New Schedule, Specs for VRT500 Light Helicopter

 - August 29, 2019, 8:55 AM
(Photo: Vladimir Karnozov)

Russian Helicopters intends to fly a development prototype of the VRT500 light rotorcraft in late 2020, a year behind the original plan, and start series production at the corporation’s UUAZ plant in Ulan-Ude in 2023, some two years later the previous schedule. The manufacturer hopes for a production run between 700 and 1,000 examples, competing with the Bell 505 and Robinson R66.

The development effort is led by Moscow headquartered VR-Technologies (also referred to as VRTECH.AERO), which used to be an independent company but now is a full member of Russian Helicopters. This week at MAKS 2019, the design house is exhibiting a refined full-scale mockup.

The mockup was unveiled at HeliRussia 2018, and since then the gross weight has increased by 140 pounds, up to 3640 pounds, and payload in the cabin by 10 pounds, to 1,610, while that on the sling jumped to 2,000 pounds. Its structural weight is given at 2,030 pounds and flight endurance at 348 minutes. The VRT500 will be able to cruise 465 nautical miles at a speed of 130 knots (against 124 previously) with a pilot and five passengers. These take seats in the cabin measuring 187 cu ft in volume with 46.61 sq ft in floor space.

VRT500 on display flight deck
(Photo: Vladimir Karnozov)

Speaking to AIN at MAKS 2019, VR-Technology employees stressed that the coaxial rotor design developed for the VRT500 and already tested in the wind tubes and test benches provides for optimal performance in urban environments when for passenger-carrying and medical evacuation duties, the two key areas for the new helicopter’s application. The rotor is 8.4 meters in diameter, using a total of six blades made of carbon fiber.

Absence of the tail rotor provides for safer landings and risk-free loading and unloading operations. Sliding doors at the rear ease placing a patient on stretchers inside the cabin, a major advantage over classic designs on medical evacuation operations in confined space situations often observed in big cities.

Surprisingly, the developer has not selected the motor yet. This makes it difficult to meet target dates for the VRT500 flight-test program. Taking account of the tightening regime of U.S. and EU sanctions, it is now more likely to come from indigenous manufacturers rather than Safran as VR-Technologies had hoped for.

Requirement for takeoff power for a single-engine design falls in between 500 and 600 shp, but with a lack of local designs in that class, the developer might need to rework the initial design for application of the 800-shp Klimov VK800.