By Justin Wastnage in London

Moscow's Domodedovo airport has begun the dismantling of one of the last remaining examples of the Tupolev Tu-114 Rossiya contra-rotating turboprop that had been standing as gate guardian since 1977 (pictured below). The aircraft is still officially the world's fastest turboprop.

The airport is being refurbished and marketed as Moscow's premium terminal for flights originating in western Europe and the aircraft had been considered by some as inconsistent with the airport's new image. The Aeroflot-liveried turboprop (original Soviet registration 76464) had been placed at the entrance to the airport in 1977 to commemorate the 20-year anniversary of accident-free operation of the long-range turboprop. The initial plan, says airport operator East Line, had been to find another parking site for the rare aircraft in the area adjacent to the airport.  However, expert inspection of the airframe showed severe degradation and the decision was made to break the aircraft up for scrap metal instead.

“The Tu-114, fixed up in Domodedovo about 30 years ago, was one of the airport’s symbols, and certainly the decision on its dismantling was not an easy one to make for us," says Anna Krasnova, director for government and public affairs, East Line group.

The aircraft has made a backdrop for wedding photos and has been an important hommage site for aviation enthusiasts over the years, she adds. "Unfortunately, this particular aircraft was beyond reconstruction and it was not safe to move it to another place”, Krasnova concludes.Eastline is examining the possibility of acquiring a replacement Tu-114.

The first experimental Tu-114, powered by four 11,033kW (14,800shp) Kuznetsov NK-12MV engines each driving two AV-60H counter-rotating four-bladed reverse-pitch propellers, was produced in mid-1957. Its first official flight took place on 15 November, 1957 and entry into service with Aeroflot followed in May 1961.

The total number of aircraft produced was only 33, including two experimental prototypes and the only other customer was Japan Air Lines. In May 1976 Soviet authorities withdrew the aircraft from operation and the last flight, from Khabarovsk to Domodedovo was performed on 2 December 1976. A decision was taken to celebrate two decades of accident-free flying, despite only having had 15 years in-service flying.

The Tu-114 broke several speed records, some remain unbroken. Notably the record set on 9 April, 1960 when it achieved a speed in excess of 473kt (877km/h) over a circuit in the former USSR.

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Source: Flight International