Andrei Nikolayevich Tupolev
(Андрей Николаевич Туполев; November 10, 1888 – December 23, 1972) was a pioneering Soviet aircraft
During his career, he designed and oversaw the design of more than 100 types of aircraft, some of which set 78 world records. In recognition of his work, he was made an honorary member of Britain's Royal Aeronautical Society and the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics.
He was honoured in his own country by being made an Academician of the USSR Academy of Sciences (1953), Colonel-General (1968), and three times a Hero of Socialist Labour (1945,1957,1972).
Tupolev was born in the village of Pustomazovo (Пустомазово), near the city of Kimry
, Tver region
Andrei was the sixth of seven children born to his parents. After first being educated at home, he studied at the Gymnasium in Tver and graduated in 1908. He then applied for courses at two Russian universities and was accepted at both: Imperial Moscow Technical School (IMTU ИМТУ) and the Insitute of Railway Engineers. He accepted the place at IMTU.
In 1909, he began studying aerodynamics under the Russian aviation pioneer N.E. Zhukovski. During this time he built one of the world's first wind tunnels which led to the formation of an aerodynamic laboratory at IMTU.
In 1911 he was accused of being involved with revolutionaries and arrested. He was later released on condition that he stay at his family home in Pustomazovo and was only allowed to return to IMTU in 1914. He completed his studies in 1918 and was awarded the degree of Engineer-Mechanic when he presented his thesis on the development of seaplanes.
By 1920 the IMTU had been renamed the Moscow Higher Technical School (MVTU) and Tupolev was teaching a course there on the basics of areodynamic calculations.
Work at TsAGI
Tupolev was a leading light of the Moscow-based Central Aero and Hydrodynamics Institute (TsAGI
; (Центральный аэро-гидродинамический институт; ЦАГИ)) from 1929 until his death in 1972. The Central Design Office or TsKB (Центральное конструкторское бюро; ЦКБ) based there produced bombers
and some airliners
, which in the years before World War II were based partially, especially in his 1930s-era designs, on the all-metal aircraft design concepts pioneered by Hugo Junkers
. As the number of qualified aircraft designers increased, Tupolev set up his own office, producing a number of designs designated with the prefix ANT (АНТ) from his initials. However, in 1937, Tupolev was arrested together with Vladimir Petlyakov
on trumped up charges of plotting a "Russian Fascist Party." In 1939, he was moved from a prison to an NKVD sharaga
for aircraft designers in Bol'shevo
, with many ex-TsAGI
people already set to work. The sharaga soon moved to Moscow and was dubbed "Tupolevka" after its most eminent inmate. Tupolev was tried and convicted in 1940 with a ten year sentence, but was released in 1944 "to conduct important defence work." (He was not to be rehabilitated
fully until two years after Stalin
's 1953 death.)
Main item in the important defence work was the reverse engineering of the USA's Boeing B-29 strategic bomber. The USSR had repeatedly asked, and been denied, lend-lease B-29s. Using three machines which landed in Siberia after bombing Japan in 1945, Tupolev succeeded in replicating the world's first nuclear delivery platform down to trivial detail. Moreover, he got it into volume production, with crews fully trained in time for the 1947 May Day parade. The copy was designated Tu-4, with many subsequent Tu aircraft having the number 4 in their designations.
Design of the Tu-95
By the time of his rehabilitation in 1955, Tupolev had designed and was about to start testing his unique turboprop strategic bomber, the Tu-95
. In the years to come, he beat off able competition from Vladimir Myasischev and his M-4 series of jet-powered strategic bombers. This was in part thanks to Tupolev's close rapport with Nikita Khrushchev
who had denounced Stalin's terror, a victim of which Tupolev had been.
At about the same time, Tupolev introduced into service the world's second jet airliner, the Tu-104
. The aeroplane was the first jet transport to stay in uninterrupted service, and the only one in service anywhere in the world for two years until late 1958. It was followed by a series of Tu passenger jets, including the supersonic Tu-144
, designed by Tupolev's son Alexei Tupolev
Loss of power in the Soviet Union
After Khruschev's removal from office in late 1964, the ageing Tupolev gradually lost positions at the centres of power to rivals. Though the prestige Tu-144 programme enjoyed top level support until 1973, as did the important Tu-154
, these positions were never recovered, being largely taken up by Ilyushin
To his contemporaries, Tupolev was known as a witty but crude master of mat (a rapid-fire Russian male-speak infused with obscenity) who invariably and energetically insisted on fast and adequate technical fixes at the expense of scholastic ideal solutions. A hallmark of his was to get an aeroplane into service very rapidly; then began an often interminable process of improving the shortcomings of the "quick and dirty" initial design. To his competitors among the Soviet aircraft design community, he was known above all as politically astute; a shrewd and unforgiving rival.
Tupolev was buried in the Novodevichy Cemetery in Moscow.