134 was the first Soviet airliner to receive international certification from the International Civil Aviation Organization, which permitted it to be used on international routes. Due to this certification, Aeroflot used most of its Tu-134s on international routes. In 1968, the first export customers, Interflug of East Germany and LOT Polish Airlines purchased the Tu-134. In 1969, the Tu-134 was displayed at the Paris Air Show.
In its early years, the Tu-134 developed a reputation for reliability and efficiency, especially when compared with previous Soviet designs. After the establishment of tougher noise standards in the ICAO regulations in 2002, the Tu-134 was banned from most western European airports for its high noise levels. In early 2006, 245 Tu-134s were still in operation, 162 of which were in Russia. After a fatal accident in March 2007, and at the instigation of Russian Minister of Transportation Igor Levitin, Aeroflot announced that it would be retiring its fleet, and the last Tu-134 was removed from service on 1 January 2008. Some are still in operations with Aeroflot subsidiaries on local routes within Russia. The Tu-134 also found a new life as a business jet with many having an expensive business interior installed. High fuel and maintenance costs are increasingly limiting the number used today.
Many Tu-134s have been preserved as memorials at airports throughout the former Soviet Union.
As of July 2017 a few Tupolev Tu-134s remain in airline service. Major operators include:
Some 69 Tu-134 have been destroyed in accidents and wars, of which 35 were non-fatal incidents (in one of the remaining 34 fatal incidents no one on the plane died).
|Date||Tail number||Crash site||Casualties||Description||Refs|
|14 January 1966||СССР-45076||Near Chkalovsky Airport||8/8||Crash of second prototype in flight testing.|||
|23 May 1971||YU-AHZ||near Rijeka||78/83||Aviogenex Flight 130 crashed on approach to Rijeka Airport located on the island of Krk, rough landing in bad weather conditions.|||
|16 September 1971||HA-LBD||Kiev||49/49||Malév Flight 110 crashed near Boryspil International Airport, Kiev in bad weather, following two missed approaches, after a generator failure caused the crew to switch to batteries.|||
|30 June 1973||СССР-65668||Amman||7+2/85||Aeroflot Flight 512 aborted takeoff, overran the runway, and crashed into a building.|||
|1 September 1975||DM-SCD||Leipzig||27/34||Pilot failed to check rate of descent, crashed on landing. Later sentenced to 5 years in prison for negligence. Other crew members sentenced to three years.|||
|21 September 1977||HA-LBC||near Urziceni||29/53||Malev Flight 203 from Istanbul to Budapest with an intermediate stop at Bucharest struck level ground on approach, probably as a result of flying at reduced power, unnoticed by the crew.|||
|16 March 1978||LZ-TUB||near Sofia||73/73||Crashed on climb out from Sofia Airport near the village of Gabare following an abnormal descent.|||
|22 March 1979||CCCP-65301||near Liepaya||4/5||Crashed on landing in poor weather due to overloading.|||
|11 August 1979||СССР-65816||Near Dniprodzerzhynsk||178/178||Two Aeroflot Tu-134s collided near Dneprodzerzhinsk due to ATC errors.|||
|17 June 1982||CCCP-65687||Severomorsk||15/16||A test aircraft operated by the Soviet government crashed during landing. The pilot had ignored warnings that he was descending too fast and collided with a radio tower.|||
|30 August 1983||CCCP-65129||near Alma-Ata||90/90||Aeroflot Flight 5463 struck a mountain after the crew began descending too soon.|||
|18 November 1983||CCCP-65807||Tbilisi||8||Hijacked by nine people. After returning to Tbilisi, commandos stormed the aircraft, killing three hijackers. The aircraft was written off following airframe deformation caused by excessive G-forces.|||
|10 January 1984||LZ-TUR||Sofia||50/50||Crashed short of the runway while attempting an overshoot after coming in too low.|||
|1 February 1985||CCCP-65910||Minsk||58/80||Aeroflot Flight 7841 force-landed after the crew failed to de-ice the wings before takeoff. The ice caused both engines to flame out.|||
|3 May 1985||CCCP-65856||near Zolochiv||94/94||Mid-air collision with military An-26 due to ATC errors.|||
