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Dmitry Petrov: “We work closely with our clients”

24.05.2013 / "Take Off" Magazine

The Chief Executive Officer of Russian Helicopters on the Company’s new projects

Russian Helicopters, which brings together all of Russia’s major helicopter design bureaus and manufacturers, continues to ramp up production and supplies. Based on financial performance in 2012, the company’s consolidated revenues exceeded RUB125 billion, equivalent to 21% growth in just one year. Total helicopter sales to clients increased by almost 11%. The strategy of ramping up the Company’s innovation potential is reflected in increased spending on research and development, up 16% to RUB 5.3 billion in 2012. At present the Company is working on a number of upd ated and new models, including the Ka-226ТMi-171А2Mi-26Т2Ka-62 and Russian Advanced Commercial Helicopter (Rachel). Some of these models have already undergone test trials, while others are at the design stage or the first prototypes are being built. On the eve of the HeliRussia 2013 exhibition, “Take-off” magazine (Russian: “Vzlet”) asked Russian Helicopters Chief Executive Officer Dmitry Petrov to provide a progress report on the new models and also talk about several other relevant programs being implemented by Russian Helicopters.

Last year Russian Helicopters announced that it was assembling prototypes representing a fundamental upgrade of the medium-range Mi-171A2. Has testing already started? Do you have an idea about the clientele for these helicopters?

The analysis of the helicopter market that we launched at the same time as consolidation got under way in the industry had already demonstrated by 2009 that in the medium term maintaining the positive dynamics for sales of Russian helicopters would depend on launching new models and would rely to a significant extent on the sector’s ability to focus on offering effective upgrades in what we perceive to be our traditional niches. This concerned first and foremost the Mi-8/17 series – traditionally this has been a Russian best seller. The helicopter required a radical upgrade if we wanted to guarantee sustainable sales in this sector on the global market 10-15 years down the line. We decided to launch a programme that would enable us to create a new version of the Mi-8/17 helicopter series and thereby retain Russia’s dominance in the niche market of medium multi-role helicopters.

Today the programme of creating a new modernised medium multi-role Mi-171A2 is developing in line with our current plans. The flying simulator has already been manufactured: a new rotor system has been installed on the helicopter, with the main rotor and blades created fr om composite materials, X-wing tail rotor, modified hub and swashplate.

Tests of the new rotor system have been successful: the level of vibrations has been reduced materially. The tests also confirmed a maximum speed of approximately 300km/hour. The design of the rotor system based on the newest composite materials has increased the thrust thanks only to the new main rotor by 700kg.

The first prototype of the Mi-171A2 is being assembled at present. New avionics and new radio electronic equipment are at the final assembly stage. New VK-2500 engines are being installed. We plan to showcase the first Mi-171A2 prototypeto the general public at the MAKS-2013 air show, where we will be able to demonstrate it for the first time to helicopter operators and find out what they think about the new helicopter.

The Mi-171A2 project was initially conceived and implemented as a joint project with helicopter operators interested in acquiring new Russian helicopters in future. Now the Mi-171A2 is already showing up in marketing presentations all over the world and is attracting considerable attention fr om potential clients.

Major aviation companies with flight operations all over the world are displaying an interest in the helicopter, including in the oil and gas sector and also state structures. In addition Rostec State Corporation – our parent company – supports the international expansion of Russian Helicopters. Rostec leverages for this purpose its own representative office in 50 countries, including in emerging markets, in China, Africa and Latin America. I am proud to announce that we have currently secured a portfolio of tentative contracts for the supply of several dozen Mi-171A2 helicopters.

At the same time we are busy working on the certification of the helicopters, with completion of the process planned for the end of 2014. We anticipate that mass production of the Mi-171A2 will start in 2015.

The modified version of the Mi-38 helicopter with Russian-made TV7-117V engines made its debut in the static display at the MAKS 2011 air show. Have the flight tests of this version started? What is holding back the test programme? When can we expect certification of the Mi-38 and the start of mass production and supplies? Do you already have orders for this helicopter?

Today the creation of the Mi-38 helicopter is entering a new stage: Russian Helicopters has completed the assembly of the third prototype and will soon transfer it to the helicopter designer – Mil Design Bureau – for test flights.

The third Mi-38 prototype is equipped with the new Russian TV-117V engines developed by OJSC Klimov. The bench trials are taking slightly longer for this engine than had been expected, which is slowing somewhat the test programme of the actual helicopter. However, Klimov plans to transfer two prototype engines for the Mi-38. As a result we will already be able to commence the land-based trial runs of the third Mi-38 prototype in June-July 2013.

