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  • News from Russia and the CIS

    Azerbaijan acquires new attack inventory

    By Nazrin Gadimova

    Azerbaijan has bought 24 Russian-made Mi-35M attack helicopters, ordered in September 2010.

    The country has also purchased Mi-35M simulators for training pilots. Delivery of Mi-35M helicopters ordered by the country's State Border Service began in December 2011.

    The Mi-35M, a multi-role combat helicopter manufactured by Rostvertol, a subsidiary of Russian Helicopters, is an export variant of Mi-24 Hind attack helicopter, primarily designed for attack and military transport missions.

    The production of Mi-35M started in 2005. The aircraft integrates modern high-precision weaponry for destroying ground-based armoured targets and providing air support for ground missions. It can be modified as an attack, ground assault, medical evacuation (MEDEVAC) or transport platform.

    This helicopter has an overall length of 21.6 meters, wingspan of 6.5 meters and height of 6.5 meters. Its takeoff weight in ferry configuration is 12,000kg, while it can carry eight troops or a payload of 2,400kg.

    The Mi-35M is one of the modern combat helicopters in the Russian Air Force inventory, and also operated by the armed forces of Venezuela, Brazil and Azerbaijan.

  • #2
    Mi-8 Down in Mother Russia

    An Mi-8 helicopter belonging to operator Komi-Air and carrying workers from Vorkuta has crashed today in the village Bovanenko Yamal-Nenets autonomous district.

    The helicopter, carrying 19 passengers, is said to have landed heavily just 300 meters from its intended landing site reported in the Ministry of Emergency Situations YNAO.

    A source has told LifeNews that after landing the helicopter tipped over on its side.
    - The machine is not held on to the landing pad 320 meters - - In the fall of women victims. Mi-8 helicopter, which fell in the Yamal-Nenets Autonomous District, owned by "Komi-air."

    Another Mi-8 was sent to retrieve passengers from the crash site and which included a woman who may have suffered spinal fractures.


    • #3
      Torzhok: The training hub for Russian helicopter pilots

      As Russia continues to modernize and re-equip its Armed Forces, greater priority is assigned to combat training.

      The Army, Navy and Air Force are receiving large amounts of sophisticated weapons and hardware of a new generation requiring appropriate knowledge and skills. Training is supposed keep pace with the changes. But things aren’t always happening as fast as they should. Torzhok is a happy exception.

      The 334th Combat Helicopter Training and Retraining Center in Torzhok north of Moscow is a key venue on Russia’s military map. It provides comprehensive officer training in all types of modern helicopter warfare ranging from airborne assaults to guided missile strikes on enemy tanks.

      The Torzhok military school was officially set up in 1978. Until then, it had been the 6th Air Force Training Center. Helicopter training was added in the 50s, when the first helicopters arrived and the center was transformed into the 696th Separate Helicopter Regiment.

      All Soviet helicopters from the light Mi-1 to the super-heavy Mi-26, both serialized and experimental, were test-flown in Torzhok. Training is conducted in light and dark hours and under various weather conditions.

      “We fly a lot. More new machines keep coming, and the number of pilots is not enough… We’ve got the fuel for a good flight time. Young pilots fly about 100 hours per year,” a Lieutenant Colonel and pilot instructor with 20 years of flight experience said, smiling, from the sunlit cockpit of a Mi-8.

      The Mi-8 is the basic training chopper. Its latest modifications, including military-transport AMTSHs and multi-purpose MTVs, are always up in the sky, performing all sorts of training flights over Torzhok: simple circular ones at medium altitudes and complicated ones at super-high and super-low altitudes.

      Now and then, combined exercises involving special task units are held. “It’s useful. They learn to drop off and we learn to drop them off,” the instructor said.

      One can see giant Mi-26s transport chopper, dubbed “cows”, hovering in the air.

      The center has a shooting ground where all sorts of helicopter guns and guided and unguided missiles, primarily those installed on the Mi-35, Mi-28 and Ka-52, are tested.

      Most Torzhok-trained pilots have combat flight experience in conflict areas in the Caucasus, Central Asia and Africa. They participate in major military Air Force exercises such as Vostok-10, Center-11, South-12, West-13 and others.

      The center has Mi-8 simulator classrooms. Professional simulator systems for new-generation helicopters are currently undergoing tests.

      By virtue of its status, the Torzhok school actively cooperates with developers and manufacturers. A delegation from the Russian Helicopters Corporation came in mid-February to discuss maintenance infrastructure for new models.

