Kamov Ka-226 enters operational trials

 - July 24, 2007, 10:57 AM

The launch customers of the Kamov Ka-226 helicopter–the Moscow city government and fossil-fuel company RAO Gazprom–have begun pilot training and operational trials using semi-experimental machines. Their goal is to qualify crews before production helicopters enter service this month or next.

Construction of an initial production batch of 30 helicopters is under way at two manufacturing sites–Strela in Orenburg and Kumape in Kumertau.

In the spring the Ka-226 won noise certification, with a six- to 11-decibel margin for city operations, Kamov general director/general designer Sergei Mikheyev told AIN. “Type A” certification tests are to be completed soon, after which climate tests will start for compliance with Gazprom’s requirements for operations in remote Siberian regions. These are complementary to the Ka-226A’s national type certificate, which was issued by Armak last October 31.

Gazprom’s Ka-226 operations have already started, the company said at the presentation of the customized Ka-226AG on June 10 at Astafievo, its base airport near Moscow. The oil giant has placed a firm order for 22 Strela-built
Ka-226As, with options for 28 more, reportedly at $1 million apiece.

The 9,383-pound-mtow helicopter features Kamov’s characteristic coaxial rotor layout and detachable cabin. The latter improves mission flexibility and also better flight performance since the helicopter need not carry any equipment irrelevant to a specific mission, Mikheyev told AIN.

Gazprom has ordered several types of cockpit for its Ka-226s, including one with laser thermal imaging and TV equipment for surveillance of pipelines and detection of oil or natural gas leaks. Other cabins are configured for medical and light-transport missions.

Gazprom and Moscow Police pilots have reacted mostly positively to the Ka-226, praising the aircraft’s high maneuverability and ease of operation in urban areas. But the type received controversial assessments from Russia’s Ministry for Emergencies (Emercom) and Moscow City administration, which have compiled a long list of as yet unfulfilled requirements for their customized variants.

Emercom spokesman Col. Victor Beltsov told AIN, “Development of the Ka-226ChS [a customized search- and-rescue variant] has been a slow process. At one time Emercom wanted to bail out of the project, but we found ourselves in a contractual corner. We’d like the helicopter to be ready sooner, but continuing delays last year prompted us to take a Ka-32A instead, and we are looking for other substitutions this year.”

The Moscow City administration formulated its requirements back in 1985, revising them five years later. Now the requirements call for IFR and Type A certification. Moscow, however, has agreed to begin operations with semi-experimental Ka-226s that will be upgraded later to comply with the specification. Moscow said many questions remain unanswered as yet, including performance at high weights, cockpit ergonomics and proof of the claimed 18,000-hour airframe life.

The Ka-226 is being evaluated by Russia’s Border Guards. The type is also offered for export. Chile is looking at the Ka-226 to fill a requirement for a medium-weight helicopter to fight fires in open areas, according to the Chilean air force attaché in Moscow. Export deals could be sweetened by Kamov’s readiness to offer local companies production of customized detachable cabin modules.

On request, the Rolls-Royce 250 on the basic variant can be replaced by the Turbomeca Arrius.