Furthermore, Kazan Helicopter Plant has already started preparing the assembly of the fourth flight prototype of the Mi-38. According to the plant’s plans, the fuselage for this prototype should be manufactured in the first half of 2013. The standard helicopter design of forth prototype differs fr om the third prototype due to the shockproof fuel system manufactured by Aerazur and the expanded window apertures. In addition to the flight prototypes, in 2013 R&D work on the Mi-38 includes plans to manufacture the fuselage and kits of certain components for the performance of fatigue tests, and also certain units and parts for bench trials.

The fourth Mi-38 prototype will be the last one – during these tests we plan to obtain the final data necessary to commence the commercial operations of the helicopter. Mass production of Mi-38 helicopters is scheduled for 2015. We had planned to offer the helicopter to clients with two types of engines: the Russian TV7-117V developed by Klimov and the PW127TS developed by Pratt & Whitney. Unfortunately, to date the necessary permission for the supply of Series PW127 turboshaft engines in Russia has not been obtained fr om the US State Department. Today we continue to cooperate with our foreign partners in our efforts to obtain this permit.

The aviation departments of Russia’s national security, defence and law enforcement agencies are already displaying an interest in the Mi-38. Once the Mi-38 test flights are completed, we also anticipate significant demand for the helicopter from commercial airlines.

At the Farnborough Air Show in July 2012 Russian Helicopters for the first time demonstrated the Russian Advanced Commercial Helicopter (RACHEL), which should at some point in the future replace the current Mi-8/17 and complement the heavier Mi-38 in the model range of Russian Helicopters. Can you indicate the current status of this work and tell us when we can expect test flights? Does this mean that the previous programme of the high-speed helicopter will develop through the creation of the RACHEL?

We decided to prioritise development of the RACHEL programme in 2012. We are making rapid progress. The combination of speed, cost parameters and the level of technical risk, led us to opt for the advanced helicopter concept, which is being developed as part of the RACHEL programme. This concept revolves around the cost effectiveness of the future helicopter and implies a moderate increase in speed – approximately 25 percent faster than current equivalents. At the same time, however, we are still researching ways to increase the speed even more. We believe that these technologies show promise and may well be in demand when we create military helicopters.

We showcased one possible configuration of the advanced medium helicopter based on the RACHEL concept at Farnborough 2012. We are making progress on the general design of the future helicopter. However, let me stress that as the programme develops, the design will be upd ated and we will make changes that further improve its characteristics. Today it is essential that Russian Helicopters have a visual image that can serve as the basis for work with potential suppliers of systems and potential clients.

Research into the market together with aviation operators helped Russian Helicopters identify a number of the key features of the future helicopter and factor in a number of concept designs in the advanced helicopter programme, which in our opinion combine most successfully technologies and environmental properties with a high level of cost effectiveness of the future flying machine.

We would like to recall here that Russian Helicopters intends to create an advanced multi-role commercial helicopter weighing 10-12 tonnes that is tailored to the requirements of the aviation market. The passenger version of the helicopter will be equipped with a comfortable cabin and be able to transport 21-24 passengers. Specialist versions of the helicopter are also being developed: search and rescue, patrol and medical. We believe that this helicopter could become a new product in the Russian helicopter industry, which will gradually replace the fleet of helicopters from the Mi-8/17 family. Over the long term we expect it to consolidate the company’s positions on traditional markets jointly with the heavier Mi-38 helicopter.

Last year it was disclosed that Russian Helicopters had stopped the Mi-34S1 programme and intended to develop the advanced light aircraft jointly with Italian partners. Have any details on the concept of the advanced light aircraft been determined? How will this work be performed and what are the deadlines?

I would like to say here that the framework agreement on the joint development and creation of the new Russian-Italian helicopter signed by Russian Helicopters and AgustaWestland at last year's Farnborough Air Show represented continuation of our successful cooperation with our Italian partners as part of the HeliVert joint venture, which manufactures AW139 helicopters in Moscow region.

Together we have managed to accumulate unique experience in collaboration, which has evolved into a new joint project that each party considers as an add-on to their existing businesses. For example, this represents an opportunity for Russian Helicopters to offer markets in Russia and other CIS countries a new product in one of the most promising segments. We perceive potential for this helicopter in Russia, with due account of the nature of the helicopter’s functionality and the characteristics of the current fleet on the domestic market.

I would like to point out here that the all parties to the agreement were extremely eager to start the joint work. The Russian party conducted wide-ranging research of the target market, obtaining positive feedback from helicopter operators: they said that they needed this helicopter and would be ready to collaborate with us. We were particularly interested in learning about their requirements for the future helicopter and duly received them.

I would prefer not to disclose the current status of work with our Italian partners, as the agreement we signed stipulates non-disclosure of our confidential positions. In general, however, the tasks at this stage for each participant in the project can be summed up as approval of the possible design of the new helicopter, with due account of traditional market interests. As I have already said, we are prioritising the domestic market, which demands a lighter helicopter than the Mi-8/17, but at the same time one that is as economically effective. AgustaWestland’s business is also strongly tied to its traditional markets, while the new helicopter could become a good add-on to the company’s existing product line.

