The last Tupolev Tu-154 performed its final regular civilian flight on October 2828, 2020, marking the end of a 48-year-long career for the Soviet-era airliner.
The Alrosa Airlines aircraft, registration number RA-85757, took off from the snowy runway of Mirny Airport (MJZ) in Yakutia with 141 passengers on board, for a three-hour flight to Novosibirsk-Tolmachevo Airport (OVB), on October 28, 2020.
Farewell to the era as Russia’s last civil Tu-154 performs its final regular flight. Pilots Alexander Leshkevich & Nikolai Voroshilov safely brought 28 year old Alrosa Airlines RA-85757 plane from Mirny in Yakutia to Novosibirsk #Tu154 pic.twitter.com/Oc4fC8XqVw
— The Siberian Times (@siberian_times) October 28, 2020
Given that the airworthiness certificate of the aircraft expired, it will remain decommissioned in Tolmachevo Airport while its fate is decided. The Tu-154M RA-85757 started operating with Alrosa in 2002. “During its service with Alrosa, the Tu-154M has performed 737 flights in both directions, carried over 160 thousand passengers, 1,224 tons of cargo and 52 tons of mail,” the company said. Alrosa was the last commercial operator of the Tu-154 airliner.
A commercial and military success
The Tu-154 was designed by the Tupolev Design Bureau. In the early 1960s, as the Hawker-Siddeley Trident and the Boeing 727 entered the market, the Soviet Union decided to develop its own airliner using the innovative trijet design. Thus, the order was given for Tupolev to catch up, and on October 4, 1968, the Tu-154 took off for the first time.
While not impressive by its size, it was designed with enough comfort in mind to impress western passengers. It also featured several innovations such as the capacity to adjust the landing gear tires pressure mid-flight to adapt to different runways.
After a year of operating as a freighter, the Tu-154 maiden passenger flight took place on February 7, 1972, with Aeroflot. The aircraft was assigned to service European capitals such as London, Berlin, or Paris, where it acted as a showcase of Soviet engineering. In parallel, its career as a military aircraft started, with both the Tu-154B to transport officials and the Tu-154S to act as a freighter for the Soviet Navy.
Ten years later, an updated version designated Tu-154M entered the market. Bigger, faster, and with more range, it rivaled the new Airbus A300. The variant was a commercial success and was sold to multiple carriers in the Eastern Bloc countries.
The Tu-154 continued operating after the fall of the Soviet Union, both as a civilian and a military aircraft. It was involved in two important tragedies. On April 10, 2010, a Tupolev Tu-154M of the Polish Air Force crashed, killing the President of Poland Lech Kaczyński along with several other important officials. On December 25, 2016, sixty members of the famous Red Army Choir died in the crash of a Russian Defense Ministry Tupolev 154B-2.