Russia, China display helo projects at airshow

 - February 8, 2007, 4:47 AM

At Airshow China2004–held from November 1 to 6 in Zhuhai, Guangdong–Russian and Chinese helicopter manufacturers revealed new medium-weight helicopter projects. For the first time, Mil exhibited a model of the Mi-54, and AVIC II revealed details about the medium utility helicopter it is studying.

Mil’s Mi-54 passed the draft design stage in September. It is expected to have a mtow of 9,920 pounds and a max payload of 3,307 pounds. A purely civilian project, the Mi-54 will be powered by two turboshaft engines, either Klimov/ Motor-Sich VK800s or Turbomeca Arriel 2Cs.

Challenging Western OEMs
Mil began studies for the medium-weight helicopter in 1993, but later shelved the project because of a funding shortage. The company resumed work on the Mi-54 two years ago, said Aleksei Samusenko, a general designer at Mil. The company will assemble the first two flyable machines at its experimental facilities in Moscow, with first flights expected in 2007 and 2008, respectively. Mil plans to produce the helicopter at its Rostvertol plant in Rostov-on-Don.

Samusenko expects the Mi-54 to fill a niche in the Chinese helicopter market. He explained, “The Chinese authorities are considering new helicopter programs in the 11,000-pound class. We are offering them the Mi-54 as the basis
for a cooperative development and production effort.”

Mil general director Yuri Andrianov asserted that with the Mi-54 the Russians are challenging Western manufacturers in the battle for the emerging Chinese market. The Mi-17 has been the best-seller in China, with Kazan Helicopters and UUAZ production facilities supplying these helicopters to both military and civilian operators.
In addition, China will be the launch customer for Mil’s Klimov VK2500-powered Mi-17V-5. Deliveries of the Mi-17V-5 began this fall, and the first helicopter is due to enter service early next year. “Until recently our proposals were limited to relatively heavy transport helicopters,” Andrianov continued, but “now we feel strong enough to challenge Western manufacturers in their traditional market sectors.”

AVIC II is also studying a medium utility helicopter for the Chinese market. With an mtow of 14,330 pounds, the company’s 16-seat machine would be powered
by two Pratt & Whitney Canada PT6C-67Cs. Its styling apparently influenced heavily by the Sikorsky S-76, the Chinese machine is expected to have a cruise speed of 157 knots and a service ceiling of 19,270 feet.

Chinese sources estimate that the country needs at least 1,800 civil helicopters in the next 10 years. Today, China’s civil fleet accounts for only 110 helicopters. The Chinese helicopter industry employs about 10,000 and makes local copies of Russian and Western designs, primarily for military customers.