      “The Torzhok center trains competent Air Force pilots,” said Russian Helicopters General Director Alexander Mikheyev. “We supply it with modern machines, including the Mi-28H Night Hunter, Mi-35M and Ka-52 Alligator, to train pilots for them.

      Pilots trained in Torzhok are always highly praised. Much attention is being given to maintenance services under new conditions as well as to ensuring the combat readiness of our helicopter fleet and improving pilot training. Cooperation with the Torzhok center remains our priority.”


      • #4
        First images of the new Iraqi Mi-28 Night Hunter attack helicopters

        With the help of Akram Kharief, the editor of Secret Difa 3, a blog focusing on defense topics in the Maghreb region, we can show you the first images of the brand new Mi-28 Havoc helicopter (aka Russian Apache) on delivery to Iraq.

        According to the Kharief, 23 Russian attack choppers have been delivered to the Iraqis, the first batch of 10, in September 2013 and the second of 13 examples, in January 2014.

        With the delivery of the Mi-28s Iraq has become the third country (with Russia and Kenya) to operate the all-weather, day-night, two-seat anti-armor attack helicopter (whose export version is known as Mi-28NE) destined to replace the Mi-24 Hind in Russian service.

        Iraq expects to give its Special Forces the support of around 40 Mi-35 (export version of the Mi-24) and Mi-28NE attack helicopters from Russia that will be used for border patrol and antiterrorist operations: a powerful armada for such a “basic” role.


        • #5
          Accident Report Out for Mi-8 Crash in Almaty Oblast

          Investigation of the MI-823 helicopter crash in Almaty Oblast has been completed, Tengrinews reports citing the Chief Transport Prosecutor's Office.

          The tragic accident involving the MI-823 helicopter took place in autumn 2012 and claimed 8 lives. The helicopter owned by Zhezkazgan branch of Euro-Asia Air company was contracted by a Kazakhstan-Chinese pipeline company to fly over Atassu-Alashankou oil pipeline.

          "The investigation found that the air accident happened amid complicated weather conditions and lack of sufficient visibility. The Commission for Air Accidents Investigation of the Transport and Communication Ministry of Kazakhstan confirms this in the conclusions of its final report," the Prosecutor's Office said.

          The pilot in command was the one who made the decision to take off in spite of the negative weather information. While piloting the helicopter amid the complex weather conditions he inadvertently lost control of the aircraft attitude when switching from visual controlled flight to instrumented flight and violating the flight rules in the process. He lost control of the helicopter and the MI-8 crashed.

          "The conclusions are based on a comprehensive analysis of conversations of the pilots, decoded records of the flight data acquisition unit and other evidences supported by the investigation carried out by aviation experts. Other versions of the accident that were initially considered - technical failure, shortage of fuel, mistakes of flight operations officer or meteorological services, explosion or fire onboard - were dismissed as a result of the investigation," the Chief Transport Prosecutor's Office said.

          The helicopter with 8 people onboard went missing in the area of Koktuma-Dostyk next to Kazakhstan-Chinese border on November 24, 2012 and it was discovered only on November 29. According to Kazakhstan Emergency Situations Ministry, the wreckage of the helicopter was found in the area of the 16th Railroad Junction.

          According to the Transport Prosecutors of Kazakhstan, the chronology is as follows:
          • The wreckage of the helicopter were discovered at 4.03 p.m.
          • A response force of Almaty oblast Emergency Situations Department arrived to the site at 5:15 p.m.
          • Six bodies were discovered at 6:30 p.m.
          • Two more bodies were discovered a little later.


          • #6
            Russian Helicopters Mi-38 Pre-Production Prototype Makes First Flight

            The fourth prototype of the new multirole Mi-38 helicopter has carried out a series of ground runs and completed its first flight at Russian Helicopters’ (part of State Corporation Rostec) Kazan Helicopters‘ test flight centre.

            The helicopter was piloted by a team comprising commander and test pilot (first class), honoured test pilot of Russia, Vladimir Kutanin, the second pilot was second class test pilot Maxim Shezhin, and chief flight test engineer, second class, Sergei Panin. The helicopter was then sent to the test flight centre at Mil Moscow Helicopter Plant for preparations ahead of its certification testing.

            “The Mi-38 development programme is making good progress,” Russian Helicopters deputy CEO, Kazan Helicopters CEO Vadim Ligai said. “Today, for the first time, the fourth prototype of this helicopter – that will soon start certification testing – took to the skies.” “Assembly production has already been launched on the fuselage of the first series-produced units. The Mi-38 has proven it boasts unique capabilities. I am confident that the helicopter will see great demand in Russia, the CIS countries, and on our traditional markets – countries across Africa, South East Asia, and Latin America.”

