Tuesday, January 27, 1998 at 8pm ET on PBS
The Soviet superjet makes a wide turn over the runway, guns its immense engines and ascends gracefully into the clouds, as thousands watch awestruck. Then it levels off, pitches unexpectedly into a dive…and explodes in flames. The ensuing conflagration kills the crew plus eight people on the ground.
The shocking 1973 crash of the Russian rival of the Concorde at the Paris Air Show in front of the entire world has never been adequately explained—until now.
NOVA reveals dramatic new details in the Cold War race to build the first faster-than-sound passenger jet in “Supersonic Spies,” airing Tuesday, January 27, 1998 at 8pm ET on PBS (check local listings).
Dubbed “Konkordski” for its uncanny resemblance to the British-French Concorde, the Soviet TU-144 was giving its Western European rival a run for its money. Though the TU-144 bears a striking resemblance to the Concorde, Soviet engineers insist the reason is that both design teams faced the same technical problems and came up with similar solutions. But it’s now clear that the Soviets were engaged in years of espionage in an effort to make use of British-French research and beat the Concorde into the air, which the TU-144 did by several months.
Then, Konkordski's fortunes plummeted with the disastrous demonstration flight over Paris. The Soviets continued with the program, but their prized jet ceased to be a serious contender in what was expected to be a lucrative market for supersonic passenger travel. NOVA reveals the inside story behind the Paris crash and the years of espionage that preceded it.
Today, in an ironic turn of events, a version of the Soviet TU-144 is being resurrected in a NASA initiative to build the next generation of supersonic passenger jets. The US abandonded its own SST (supersonic transport) program in the early 1970's. Now, it hopes to solve the problems of the past and build a larger, more efficient jet to carry us through the next century.
“Supersonic Spies” is a NOVA production by Pendragon Production in association with WGBH/Boston, Channel 4, France 3, and MFP. The program is produced by Katherine Bailey and Stephen Sweigart, narration written by Stephen Sweigart.
Now in its 24th season, NOVA is produced for PBS by the WGBH Science Unit. The director of the WGBH Science Unit and executive producer of NOVA is Paula S. Apsell. Major funding is provided by the Park Foundation, Inc., dedicated to education and quality television. Additional funding is provided by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting and public television viewers.
Paul Marotta, WGBH Boston, 617-492-2777 x4427
Lisa Cerqueira, WGBH Boston, 617-492-2777 x5334
Materials provided by NOVA/WGBH. Note: Content may be edited for style and length.
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