How the Soviets One Upped The West: The TU-114 Story

This video was made possible by Skillshare,
home to over twenty thousand classes that’ll teach you just about anything. In the fall of 1959, an enormous Soviet aircraft
races across the Atlantic. This plane is unlike anything in the west. It’s the largest airliner the world has
ever seen. And it’s driven by four of the most powerful
turboprop engines ever built.They can push the plane to nearly 900 km/h, which is faster
than some jets. This Soviet airliner is about to make a big
impression, because it’s headed straight for United States. In the mid-1950’s, the Soviet Union got
a new leader, Nikita Khrushchev, and he’s unlike his predecessors. For one, he’s more open to engaging with
the West. [Khrushchev] You’re a lawyer of Capitalism,
I’m a lawyer for Communism. Let’s kiss. [Nixon] All that I can say, from the way
you talk, and the way you dominate the conversation you would have made a good lawyer yourself. Nearly everyone agrees, Khrushchev is a showman,
ready to jump at any opportunity to prove Soviet superiority. And in 1955, the new leader gets a chance
to make an impression. Meeting in Geneva, Switzerland for a Cold
War summit are the most powerful western nations, and the Soviet Union. As world leaders descend onto Geneva Airport,
crowds are watching and cameras are rolling. U.S. President Eisenhower lands in a four
engined Super Constellation. A large, state-of-the-art American airliner. And Khrushchev lands in this. A plane half the size of Eisenhower’s. And he’s mortified by the optics because
the Soviet Union and America are supposed to stand toe-to-toe. But small short-range airliners like the IL-14
are really the only type the Soviet Union produces in the early 1950’s. And that means that flying across the country’s
vast territory can take over 24 hours, with multiple stops for refueling, making for a
grueling journey. But, there is a Soviet plane available that
can already fly these distances direct and in half the time. It’s just not an airliner. It’s a plane meant to be loaded with bombs,
not luggage. But converting this intercontinental bomber
into a civil transport will be fastest way get the Soviet Union a new long range airliner. Because the country desperately needs one,
and Khrushchev’s plans for world visits are expanding by the day Just weeks after the Geneva Summit, the Tupolev
Design Bureau is given a directive to convert the TU-95 bomber into a VIP transport. Engineers will remove bombing and protective
equipment and shoehorn two small passenger compartments into its narrow fuselage. Khrushchev would access his VIP compartment
via a ramp at rear. Lucky, this frankliner wasn’t the only plane
in the works. Because a second parallel project aimed to
turn the bomber into a proper airliner. And to do it, engineers would keep the plane’s
powerful engines and swept wings, but they’d mount them lower to accommodate a wider fully pressurized fuselage. The airliner would also receive new stabilizers,
larger flaps and an entirely new nose gear. And the first prototype was ready in just
a little over 2 years. Turns out, starting with a TU-95 strategic
bomber, made for a pretty remarkable airliner. The TU-114 holds the distinction of being
the fastest propeller driven airliner ever. It could reach an incredible 870 km/h.These
jet-like speeds puzzled western observers. The 114’s turboprop engines are the most
powerful ever to enter service, and they drove the plane’s enormous contra-rotating propellers
so fast, their tips could reach supersonic. Also jet-like was the airliner’s 35 degree
wing sweep and a service ceiling of nearly 40,000 feet. And in 1958, this was also the largest airliner,
with seating for up to 224 passengers. Not until the Boeing 747 would larger plane
take to the skies. But while the 114 was still undergoing testing,
Khrushchev got an invitation to visit to the United States. And it would be the first ever by a Soviet
Head of State. The Tu-116 converted bomber was ready to make
the trip. But touching down in the United States In
what was quite obviously still a bomber was one thing. Khrushchev would also have to crawl out the
rear-end on a ramp. So he demanded taking the 114. But the airliner wasn’t ready. Not only was the 144 still undergoing testing,
there were serious flaws like hairline cracks which had formed around the engines. Still, Khrushchev was dead-set on making a
grand entrance. On September 15, 1959, Khrushchev’s 114 took
off from Moscow to begin it’s nearly 8,000 km journey to the United States. Most of the trip would take the airliner over
the frigid North Atlantic. So precarious was the situation, engineers
even tested a mockup of the airliner in a swimming pool just to see how it might float
in the Atlantic. Along the way, nearly every available Soviet
Navy vessel was put on high alert for any sign of distress. And onboard, a team of engineers holed up
inside the 114’s lower deck used special monitoring equipment to spot any sign of trouble But despite having to battle 160 km/h head
winds over the Atlantic, the 114 performed admirably. [Reporter] An interesting and historic arrival and
Andrews Airfield near Washington. The huge TU-114 airliner bringing Mr. Khrushchev
on his first visit to the United States. President Eisenhower was there to meet the
Soviet Premier. The last time they met was in Geneva, four
years ago. Khrushchev got his grand entrance, and the
enormous airliner grabbed headlines around the world. By 1961 the 114’s development was complete
and the plane entered service with Aeroflot. Early versions were equipped with some pretty
opulent and rather un-Soviet features. Divided into three-classes ranging from economy,
to deluxe, there were large tables, private sleeping cabins and a dining lounge. Early 144’s even had a full size kitchen
in the lower deck with a dedicated chief. The 114’s impressive range opened up Moscow
to far flung destinations like Havana, Montreal and Tokyo. But while the plane’s maximum speed was
comparable to modern jet airliners, the 144’s cruising speed was usually more modest to
save fuel and increase range. And then there was the noise. This was one of loudest planes ever produced. Its four enormous turboprops would have made
jet engines sound like a symphony. And the vibration could cause dinnerware to
migrate right off the end of tables. But the 114 stood out for it’s reliability
and relative efficiency. And it would go on to carry over six million
passengers without a single design-related accident, making it quite possibly the safest
Soviet airliner ever built. But by the mid-1960’s, airports in the west
were filled with long range jets, not props. And the Soviet Union’s only long range airliner
looked dated in comparison. In 1967, a new long range jet-powered soviet
airliner entered service. And that meant that the 114 was quickly removed
from most international routes and was kept flying mainly within Soviet borders. In total, 32 of these speedy turboprops were
built, and they’d serve with Aeroflot for 16 years, until they were finally retired
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