Wednesday, 3 September 2008

Andrei Nikolayevich Tupolev 1888-1972

Andrei Nikolayevich Tupolev was born in the village of Pustomazovo, Russia. In 1909, he enrolled in the Moscow Higher Technical College and studied under Nikolai Egorovich Zhukovskii. He helped Zhukovskii organize the Central Aerohydrodynamic Institute (TsAGI) in 1918 and became the head of its design bureau in 1922. In 1934, his ANT-20 "Maxim Gorky" 8-engine aircraft took flight over Moscow; it was world's largest aircraft of the 1930s. In 1936, he visited the United States and Germany to learn American and German aircraft manufacturing techniques. In 1937, he was accused of selling state secrets to Germany and was given a 10-year sentence in 1940, but continued to design aircraft in Gulag labor camps. In 1944, he was released from prison, though not yet shedding the status as a criminal, in order to head up Russia's efforts to develop heavy bombers; to aid his efforts, he was given the rank of lieutenant general in the Russian Army. In this role, he successfully reverse engineered the American B-29 bomber design using three captured examples and developing the design into Russia's own nuclear weapon delivery vehicles (Tu-4). In 1955, he was finally declared rehabilitated. In 1956, his Tu-104 commercial jet airliners became the only passenger jets in service in the world, and would hold this title until late 1958. In 1968, the first Tu-144 aircraft became the first supersonic transport to take flight. Although Tupolev was undoubtedly a talented aircraft engineer, part of his success was attributed to his close rapport with Nikita Khruschev. This observation was reinforced by the loss of Tupolev influence after Khruschev left office in late 1964. He passed away in 1972 and was buried in the Novodevichy Cemetery in Moscow, Russia.