|2 July 1986||CCCP-65120||Kopsa||54/94||Aeroflot Flight 2306 force-landed following a possible fire in the cargo hold.|||
|19 October 1986||C9-CAA||Mbuzini||34/44||The Mozambican Presidential jet struck the ground during a thunderstorm after the pilot ignored the ground proximity warning system. The crash remains the worst in South Africa.|||
|20 October 1986||CCCP-65766||Kuybyshev Airport||70/94||Aeroflot Flight 6502 struck the ground at high speed and crashed upside down. Pilot sentenced to six years in prison.|||
|12 December 1986||CCCP-65795||East Berlin||72/82||After being cleared to land on runway 25L at Berlin Schönefeld Airport, Aeroflot Flight 892 from Minsk proceeded to approach runway 25R which was closed for construction. While attempting to switch to the correct runway, the aircraft struck trees and crashed.|||
|27 February 1988||CCCP-65675||Surgut Airport||20/51||Aeroflot Flight 7867 crashed beside the runway due to a crew error while transitioning from ILS approach to visual landing.|||
|9 September 1988||VN-A102||near Bangkok||76/90||Vietnam Airlines Flight 831 crashed after entering a storm and descended below minimum altitude. The aircraft struck the ground and broke up. The aircraft was possibly struck by lightning.|||
|13 January 1990||CCCP-65951||near Pervouralsk||27/71||Aeroflot Flight 6246 force landed following a fire in the cargo hold, possibly caused by a short circuit.|||
|27 August 1992||CCCP-65058||Ivanovo||84/84||Aeroflot Flight 2808 struck trees and crashed short of the runway while attempting ILS approach.|||
|20 September 1993||65809||Sukhumi||28/28||Transair Georgia airliner shootdowns: On 20 September, 65809 was destroyed on the ground at Babusheri Airport. On 21 September, 65893 was shot down by a missile and crashed in the sea, killing all aboard. On 23 September, CCCP-65501 was destroyed on the ground after it was struck by a rocket while passengers were boarding, killing a crew member.|||
|9 September 1994||RA-65976||Zhukovsky||8/8||Mid-air collision with a Tu-22M research aircraft during a photographic chase flight. The collision damaged the stabilizer of the Tu-134 and it lost control and crashed. The Tu-22 was able to land safely.|||
|24 June 1995||RA-65617||Lagos||16/80||Landed late and overran runway in a storm. The aircraft was leased from Komi Avia.|||
|5 December 1995||4K-65703||Nakhichevan||52/82||Azerbaijan Airlines Flight 56 crashed on takeoff after both engines failed due to a maintenance error.|||
|3 September 1997||VN-A120||Phnom Penh||65/66||Vietnam Airlines Flight 815 descended below its approach path on a non-precision approach. Despite warnings from the other crew members that the craft was too low, the captain continued the approach, resulting in the crash.|||
|24 August 2004||RA-65080||Buchalki||44/44||Volga-Aviaexpress Flight 1303 disappeared from radar forty-one minutes after taking off from Moscow's Domodedovo Airport. Witnesses reported seeing an explosion in the sky, and wreckage was located shortly thereafter. Later investigation revealed that the aircraft had been destroyed by a suicide bomber, along with a Tu-154 on the same day.|||
|17 March 2007||RA-65021||Samara Airport||6/57||UTair Flight 471 landed hard in poor weather due to pilot and ATC errors. The aircraft then bounced and inverted, but did not catch fire. Aeroflot retired its Tu-134 fleet in the wake of this accident.|||
|20 June 2011||RA-65691||Petrozavodsk||47/52||After technical problems trying to land in heavy fog, and unable to reach Petrozavodsk Airport, RusAir Flight 9605 tried to land on a road 2 km from the airport at 1955 UTC (2355 MSD). The plane flipped and caught fire as it struck the ground. There is speculation that the pilot may have mistaken the motorway for the runway. After the crash, the Russian government ordered that all Tu-134s be removed from commercial service by 2012.|||
|28 December 2011||EX-020||Osh||0/79||Kyrgyzstan Air Company Flight 3 landed hard in marginal weather conditions, breaking off the right wing. The aircraft then rolled over. A fire started, but was quickly contained with no casualties.|||
Source: Aircraft Accident Database
Data from OAO Tupolev
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