After due analysis, the parties are agreeing on the main parameters of the future work. For the time being we are not se tting binding deadlines. However, let me repeat that the project has attracted significant interest.

In December 2012, the first AW139 helicopter assembled in Russia performed its maiden flight in Tomilino, Moscow region. When will the helicopter be ready for supplies? How many AW139 helicopters will be assembled by the HeliVert joint venture this year? Who are the clients?

The first AW139 helicopter assembled in Russia with tail number 60001 performed its maiden flight in December 2012. Testing is scheduled for completion after the installation of the cabin interior in May this year. Then we plan to perform another one or two flights and expect to complete the test programme of tail number 60001 at this level. We expect this helicopter to be ready for supply at the end of May 2013.

Tests of the second AW139 helicopter with tail number 60002, manufactured in Tomilino, are being performed in accordance with the schedule approved by the Russian aviation authorities. A number of flights are being performed for May. Now work is being performed on the interior and paint in accordance with the scheme approved by the helicopter’s client. We expect the tests of AW139 No. 60002 to be completed at the end of June 2013.

The HeliVert JV in Tomilino plans this year to assemble three VIP AW139 helicopters. Commercial companies will buy these helicopters.

At the most recent exhibition of HeliRussia 2012, wh ere Russian Helicopters demonstrated a full-size mock up of the newest Ka-62 helicopter, it was announced that the tests of a prototype would start this year. What is the current status of the programme? How do you plan to “separate” on the market the Ka-62 and AW139 assembled in Russia that are similar both in size and designation? What would you cite as differences between them from the perspective of potential clients?

The programme implemented by Russian Helicopters to create a new medium multi-role Ka-62 helicopter is proceeding in accordance with the approved schedule. Today the Progress Arsenyev Aviation Company, wh ere we plan to mass produce the Ka-62, is assembling two prototypes. The design documentation of the helicopter has been issued, the tests have been successful and have confirmed the declared characteristics of the first Turbomeca Ardiden 3G turboshaft engines supplied for installation on the Ka-62 prototype helicopter. We expect that the batch of first gearboxes manufactured by the Austrian firm Zoerkler will be supplied in May 2013.

In accordance with the approved plans, the Ka-62 helicopter may already perform its first flight by the end of summer 2013 when MAKS-2013 will be held. I am convinced that presenting the first Ка-62 to the experts and the international public would be a highlight at the air show. However, the reliability and safety of our equipment comes first. Consequently, the planned tests need to be completed by the indicated deadline if the Ka-62 is to perform its maiden flight at MAKS-2013. We have se t ourselves this goal.

We already have experience of installing the systems and units of foreign manufacturers on Russian helicopters. However, their integration on the Ka-62 requires particular attention from the project’s participants – the functioning of individual helicopter parts could require additional testing. Consequently we will only demonstrate the Ka-62 at MAKS 2013 in flight if we are 100% convinced that the helicopter is ready to perform an effective flight programme. We believe in showing the full potential of the new Russian helicopter to existing and potential customers.

Ka-62 certification should be completed by the end of 2014. Based on our plans, the first batch of helicopters will be supplied in 2015.

If I now turn to the markets for Ka-62 and AW139, we have declared repeatedly that the helicopters operate in different niches. We believe that the AW139 manufactured in Russia will be a good corporate helicopter for VIP flights. This is the reason why the distributor is performing priority work with such clients. The new Ka-62 is a more utilitarian helicopter performing tasks that are close to the traditional Russian Mi-8/17, but is lighter and more effective for transport operations, for example, for use in the oil and gas sector. Incidentally in December 2012 the Brazilian company Atlas Taxi Aereo signed a contract for supplies of Ka-62, which will perform precisely this type of work.

When do you expect certification of the modernised version of the Ka-226T to be completed? It has been reported in the press that the initial client of the Ка-226Т, the Russian Ministry of the Russian Federation for Civil Defence, Emergencies and Elimination of the Consequences of Natural Disasters (EMERCOM), filed claims against Russian Helicopters for defaulting on completion of the contract by the established deadline. What was the cause of the delay in supplies? What is the plan for mass production of the Ka-226T this year? Given that the Indian tender is dragging on, whom else do you perceive as clients for Ка-226Т?

Certification of the new light multi-role helicopter Ka-226T is progressing as planned. We expect to complete this process in autumn 2013. It goes without saying that supplies of this helicopter model and further contractual work is being held up by the lack of certification. This factor was the main reason why we had to introduce amendments to the contract with the Russian Ministry of the Russian Federation for Civil Defence, Emergencies and Elimination of the Consequences of Natural Disasters on the extension of the deadline, and our position has met with understanding from the client. I would like to stress here that we are not talking about any violation of the contract: this year there are plans to supply two Ka-226T helicopters to the EMERCOM.