            Prototype No. 4 of the Mi-38 has completed its first test flight

            “The Mi-38 fourth prototype’s first flight was a success,” aircraft commander and test pilot (first class) Vladimir Kutanin said. “The helicopter handles well, all systems worked excellently during the test flight. The developers and producers of the Mi-38 can be proud. As pilots, we really liked the helicopter, it boasts excellent flight capabilities that should ensure it has very bright prospects.”

            The Mi-38 fourth prototype differs from that of the third prototype in its shock-resistant fuel system and larger windows. As with the third prototype, the fourth prototype of the Mi-38 is equipped with twin TV7-117V turboshaft engines manufactured by Klimov. The engines’ power shafts are in a forward position and are located behind the main gearbox, which significantly reduces the level of noise in the cabin.

            Prototype No. 4 is fitted with a shock-resistant fuel system and larger windows

            Aviation experts are confident that the Mi-38’s enhanced payload and passenger transportation capacity, combined with the high levels of speed and comfort achieved, will ensure it becomes one of the most popular models in regional aviation, chiefly for passenger and cargo transportation. Its low noise levels, reduced flight preparation time, roomy passenger cabin, meeting new flight safety standards all open up broad operational opportunities for the Mi-38, including in VIP transport. Mi-38 class helicopters boast greater operational profitability than small aircraft thanks to a variety of features, including the fact that they boast highly efficient engines do not need any airfield infrastructure.

            Kazan Helicopters produces Mi-8/17 series helicopters that are operated in over 100 countries worldwide. A wide range of configurations are produced: transport, passenger, search and rescue, landing and transport, among many others. Preparations are underway to launch production of the Mi-38 passenger transport helicopter. Since 1997, Kazan Helicopters has been certified to develop helicopter technology: today the light twin-engine Ansat helicopter is in series production.



            • #7
              Mi-26 Crew Rescue Polar Bear Cub

              The crew of a Russian Mi-26 military helicopter from the Eastern Military District Army Aviation airbase saved a baby polar bear from starving to death in the Arctic, after the young bear became separated from its mother.

              Mi-26 helicopters, which are used to transport cargo in the Arctic zone, are the largest heaviest-lifting series produced helicopters in the world, and can transport up to 20 tonnes of equipment and large cargo on an external sling or internally. Mi-26 helicopters are also used in transporting troops, fuel, medical evacuation, and for firefighting. The helicopter is produced at Rostvertol, a Russian Helicopters company.

              A Russian Mi-26 crew saved a polar bear cub during a supply flight in the Russian arctic on Friday

              Flight tests are currently being carried out on the modernized Mi-26T2 helicopter, which boasts reduced crew numbers, a ‘glass cockpit’ which improves its ergonomics, and the latest avionics. Mi-26T2 can be operated any time of day or night.

              The Mi-26 was carrying out a routine transport flight in the Arctic zone, delivering goods from Anadyr to Wrangel Island, when one of the crew spotted a lone polar bear cub wandering along the Chukotka shore. The crew carried out several sweeps of the area, but there was no trace of the cub’s mother. The decision was therefore taken to pick up the polar bear cub.

              The crew landed the Mi-26 and fanned out in search of the polar bear cub. When they found it, it was exhausted and showed no sign of aggression; in fact, it moved toward them. After giving it some warm food, the helicopter crew took it on board.

              The polar bear cub which the Mi-26 crew named 'Umka'

              The crew said the cub was calm during the flight, wandered around inside the helicopter, looked around, and made friends with the people who rescued it. They named it Umka, after a well-known Russian cartoon about a young polar bear Umka who was particularly curious about its surroundings.

              After landing, the crew contacted environmental protection authorities and handed the cub over to them. The Mi-26 crew helped support the population of this endangered species, registered in Russia’s Red Book of species under threat. The young polar bear is now in a wildlife reserve on Wrangel Island.


              • #8
                An Interview with NDV Helicopter Founder Alexander Khrustalev

                A year ago, Russia's private helicopter market was virtually non-existent.

                There have been companies flying two or three helicopters, often old ones, but few rich people were buying flying windmills of their own. Wealth-flaunting millionaires bought yachts.

                Today, the market is in place and it has its own king, Alexander Khrustalev, a renowned Moscow real property tycoon who now claims to sell in Russia three of every four Robinson helicopters, the most popular small copters worldwide.

