Reports about Tupolev-144 inaugral flights by foreign journalists and other passengers who were aboard the flight reflected severe noise inside the cabin during the whole flight as the chief problem for the passengers comfort. While part of the noise was coming from the engines, chief source of the noise was a poor design for air-coniditioning and aircraft skin cooling system. Few excerpts from the contemporary reports that relate the problem:
"Soviet supersonic jet goes into service"
The Times (London), November 2, 1977
The estimated 80 passengers, most of them journalists and civilian aviation officials including the aircraft designer Mr. Tupolev, had to shout to make themselves heard in the cabin... Mr Tupolev acknowledged the noise problem inside the airliner... He acknowledged that the cabin noise was some five decibels louder than his most recent product, the TU154 trijet airliner [*] and said: "We are looking into the problem"... It was caused by the supersonic airliner's four huge jet engines... as well as by an air ventilation system... It was noisy every inch of the way, even wihen the airliner was theoretically outrunning its own sound. The cloackroom and the rest room section at the very rear were almost unbearably noisy.
[*] Original Tu-154 was a substantially noisier design than later Tu-154M, albeit quieter than a propeller-driven IL-18 and An-10.
Soviet Union: Christening the Concordski
Time, Nov. 14, 1977
The only inflight problem was noise. Conversation was rendered almost impossible by a loud rushing sound that made the flight seem as though it were taking place in a wind tunnel. Alexei Tupolev, the plane's designer, who was aboard the inaugural run, explained that the noise came from a supercharged ventilation system designed to keep passengers cool despite the above-boiling temperatures on the plane's skin.
"Soviets Launch SST Flights With Cognac, Caviar"
The Washington Post // Nov 2, 1977
"I was sitting by the window and couldn't talk to the person sitting two seats away on the isle", one correspondent said. "I had to communicate with him by notes". The plane's chief designer, Alexei Tupolev... was aboard and acknowledged the noise problem... Tupolev said the high noise level was caused by the plane's powerful engines and by an air ventilation system needed to cool the cabin.
"Soviet SST Takes Off in Moscow -- And You Almost Hear it in Queens"
New York Times 2.11.1977
"The flight was perfectly smooth", said Daniel Vernet, a correspondent of Le Monde of Paris, who was one of those the Foreign Ministry allowed to ride on the inaugural flight. "But during the flight the cabin is noisy. One can have a conversation only with difficulty"... "We are working on the noise problem", Mr. Tupolev said.
"Donner über der Steppe"
Der Spiegel, 07.11.1977, Seite 274-276
Nur Daniel Vernet, Moskau-Korrespondent von "Le Monde", brachte am Ende neben Lob auch Tadel an. Zwar sei der Flug "perfekt" gewesen, das Dröhnen der Triebwerke jedoch mache "Konversation an Bord beschwerlich". TU-144-Konstrukteur Alexej Tupolew, der mit von der Partie war, versprach Abhilfe. "Daran", so beschied er den Concorde-Franzosen, "wird gearbeitet."
After the inaugural flights, two susbsequent flights (for the next two weeks) were cancelled outright, despite being booked, and the third flight was rescheduled for several days later.
"Soviets Cancel SST Again"
The Washington Post, Nov 23, 1977
For the third straight week, the Soviet airline Aeroflot canceled the scheduled flight of its new TU-144 supersonic passenger airliner today.
The article further relates that the official reason given by Aeroflot for flight cancellation was bad weather in Alma-Ata, however journalist's phone call to Alma-Ata Aeroflot office revealed that the weather there was all clear there and one airplane had already arrived fine earlier in the day.