Tupolev Tu-134 (Crusty) History

To service local, regional and international passenger and freight travel during the Cold War period (1947-1991), Soviet aero industry was forced to develop internal solutions to meet the demand. One product of the time became the Tu-134, known to NATO under the codename of "Crusty", which has operated for decades since its introduction in 1967. The type went on to see considerable service in both military and civilian roles, such was its versatility, with examples still in active service today (2018) with a few users. At peak usage, the Tu-134 could claim many operators in some forty-plus countries worldwide.

The Tu-134's development was spurred by the French advancement of relocating an aircraft's primary propulsion away from wing mainplanes and onto the aft section of the fuselage. This had an effect on two key qualities of a passenger-minded aircraft - it reduced cabin noise by keeping the engines further away from the passenger center and it reduced over-under drag at the wing mainplanes. Large Soviet airplane-maker, Tupolev - primarily recognized for their contributions to the military bomber category, was commissioned by the Soviet government to produce a similar design to the ground-breaking Sud Aviation "Caravelle" and thus began the story of the Tu-134. The new aircraft would be used to begin succeeding the line of aged and outdated prop-driven passenger types then in Soviet service with its primary market being short-ranged routes across the Soviet sphere of influence - including East Germany.

Tupolev responded with a prototype form, the Tu-124A, that first-flew on July 29th, 1963. The aircraft carried swept planes at both the main and tail members. The engines were mounted on short wing stubs located along the aft-end of the fuselage and the mainplanes (swept back at some 35-degree angles) were low-mounted at midships. The cockpit was set aft of a short nosecone in the usual way (with side-by-side seating for its two pilots) and the aircraft was given a "T-style" tail arrangement which set the horizontal planes high about its design while the support structure was the vertical fin itself. A tricycle undercarriage was used for ground-running and, interestingly enough, a brake parachute was used to retard the aircraft's run down the runway upon landing (this was later succeeded by more conventional thrust reversers when these were added to the D-30 engines in future models). The nose section was originally glazed over for the navigator's position but later covered over as the series matured to include radar.

Service introduction was had in September of 1967 while serial production spanned from 1966 until 1989. In all, 854 aircraft were built including two prototype airframes. The series was well-received for its time, particularly when compared to previous Soviet-originated passenger haulers. However, as Europe began to clamp down on aircraft-produced noise at airports, the Tu-134 was targeted so its value West of Moscow deteriorated. Age soon caught up with the fleet and the line has gradually been removed from many routes worldwide.

Initial production models (originally known under the designation of "Tu-124A") were built to the basic Tu-134 standard and noted for their glass noses. Internal seating amounted to sixty-four. Then followed the Tu-134A which introduced upgraded avionics and powerplants while seating up to eighty-four. Most of this mark continued use of the glass nose cone. In the Tu-134A-2, the glass nose was finally replaced with a solid structure housing the radar fit. The Tu-134A-3 used upgraded D-30 turbofan engines and the Tu-134A-5 was introduced as a modernized Tu-134 airliner.

The line eventually evolved into the Tu-134B variant which had solid noses (housing radar), seating for eighty and increased onboard fuel stores for increased ranges. The Tu-134BV served the Soviet space shuttle program and the Tu-134LK was modified to support training of astronauts. The Tu-134UBL was set aside as a crew trainer platform for the series of Tu-160 strategic bombers in Soviet Air Force service. The Tu-134 UBK became a "one-off" navalized Tu-134 based in the Tu-134UBL - it was not produced serially. The Tu-134BSh was another crew trainer though this time outfitted to serve the Tu-22M series of bombers in Soviet Air Force service. Another bomber trainer form became the Tu-134Sh-1, which installed bomb racks for the role, and the follow-up Tu-134Sh-2 served in navigation training. The Tu-134SKh was fielded in the crop survey role and modified with appropriate equipment.

Global operators of the Tu-134 series proved plenty, ranging from Afghanistan and Bulgaria to Ukraine and Yugoslavia (mainly all being Soviet allies of the period). Air Koryo of North Korea still operates the type (2018) as do a few local Russian and Kazakhstani passenger-hauling services. The Syrian military (Air Force) continues use of the type as does the Ukrainian Air Force. Some have found extended service lives as VIP-converted passenger-haulers.

Tupolev Tu-134 (Crusty) Specification


Active, Limited Service
3 to 5


[ 852 Units ]:
Tupolev - Soviet Union


- Commercial Market



121.72 ft (37.1 m)


95.14 ft (29 m)


29.53 ft (9 m)


Empty Weight:

61,729 lb (28,000 kg)


104,940 lb (47,600 kg)

(Diff: +43,211lb)


2 x Soloviev D-30-II turbofan engines developing 15,000lb of thrust each.


Maximum Speed:

590 mph (950 kph; 513 kts)

Service Ceiling:

39,698 feet (12,100 m; 7.52 miles)

Maximum Range:

1,678 miles (2,700 km; 1,458 nm)




Tu-134 "Crusty" - Base Series Designation; original production models; seating for 64; glass nose assembly.

Tu-124A - Original series designation

Tu-134A - Second major variant with improved avionics and engines; seating for 84.

Tu-134A-2 - Solid nose section

Tu-134A-3 - Upgraded D-30 engines

Tu-134A-5 - Modernized version

Tu-134B - Radar in solid nosecone; seating for 80; increased internal fuel stores for longer operation ranges.

Tu-134BV - Soviet space shuttle program platform.

Tu-134LK - Astronaut trainer platform

Tu-134UBL - T-60 bomber crew trainer conversion.

Tu-134UBK - Navalized Tu-134UBL; single example.

Tu-134BSh - T-22M bomber crew trainer conversion.

Tu-134SKh - Crop survey industry model

Tu-134 OPTIK - Flying laboratory

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