Some things just can’t wait ’till Sunday. This morning I ran across this striking image of one of my permanent favorite things in the whole world: the nose landing gear of a Tupolev 114 “Rossiya”.
The Tu-114 was the airliner version of the Tu-95 “Bear” bomber. The glassed-in nose was a legacy of its military heritage, but it was also a common feature of Soviet airliners in general, for visibility in operations out of rough fields that would have stopped Western planes in their tracks. Painted in the classic Aeroflot sky blue/red cheatline livery, it was a magnificent aircraft representing the very peak of propeller-driven technology. With four enormous engines powering two huge contra-rotating propellers each, a pressurized fuselage, and swept wings, the Tu-114 was as fast as a modern jet. It was the largest and fastest airliner of its day, and had the longest range.
The Tu-114 in this photo carries the JAL logo, and is almost certainly one of the four aircraft operated by that airline in association with Aeroflot on the Tokyo/Moscow route between 1967 and 1969.
The reason it was so tall is that people take up more space per unit of weight than bombs do. The pressurized passenger fuselage is much larger than the lean, sleek fuselage of the bomber, and the wings had to be set low. And that brings those great big props perilously close to the tarmac unless you give that bird some pretty long legs. Modern jets, with no props to worry about, squat close to the ground and have a much less impressive stance. I don’t know if the Tu-114 was taller than its Western contemporary, the Lockheed Constellation, but I think it might have been. (Aviation buffs out there are welcome to get into a debate about which one was prettier, but I’m staying out of that one.)
Check out my tumblr for more images of the Tu-114.