Tupolev Tu-204 vs Boeing 757 – How Do The Aircraft Compare?

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The Tu-204 has long been likened to a copycat Boeing 757. How does it compare and which is better? Let’s have a look!

tu-204
A Tu-204 in Russian Air Force livery. Photo: Dmitry Zherdin via Wikimedia

Is the Tu-204 a replication of the Boeing 757?

The Boeing 757 came to the passenger market for Eastern Air Lines on January 1, 1983. The Tu-204 would not come for another six years until 1989. Both are twin-engine narrowbody aircraft that operate roughly the same number of passengers and range, although when it comes to market success, the 757 stands heads and shoulders above its imitator.

We can’t say for sure if designers really just took a photo of the 757 and traced it (the aircraft is supposed to be a successor to the trijet medium-range Tupolev Tu-154) but the similarities are uncanny. Although we do need to point out that the last Boeing 757 was delivered in 2005 while the Tu-204 is still technically available to buy today.

But just how similar are they? Let’s compare the two aircraft in passengers and range.

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Air Koryo TU 204
To the untrained eye, the two planes are almost identical. Photo: Pavel Adzhigildaev via Wikimedia

Passengers

There have been a lot of versions of the Tu-204 and only two passenger varients of the Boeing 757. Thus any numbers provided by the Tu-204 camp will be a range rather than a fixed number.

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The Boeing 757 had two versions:

  • Boeing 757-200 that could seat 200 passengers, with 12 in a 1980s first class and 188 in economy. If all economy, 228 passengers, and an exit limit of 239 passengers.
  • Boeing 757-300 that could seat 243 passengers in two classes, with 12 in first class and 231 passengers in economy.  If all-economy, it would seat 280 and 295 maximum if crammed with tiny seats.

Compared to the Tu-204:

  • The first version of the aircraft, the Tu-204-100 and -120 had 190 passengers in one class or 172 passengers in two classes. It could carry up to 210 maximum passengers.
  • The most recent version, the Tu-204SM could carry 194 passengers in one class, or 176 in two classes, with an exit limit of 215.

As we can see, the Boeing 757, right out of the gate, can carry more passengers. Even accounting for years of development between the two types of aircraft, the Tu-204 doesn’t transport as many. Especially considering that both planes are roughly the same length:

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  • 757-200 is 155 ft 3 in / 47.3 m long
  • Tu-204-100 is (151 ft 5 in) / 46.14 m long
United Airlines 757
A United Airlines Boeing 757. Photo: Getty Images

Range

When it comes to range, this is where the Boeing 757 excels.

  • Boeing 757-200 has a range of 3,915 nmi / 7,250 km
  • Boeing 757-300 has a range of 3,400 nmi / 6,295 km

The Tu-204 on the other hand:

  • Tu-204-100 has a range of 2322 nautical miles / 4,300 km
  • The Tu-204 with the highest range, the -300 version, could only fly as far as 3,132 nautical miles / 5,800 km.

Surprisingly, the Tu-204 really falters when it comes to range. While the aircraft was never really built for long-distance international travel, it is surprising that the range is not better considering that the airframe came out after the 757 and Russia is such a big country. You would believe that the aircraft would have as high a range as possible.

757 sunset
Is this aircraft a Boeing 757 or Tu-204? Let us know in the comments! Photo: Getty Images

Bottom line

At the end of the day, the two aircraft are shockingly similar but there can be no mistake about which is the better aircraft. Sometimes for airlines, it is better to go with the original and for all its faults the Tu-204 never seemed to take off in a big way.

  • Boeing 757 – 1049 orders until development stopped in 2005.
  • Tu-204 – 90 built since 1989.

The aircraft is still on the books at Russian United Aircraft Corporation, although it has no orders for the type and the developer wants to remove it as soon as the Irkut MC-21 comes up for sale.

What do you think? Let us know in the comments.

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