By Jonny Tickle
At one point, it was the crown jewel of Russian flag-carrier Aeroflot and its many subsidiaries. Now, after decades of service and billions of miles flown, the Tupolev Tu-154 will no longer be used in Russian civil aviation.
Upon landing in the Russian city of Novosibirsk, the final Tu-154 in use for scheduled passenger flights was retired. Once operated by the majority of Russian airlines, the last to use the plane was ALROSA, a small Siberia-focused company flying mainly between mining cities.
Developed in 1968, the plane came into commercial operation with Aeroflot in 1972, before the company retired it in 2009. Described by many as a workhorse, more than 1,000 Tu-154s were made before production ended in 2013. As well as being used by Russian airlines, the Tu-154 was popular all around the world, including Hungary’s Malev Airlines, Poland’s LOT Airlines, and EgyptAir also operating the plane. While no longer in civilian usage in Russia, the plane is still going strong in North Korea, flying passengers on the national airline Air Koryo.
Although beloved by many of its former passengers, the plane also had its fair share of crashes. In 2010, the Tu-154 was famously involved in the Smolensk air disaster, which killed all 96 passengers including Polish President Lech Kaczyński. In 2016, a Tu-154 crash killed 64 members of the world-famous Alexandrov Ensemble, also known as the Red Army Choir.
In modern times, Russian airlines have mainly switched to foreign-produced Boeing and Airbus planes. However, in recent years, the Russian-built Sukhoi Superjet has also become popular. At present, Aeroflot has 54 homemade aircraft in its 244-strong fleet, with the company mostly using the EU-built Airbus A320.