                Khrustalev, 43, runs his business empire, NDV Group — which employs over 1,600 people — from his office overlooking Trubnaya Ploshchad in central Moscow. He tracks his construction sites, offices and helicopters using some 200 webcams, and as he talks, he flips over rows of camera feeds on his tablet and checks live footage projected on a huge screen hanging on the wall of his office.

                NDV Helicopter founder Alexander Khrustalev​ with EC130

                "When I started my business career, I was doing everything myself and staggering from weariness every night," says Khrustalev, a lively man with close-cropped hair and rather colloquial Russian. "Then I built my team, learned to delegate, and now monitor everything from here."

                Still, the urge to micromanage seems to sit deep in the realty magnate, who began his business career running food kiosks in the Tver region in the early 1990s. As he talks about his favorite project, Heliport Moscow, a three-hectare multifunctional center for storing and servicing helicopters complete with a pilot training facility, he checks what is going on at a couple of dozen locations on the site through webcams and texts quick orders to site managers.

                The Moscow Times sat down with Khrustalev earlier this month to talk about his ascent to near-monopoly status in the Russian private helicopter business and his plans to convert the industry into a tool to develop Russia's not-so-easily accessible natural splendors into profitable tourist destinations.

                This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

                Q: How did you arrive at the idea of entering the helicopter business?

                A: At the start, it was a whim. I bought a helicopter, got trained as a pilot and built a helipad outside Moscow near Novorizhskoye Shosse. It turned out that I had picked the right place because other helicopters started landing there. You know, the big H on it is easily seen from above. So I decided to build on it.

                We started less than a year ago. Now it is the biggest heliport in Russia and it is growing every day as we build new landing pads, service facilities, hangars and a training center. We also plan to build a hotel and a yacht club there. We have another heliport in the Moscow region, Heliport Istra, and I plan to build one more in Ulyanovsk [a city on the Volga river, 900 kilometers east of Moscow — MT].

                Today I believe I have seized 75 percent of the market of new Robinson R44 helicopters being sold in Russia — about 18 percent of the global market. I think we will sell 70 to 80 helicopters before the year's end at a cost of 650,000 to 700,000 euros. We also sell bigger, more advanced helicopters from Robinson, Bell, Eurocopter and AgustaWestland companies, with the most expensive running up to $11 million.

                Before I entered the market, there was only one company that managed to sell 14 helicopters in Russia. I sold 14 helicopters in my first three months.

                I see how one opportunity leads to others. For example, we opened a training center for pilots. Now 150 people attend courses there. I know there are at least 50 potential buyers of helicopters from me among them. And these helicopters will be repaired and kept at my facilities.

                I would guess there are 350 privately owned helicopters in the Moscow region, which is about 60 percent of the overall number in Russia. Out of these 350, 150 are stored and serviced at my hangars, and 100 more are only serviced and repaired at our heliport. In the Moscow region, I believe we have 90 percent of the maintenance and repair market.

                Overall, I identified 19 sources of revenue in my heliport — from sales to repairs, cafes, training, storage and so on.

                Q: How profitable is this business? Who are your clients?

                A: I started this project with my own money. I invested 2 billion rubles ($44 million) from NDV Group, and now the money coming from this business is re-invested into its growth. I don't have to add anything from my own pocket.

                I am not afraid of the unfolding crisis in our economy. It won't bring this market down because there was no market. I am now creating it. Yes, there were a dozen companies that believed they could do business with their two or three old helicopters. I came into this pool like a whale. I've got the best people, I am paying them decent salaries — 100,000 rubles ($2,200) a month on average — and it works.

                As for clients, I am not sitting idly and waiting for them to come. If someone orders a taxi ride on a helicopter and comes to the heliport, he will see that out of my own 22 helicopters only two are available. The rest are in the air, working.

                I will not be waiting until someone calls and asks to take a helicopter. I will find customers myself. For example, I call companies that monitor the electrical grid and offer them my services. They use helicopters, each carrying three pilots and burning 800 liters of fuel per flight hour. This hour costs them 200,000 rubles ($4,400). When we're talking about hundreds of kilometers, this is quite expensive. I offer them one Robinson R44 with one pilot, burning 50 liters per hour, with my own special equipment to monitor the grids, which comes out way cheaper. We are working on such projects now.

                In agriculture, we can help to fight bark beetles and other crop pests from the air.

                Aerial photography is also a huge market. Demand for it is colossal. I talked to one regional governor recently who offered me 10 million rubles ($220,000) to photograph his region from air. I am ready to commit one helicopter with all necessary equipment for one month to earn this 10 million. These are just few examples.

                Also, I was recently in Miami and saw small planes flying advertisement banners. When I returned to Moscow, my helicopters did the same for a week for Leroy Merlin, which was opening one of its hypermarkets outside Moscow. I found this job.

                My helicopters can also fly banners like "Happy birthday, my love," ordered by private customers, over their homes outside Moscow. This service costs 35,000 rubles ($750) per hour.

                There are social services we do too. Together with Lisa Alert [an NGO searching for missing people — MT], we look for missing children in the Moscow region. We help find mushroom seekers and hunters lost in the woods. This year we found about 30 missing people. One helicopter is as good as 1,800 men on the ground in search operations.

                We also participated in nabbing the infamous GTA gang [which robbed and killed motorists outside Moscow — MT] recently. During the night searches specially trained people were flying on my helicopters, equipped with special thermal visors, searching for the bandits.

                Q: Have mutual sanctions and the general cooling of relations with the West affected your helicopter business?

                A: Western sanctions are aimed against state companies. They don't touch us. I talk to my foreign partners, they all want to preserve their presence on the Russian market. And thank God our own government does not counter Western sanctions by banning us from buying foreign helicopters. If this happens, our sector will be killed.

                We have really good working relations with our Western partners. My flight instructors are being taught in Canada, France and the United States. Five of my engineers are now being trained at Robinson's engine labs.

                I have over 40 engineers and the cost of training one engineer to repair only one type of engine is between $27,000 and $35,000.

                Q: How is the government reacting to your efforts to build a new industry?

                A: There is state regulation for our industry, which is sometimes plain stupid and corruption-promoting. It was written when there was no market, and who if not me should help the government to create new, better rules?

                A simple real-life example: You live in the Far East and you buy a copter for yourself. Every two years, you should prolong its airworthiness certificate. For that, you need to come with the paperwork to Moscow, submit it to particular officials through the single window that serves the whole of Russia and then to wait for six weeks for the certificate to be re-issued. How much will it be worth if none of these officials ever saw the actual helicopter?

                During these six weeks you cannot fly.

                I am a member of the government Commission on Development of Common Aviation. Several weeks ago I spoke about this problem at a commission meeting. They agreed that it is not officials but engineers that service helicopters who should be responsible for the technical condition and safety of helicopters, they way we have it with automobiles.

                In December, this initiative will be discussed at a government meeting and, if supported, there will be a government decree on changing the certification rules for helicopters.

                There are plenty of such wrongs in the system. No one cared about it before. In our country, you may scold the system or weep over it but it won't change anything. You need to get inside and start reforming it from there.

                If we manage to build the right relations between business and government, our sector will have a huge positive impact on many other industries, from producing special fuels for copters to construction.

                Today my heliports, Moscow and Istra, employ 250 people. Here on my table lies a plan to develop a network of heliports in the Moscow region that will create 6,500 new jobs in five years.

                Q: So, you've become the major player in this industry. What's next?

                A: The heliports should become the first step toward a much more ambitious program of developing internal tourism, which should be supported by the state.

                In Russia, we have unreal natural beauty — Lake Baikal, the Altai Mountains, Karelian forests. We have more than 150 national parks, and we don't see most of them. We should open them to people.

                To reach these places and to provide comfort to visitors, we need to build tourist villages there and solve the transportation problem. I am not saying that helicopters will be the decisive factor in this infrastructure, but they will be pioneers in transportation, using small aerodromes in these virgin places.

                With one department of the Natural Resources Ministry we are working on a development program for national parks. We should start flying over then and look where we can build so-called ethnic villages, say, in Siberia or Yakutia, to attract tourists. Abroad, these are whole thriving industry. We sell oil and gas abroad but we do not care about marketing and developing the beauty of country.

                Helicopters exist for flying. Flying to your dacha is fine, but flying to discover the great places Russia is so rich in is an absolutely different pleasure.


                • #9
                  Vladimir's Christmas Gift

                  Vladimir Putin treats a young boy to a Christmas helicopter flight over St. Petersburg

                  Russian President Vladimir Putin granted the wish of a seriously ill boy by arranging a helicopter flight for him in Russia's presidential helicopter.

                  Artem Palyanova, who wanted to fly in a helicopter over St. Petersburg, was met together with is family by president Putin who invited them for tea in the Konstantinovsky Palace where he gave Christmas gifts to the family and then personally drove the boy to the helicopter.

                  During the flight, Artyom and his brother admired the scenery of a snow-covered St. Petersburg.