Early versions of the Tu-134 had a glass ('glazed') nose that is unusual for a passenger airliner. It was removed from the later versions.

Tu-134 glass nose

Source: wikimedia.org

How probable is the hypothesis that this early design was for the easy conversion of Tu-134s into bomber? Glass noses are common in bombers.

  • 1
    $\begingroup$ Someone (I think Peter Kämpf) mentioned on aviation.SE that that was indeed the case with one of the Russian airliners but I can't find it at the moment. $\endgroup$
    – TomMcW
    Jan 3, 2016 at 19:07
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    $\begingroup$ From wikipedia: The lineage of early Soviet airliners could be traced directly to the Tupolev Tu-16 strategic bomber, and the Tu-134 carried over the glass nose for the navigator $\endgroup$
    – TomMcW
    Jan 3, 2016 at 19:10
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    $\begingroup$ @TomMcW: Here: Older airliners from the Fifties and Sixties were designed with dual use in mind, and many of them had a glazed nose … $\endgroup$ Jan 3, 2016 at 23:56

2 Answers 2


Converting a Tu-104, a Tu-124 or a Tu-134 to a bomber only would had worked if there had also been provisions for a bomb bay. Including this in a pressurized fuselage would had incurred a severe weight penalty, so there was no easy way for a bomber conversion. This should make the speculation about dual use as a bomber moot.

However, there are several good reasons to use the glazed nose:

  • Easier conversion of trained bomber crews (trained on the Il-28 and Tu-16) for civilian duties. Remember that the Tu-104 was the second jet airliner in service and the only operational jet airliner worldwide between 1956 and 1958.
  • Operation as a military transport on improvised flights (where the better view of the navigator in the nose would help in visual navigation).
  • Civilian operation on flights on routes without navigation aids.

The last point is added by @JanHudec as a comment to this answer, but would exclude the operation on a scheduled service, because the aircraft would not be able to navigate in fog or at night.

Since the glazed nose was removed quite early in the production run of the Tu-134 (from the A-2 version on), it seems that the first reason (dual use of Tu-16-trained crews) is the most likely. While more than 1,500 Tu-16s were built, the Tu-104 (201 built from 1956 to 1960) and Tu-124 (164 built from 1960 to 1965) were relatively rare. From the Wikipedia page on the Tu-104:

Pilots with previous Tu-16 experience transitioned into the Tu-104 with relative ease

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    $\begingroup$ another oft mentioned advantage of the glass nose was that the aircraft could easily be fitted with cameras to operate as spy planes during Aeroflot flights over western Europe, and I remember hearing of several cases where Aeroflot 134s and 154s with glass noses were investigated and cameras found after having "gotten lost" on their regular routes and "just happened" to fly over NATO installations. Whether those were factual or not I don't know, 30+ year old memories... $\endgroup$
    – jwenting
    Jan 6, 2016 at 10:47

It's because of its lineage, based on military aircraft. The Tu-134 provided a glass nose for a navigator position, providing them with a clear view of the ground ahead.

According to Tupolev Bureau, Tu-134 is an upgrade of Tu-124:

Tu-134 ... is an profound upgrade of Tu-124 with turbofan engines, arranged in the aft part of the fuselage.


Tu-124 from tupolev.ru

Tu-124, in its turn, was based on the Tu-104:

In 1958, designing of such passenger plane was started in the Tupolev Design Bureau. Tupolev’s proposal for creation of a new short-range passenger aircraft on the basis of the common aerodynamic and structural layout of Tu-104 has been worked out ...


Tu-104 from tupolev.ru

In turn, Tu-104 was based on the Tu-16 Badger, which meant that it inherited the glazed nose:

In the end of 1953, the Design Bureau’s leaders, headed by A.N. Tupolev, basing on the positive experience of developing, testing and beginning of serial production of Tu-16, proposed the idea of creating jet passenger aircraft on its basis to the leadership of the country.


On June 11, 1954 the Council of Ministers of the USSR issued a decree № 1172-516 on creation a long-range high-speed passenger aircraft designated Tu-16P .. . It was to be designed on the basis of Tu-16 airplane with two AM-3-200 engines.


"Tu-16" by No machine-readable author provided. Jno~commonswiki assumed (based on copyright claims). - No machine-readable source provided. Own work assumed (based on copyright claims).. Licensed under CC BY 2.5 via Commons.

The glazed nose had a practical purpose- the navigator sat there (the aircraft needed a crew of three). The later versions of Tu-134 (Tu-134B) on the other hand, did away with the glazed nose.


Image from airliners.net

The Tu-334, on the other hand, had a completely new design, eliminating the glazed nose.

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    $\begingroup$ I am not sure lineage is enough to explain the glass nose, because it was not carried over from Tu-16 as is. It had more to do with how navigators were used to work in Soviet Union (relying more on ground references, because navaids were in short supply in Siberia). $\endgroup$
    – Jan Hudec
    Jan 4, 2016 at 8:25
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    $\begingroup$ This answer seems to be backwards. Surely, the point is not that plane A had one because it was based on plane B, which was based on C, which was based on D, which had a glass nose and, what? they were too lazy to design a new nose? It's surely harder to build a glass nose and they would have only kept it because it was useful. $\endgroup$ Jan 4, 2016 at 8:37
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    $\begingroup$ I agree with @DavidRicherby - Making a new nose would have been almost no trouble whatsoever. $\endgroup$
    – Jon Story
    Jan 4, 2016 at 11:36
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    $\begingroup$ @JanHudec Navigation has been cited as the reason for having a glazed nose in a number of places, though I'm not able to find anything official. I'm not very sure this might be reason- It's quite difficult to navigate visually in Siberia (or any other remote place) in poor visibility conditions. $\endgroup$
    – aeroalias
    Jan 4, 2016 at 15:53

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