The Tupolev 144 (NATO codename 'Charger') is a magnificent looking airliner that pushed Soviet technology to the brink and beyond it. The race to create supersonic passenger airliners was one that faced a range of almost insurmountable problems and in the USSR this led to the continued production of an aircraft that would never have gotten as far as it did if it were made in the West. The Tu-144 was certainly not a success and it wouldn't be out of step to label it a disaster, but the resulting aircraft was without a doubt one of the most impressive civil types ever built.
The Il-62 (NATO codename 'Classic'), in 1967, finally gave the Soviet Union a long-haul jet airliner, albeit one comparable to first generation Western jetliners like the 707 rather than second generation widebodies then under development elsewhere. The original version was then gradually replaced by the improved M variant from 1974, but the 'basic' variant continued in service domestically and was even used to introduce a kind of 1st Class service in 1978.
Soviet-era aircraft usually come in a dizzying array of, often bizarre, variants and the IL-76 is no different. You may recognise the saucer atop the fuselage of this 76 to mark it out as the AWACs Ilyushin / Beriev A-50 Mainstay variant, but in fact it is something different. It is the 'aircraft 976' SKIP variant, the IL-76SK, used for the AMCS mission. What is that you ask? Read on...
I'm Richard Stretton: a fan of classic airliners and airlines who enjoys exploring their history through my collection of die-cast airliners. If you enjoy the site please donate whatever you can to help keep it running: