'There hasn't been a helicopter like this before.' Tatarstan has handed over first Kazan eurocopter to customer

The new model by Kazan Helicopters is expected to be half the price of European competitors but surpass them in technical characteristics

'There hasn't been a helicopter like this before.' Tatarstan has handed over first Kazan eurocopter to customer
Photo: Maksim Platonov

The civilian version of the first serial Mi-38 helicopter, positioned as a competitor to European Eurocopter EC725, has recently been transferred to flight operation. The new rotorcraft in VIP configuration will take to the sky on the terms of aviation leasing: Gazprombank Leasing, which has recently bought it from Russian Helicopters holding, transferred it to Russian Helicopter Systems for financial lease. Perhaps, this operator will promote Mi-38 in the future. Now, there are six more helicopters of this series in the production of Kazan Helicopters, for which there are foreign customers, the director general of Russian Helicopters holding assured Realnoe Vremya.

Mi-38 on lease

Kazan Helicopters plant is launching the mass production of the new helicopter — Mi-38 (in the class up to 15 tonnes), designed to expand the range of Kazan Helicopters. Russian Helicopters has transferred to the state customer — Gazprombank Leasing — the first helicopter in the civilian version, this helicopter is built with luxury interior. Under the operating lease agreement, it is transferred for operation by Russian Helicopter Systems. The very ceremony of handing over the symbolic key was held at Kazan Helicopters plant on 26 February.

“This is the 17th key that we receive from Kazan Helicopters. Soon I will have to give my keys to the office," CEO of Russian Helicopter Systems Mikhail Kazachkov joked.

The cutting-edge Mi-38 is a multi-purpose helicopter that will occupy an empty niche between the medium Mi-8 and the heavy Mi-26. The helicopter can be used for transportation of cargo and passengers, search and rescue operations, as well as a flying hospital or an offshore helicopter for delivering specialists to oil-producing platforms at sea. The first serial vehicle will be used for business class transportation. The helicopter with a high-comfort cabin has already been demonstrated to the leaders of Russia and foreign countries. Russian Helicopters believes that the flight performance and competitive price will ensure the Mi-38 a worthy place in the global helicopter market, especially in the Middle East and South-East Asia.

According to Rustam Minnikhanov, with the advent of this model, Kazan Helicopters should increase serial production

There has been no such helicopter in Russia

What is its fundamental difference from the hard workers Mi-8 and Mi-17, which Kazan Helicopters continues to produce? “The main difference is that until now there has been no such helicopter," Russian Helicopters CEO Andrey Boginsky told reporters. “This is the new helicopter in the model range of the holding, whose take-off weight is over 15 tonnes.” According to him, the plant is capable of producing at least 12 helicopters of this class. Now there are six helicopters of this type in production. Plus, there are first orders from foreign buyers. At the same time, he reminded that the Russian military was the first to believe in Mi-38. Last year, Kazan Helicopters assembled and handed over two helicopters to the defence ministry.

Tatarstan President Rustam Minnikhanov spoke more strongly: “I believe that this is a serious claim for the global helicopter market. I've visited Eurocopter (European manufacturer Eurocopter EC725), and I think that our helicopter is more competitive.” According to Rustam Minnikhanov, with the advent of this model, Kazan Helicopters should increase serial production.

“The plant should produce at least 100 helicopters a year, and this is real," the president said, answering questions from the press. “We have orders for 70 helicopters this year. But given the fact that we have Mi-8 and Ansat (the light helicopter weighing more than 3 tonnes) and a heavier helicopter is appearing, we have the opportunity to reach a new level.

“The transfer of the first Mi-38 helicopter is an important stage that confirms the readiness of Kazan Helicopters for serial supplies of this type of helicopter for both commercial operators and government customers. The projected demand of potential buyers for the Mi-38 by 2030 is more than 100 helicopters," said Andrey Boginsky, the director general of Russian Helicopters holding.

Mi-38's cost remain undisclosed

How much does Mi-38 cost in VIP

The cost of Mi-38 hasn't been disclosed. However, at the end of 2015, the ministry of industry and trade of Russia held a competition for the right to enter into a state contract for the completion of the medium-heavy Mi-38 helicopter with an initial cost of 1,117 billion rubles. The purchase provided for attraction of extra-budgetary funds in the amount of 648,4 million rubles by the contractor (Kazan Helicopters). Thus, it is planned to allocate 1,8 billion rubles for the work.

The first serial Mi-38 helicopter was first presented to the public at MAKS 2019 International Aviation and Space Salon, where it was presented to Russian President Vladimir Putin and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. The foreign debut of Mi-38 took place during Dubai Airshow 2019, where the head of the Russian ministry of industry and trade, Denis Manturov, demonstrated the helicopter to the Crown Prince of the Emirate of Abu Dhabi, Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan.

Mi-38 will be “promoted” by the aviation leasing operator Gazprombank Leasing. Maksim Agadzhanov, the director general of the company, said that a year ago the company had signed an agreement with Russian Helicopters on strategic cooperation, which provided for the leasing of ten Mi-8 MT.

“It is planned five or six more helicopters, which are at the stage of determining a competitive purchase with our potential lessees," said Agadzhanov.

Maksim Agadzhanov, the director general of the company, said that a year ago the company had signed an agreement with Russian Helicopters on strategic cooperation, which provided for the leasing of ten Mi-8 MT

In his opinion, the renewal of the fleet requires large capital investments, leasing in this sense gives the opportunity to distribute the costs of purchasing expensive assets for a long time, commensurate with the service life, so it is undoubtedly an effective financial tool in solving such problems. At the same time, Maksim Agadzhanov noted: “There's no guarantee that we will buy six more helicopters. There are other leasing companies. We have potential customers who are currently analyzing offers for these and other types of helicopters.” Among them, there are oil companies that operate in hard-to-reach areas of oil production. The average lease term is from 3 to 10 years.

Will Mi-38 fit into trade-in scheme?

“The fleet is quite worn out, and in some positions, the age of helicopters is up to 30 years," said Maksim Agadzhanov. “If there is an update, it will be for the benefit of the user. A comprehensive programme of the ministry of industry and trade of Russia may work here. There are programmes for subsidizing equipment, and there is the decree no. 1675, within which helicopter equipment is also subsidised. Together with Gazprombank, we see good prospects of work on the leasing of aircraft, in particular helicopters. We have all the opportunities and resources to finance the renewal of air fleets of both commercial structures and subjects of the Russian Federation," commented Maksim Agadzhanov, the director general of Gazprombank Leasing.

Mi-38 is designed according to single-rotor configuration and is equipped with a twin-engined engine unit with high power and economic indicators. The main elements of the fuselage structure are made of aluminum alloys, individual components and parts are made of steel, titanium and composite materials. The helicopter is equipped with two domestic-made TV7-117V engines. The engines are equipped with dust-proof devices with a high degree of air purification. The advanced in terms of design six-blade main rotor provides high thrust and low vibration. The blades are equipped with an anti-icing system, and the X-shaped tail rotor gives the helicopter excellent controllability at a low noise level.

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By Luiza Ignatyeva. Photo: Maksim Platonov
Tatarstan