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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

'Concordsky' Designer Tupolev Dead at 75

Aircraft designer Alexei Tupolev, who led the design of the Soviet version of the supersonic airliner Concorde, has died at the age of 75, the Tupolev company said Sunday.

A spokesman said Tupolev, who worked on many of the firm's passenger jets, died Saturday after a long illness.

The Kremlin said President Vladimir Putin had sent his condolences to the family of the designer, born on May 20, 1925, the son of an equally famous father — also an aircraft designer — Andrei Tupolev.

Alexei Tupolev helped design mass-production passenger jets such as the Tu-134, still a workhorse of Russian and other former Soviet airline companies.

But one of his top projects was the creation of the Tu-144, a Soviet supersonic aircraft that so closely resembled Concorde that it was nicknamed "Concordsky."

It made its maiden flight on Dec. 31, 1968, days before its Western rival, but despite numerous modifications remained excessively noisy and blatantly inefficient. Its flying range was also too small to justify the supersonic credentials.

A crash at the Paris air show in 1973 effectively ended any international appeal the jet might have had.

A modified Tu-144 briefly operated between Moscow and the Kazakh city of Almaty, but was quietly shelved after a second crash in 1977 that killed three people.

The Tupolev company returned to the project in the 1990s and converted a Tu-144 into a flying laboratory. They hope to launch a Tu-244 in the next decade.

Tupolev redesigned the Tu-144 in the mid-1970s to provide the military with a long-range supersonic nuclear bomber. The swing-wing Tu-160, Blackjack by NATO classification, is still part of the Russian armed forces.

Tupolev worked on the Buran space shuttle, which carried out one unmanned flight into space in 1988 but was later scrapped because of funding problems.

The shuttle is now languishing in a huge hangar in the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan, while an earth-bound sister craft serves as an attraction in Moscow's Gorky amusement park.

"The glowing memory of Alexei Andreyevich Tupolev, a wonderful man and aircraft constructor, will remain forever in our hearts," the Tupolev company said in a statement.