German-Russian joint venture Helion Procopter is marketing Russian-built Mi-17 and Mi-34 helicopters for sale or charter to Western companies. It has begun a program to re-equip the large twin Mi-17 with Honeywell Bendix/King avionics with a goal of securing validation by Europe’s Joint Aviation Authorities (JAA) within 18 months. According to a company spokeswoman, JAA officials have said they will recognize most aspects of the aircraft’s Russian certification, thus allowing a less exhaustive validation process.
The Mi-17 seats 16 to 20 passengers in corporate shuttle configuration. Helion is also offering a VIP version with seats removed to make way for a shower, galley and upgraded cabin furnishings. The aircraft cruises at speeds of up to 124 kt.
No firm plans have yet been made for adapting the much smaller Mi-34 piston single for Western operations. It seats four people, including the pilot.
Helion is offering brand-new Mi-17s at between $4.5 million and $6 million and has claimed that this is up to 40 percent less than rival Western models. The sticker price for a standard-equipped Sikorsky S-76C+ is approximately $8 million.
Charter rates for the Mi-17s start at $1,400 per hour, depending on what services customers want included in the contract. According to the Helion spokeswoman, some Western countries are willing to issue temporary operating permits for the Russian rotorcraft and their crews, clearing the way for short-term charters before the aircraft completes the JAA validation process. The company is now seeking work in Cyprus, Spain and Portugal, including contracts to fight forest fires during the peak summer period.
Helion Procopter is based at the former NATO air base at Bitburg, close to Germany’s border with Belgium and Luxembourg. In addition to executive and industrial applications, it is marketing the Russian helicopters for tourist flights.