- Only one route (Moscow-Alma-Ata) was ever flown and even then only weekly (despite Aeroflot having 8 aircraft nominally in service at the time).
- Only 55 passenger flights were ever completed
- Only 3,194 passengers were carried, an average of 58 passengers per flight and well below capacity.
- Only two aircraft were ever used for passenger flights
- Alexi Tupolev himself and two vice-ministers of aviation had to be present before every flight to personally check the aircraft over.
- During 102 flights and 181 hours of freight and passenger flight time, the Tu-144S suffered more than 226 failures, 80 of them in flight.
- The cabin was so noisy that passengers sitting two seats apart couldn't hear each other even when shouting.
- In 1977 and 78 there were unprecedented requests for US and UK/French assistance with design problems
- Whereas Concorde had been subjected to 5,000 hours of testing by the time it was certified for passenger flight, making it the most tested aircraft ever, total flight testing time of the Tu-144 by the time of its introduction into passenger service was less than 800 hours
The fact that the type ever got into service was purely because the Soviet leadership had to show it could fly supersonic flights regularly for prestige reasons, even though the aircraft was regarded as being unsafe and massively unreliable not to mention suffering dreadfully from fatigue cracking leading to structural disintegration. The programme was staggeringly expensive and had a major knock-on effect on other Tupolev projects especially the TU-154. In the end the TU-144 was a major embarrassment for the Soviets.
Regardless it was a wonderful looking plane and it is a great story.
The aircraft Herpa has made CCCP-77101 was the first pre-production aircraft and was never officially operated by Aeroflot. It was the second TU-144 but the first of the type to have the final design (the first had no canards, a different wings, shorter fuselage and different engines). I'd have probably preferred Herpa to have made one of the aircraft that actually flew passenger flights but still it is a wonderful model.
For more info on the TU-144 see this site: http://www.tu144sst.com/