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SITTING in a garden surrounded by rusting bits of metal lies the abandoned remains of Russia’s answer to Concorde.

The Tupolev Tu-144 inevitably dubbed ‘Concordski’ was once the pride of its nation but incredible pictures show one of the 1400mph planes in a semi-dilapidated state.

But the rivalry between the two planes had a tragic twist when they both appeared at the Paris Air Show in 1973 and a Tu-144 crashed during a display.

The exotic aircraft sits in the city Kazan in Russia in the backyard of a military base, its distinctive nose poking over the fence.

But the mighty aircraft sits among bit of debris in what appears to be a sad looking museum at a university in the city.

A few years ago, a group of enthusiasts managed to get the mechanism that lowers the nose working.


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The interior of the plane that was meant to be the pinnacle of comfort lies moulding.

The origins of the Tu-144 date back to the 1960s when Cold War rivalry between the West and the Soviet Union became increasingly fierce.

Soviet prestige relied on its technological prowess particularly in areas such as space flight and aircraft technology.

So when the UK and France announced plans for a supersonic airliners in the early 1960s, the Soviets decided they had to get in on the act.

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"Development started in the midst of a rivalry between two political systems," Ilya Grinberg, a Soviet aviation expert, told CNN.

In fact the Soviets appeared to be ahead of their western rivals and the Tu-144 was unveiled to world at the end of 1968, a few months ahead of Concorde.

Eyebrows were immediately raised about the similarity between the two planes and before long rumours began circulating the sneaky Russians had stolen the plans for Concorde.

Eyebrows were immediately raised about the similarity between the two planes and before long rumours began circulating the sneaky Russians had stolen the plans for Concorde.

Western observers who believed in the superiority of their technology thought the only way the Soviet Union could have come up with the Tu-144 was through industrial espionage.

But says Grinberg “the design of the Tupolev was not a result of espionage” and that although they look alike, they are different planes with many different aspects. 

At first it appeared the Soviets may have stolen a March on their Western rivals.

The Tupolev was slightly bigger and faster than Concorde and made its supersonic flight four months ahead of its competitor.

Itcame with distinctive winglike projections on the front called canards, which were advanced tot the era.

"Expectations were high,” said Grinberg, an engineering professor at Buffalo State University.

“The entire USSR was extremely proud of the Tu-144, and the Soviet people had no doubt that it was better than Concorde. And it was so pretty!"

Jock Lowe, a former Concorde pilot and British Airway flight operations manager, said like the space race, the plane was another front in the Cold War.

“The rivalry between Concorde and the Tu-144 was symptomatic of that international era,” he said.

“There was the space race and the race to put a man on the Moon race happening at the same time.”

Compared to Concorde, the Tu-144 was around 12ft longer than its rival and had more powerful engines.

The Paris Air Show was, however, the beginning of the end for the Tu-144.

Concorde took to the skies first without a hitch and determined not to be outdone, the Tu-144 went for a more audacious show.

As it approached the runway as if to make a landing it then climbed rapidly, with its engines at full power.

Seconds later, it pitched over, broke up in the air and dived into a nearby village, destroying 15 houses.

All six of the crew on board and eight people in the village were killed.

Conspiracy theorists Tupolev claimed it crashed to avoid collision with a French Mirfighter that was trying to photograph it,

But Grinberg says the explanation is much more straightforward.

"The pilots attempted to impress the public and the world's press, to show that the Soviet plane could be 'sexier' than the more conservative display of Concorde.”

"Just wait until you see us fly," Tu-144 test pilot Mikhail Koslov had apparently taunted the Concorde team.

The crash set back the project with the Soviet authorities nervous about allowing passengers on board.

There were also numerous problems that made it unattractive.

Not all the toilets worked and the air, the huge air-conditioners and the massive engines created an ear-shattering roar.

On-board speakers played the theme from Love Story, Gloomy Sunday, and Raindrops Keep Falling but few aboard could hear it.

After a Tu-144 crashed on a pre-delivery test flight in June 1978, Aeroflot pulled the plug on its career,

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It had flown only 102 commercial flights, and only 55 of those had carried passengers.

In contrast Concorde flew for more than 25 years, racking up thousands of flights and becoming one of the most iconic designs of the 20th Century.

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