Today I would like to stress the significant interest in Ka-226T helicopters shown by CIS countries and demand for this helicopter from Russia’s state and municipal structures. This is particularly relevant as part of developing air medical service and medical evacuation programmes in Russia – Russian Helicopters is interested in developing this market and intends to take part in talks on the topic at HeliRussia 2013. Clients from a number of countries in the Asia-Pacific Region and the Middle East have also expressed potential interest in the Ka-226T.

Mass production of Ka-226T at this stage planned at the Kumertau Aviation Production Enterprise. Moreover, joint plans are being discussed with leadership of the Republic of Bashkortostan on developing an industrial facility in Kumertau and establishing a new centre of technological competence on the basis of Kumertau Aviation Production Enterprise. At present we are considering a corresponding investment programme.

In a recent interview with ITAR-TASS, the head of Rostvertol declared that the first export contract on the supply of the modernised heavy helicopter Mi-26T2 would be signed any day now. What are the planned markets for these helicopters? Who do you perceive as potential clients of Mi-26T2 in the foreseeable future?

A preliminary understanding has been reached on the possible supply of a batch of Mi-26T2 helicopters through Rosoboroneport. However, as another company is performing the contractual work, Russian Helicopters would prefer not to comment further on this matter.

In our opinion, Mi-26 helicopters today could attract demand from all over the world. We see confirmation on a regular basis – such helicopters are used in complex, unconventional helicopter activities involving the transportation of various types of freight and the performance of construction and assembly work, and excel in dealing with the new challenges.

The Mi-26 is a unique helicopter – there is no comparable product on the market and we don't expect to see anything similar for many years to come. This is why it was modernised before version T2. We anticipate stable demand for the Mi-26Т2 primarily in traditional markets – in Russia and other CIS countries, in Africa, Latin America, and naturally in China wh ere certified Mi-26TS already operate.

Does China plan in future to buy the Mi-26TS? Has there been any progress with the idea of jointly developing a new heavy helicopter? A similar topic was also discussed with European partners – are such negotiations also going on?

China displays regular interest in the Mi-26TS, which has type certification there. We participate on a regular basis in negotiations with our partners and new potential clients and have been informing them about this helicopter and the various options for using the Mi-26TS to the benefit of China’s growing economy. However, it would be premature for me to claim that we are holding any pre-contractual discussions with a particular Chinese company. Negotiations continue – however, the acquisition of even one of these helicopters requires serious funding and we fully understand the position of our Chinese partners.

In addition, even though the Mi-26TS is a low-maintenance helicopter and can be serviced in field conditions, it still requires a modern level of service. China remains a traditional market for Russian helicopters, and we are paying particular attention to developing the Chinese segment of the global system of after-sales service of Russian Helicopters. In this context I would like to mention here the service centre in Qindgao, which is being established within the framework of the Russian-Chinese joint venture Sino-Russian Helicopter Service Company Ltd. Our company’s plans to increase the service component of our business dovetails with market demand – above all from China, wh ere the provision of fully-fledged after-sales service is becoming an important feature for the presence of foreign manufacturers. And this concerns not only Russian companies.

If we turn now to the joint Russian-Chinese heavy helicopter project, we are ready to continue this work as part of regular consultations that are part of our review of potential markets for the new helicopter and identification of the preferred technical features. A similar project was also discussed in the West. Unlike the People's Republic of China, it goes without saying that a market decision was taken. However, it was not the optimal solution that had been proposed by Russian Helicopters. Our European partners opted to develop their own heavy helicopter project, even though we had proposed using the existing Mi-26 platform that has proved so effective. In our opinion our option would have reduced materially the implementation costs of the new European project.

The MAKS air show is traditionally used by Russian Helicopters to showcase new developments. Last time the holding company demonstrated for the first time the prototype Mi-38 and Mi-34S1. What new or modernised models will Russian Helicopters show at the MAKS 2013 Air Show in Zhukovsky in August on land and in the air?

Russian Helicopters plans to demonstrate civilian and military helicopters manufactured in Russia at the International Aviation and Space Show MAKS 2013 – we will try to show the full suite of our existing helicopter models, and also present promising projects.

As I have already said, we plan to demonstrate to the guests of the air show the first prototype of the Ka-62 helicopter, the newest modernisation of the Mi-8/17 helicopter – the Mi-171A2, one of the Mi-38 prototypes, and also other helicopters from different classes – civilian and naturally military helicopters, including the newest military Mi-28NE Night Hunter and Ка-52 Alligator supplied by Russian Helicopters to the Ministry of Defence of Russia under long-term contracts. 

Russian helicopters magazine
Issue #1 (36) 2019
2019 year