Russian Helicopters, AgustaWestland line up MAKS kick-off for joint venture

Moscow
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Russian Helicopters and AgustaWestland are set to formally kick off their bid to jointly produce a 2.5t-class rotorcraft, with an agreement on the "main principles" and development plan outline to be signed at the MAKS airshow in Moscow later this month.

Speaking at his Moscow head office, Russian Helicopters chief executive Dmitry Petrov added that a final project management and workshare deal would be signed off by year-end, with EASA certification targeted for the final quarter of 2016. A joint group focused on the project has been at work since June 2012, and has produced a mock-up, says Petrov.

The two partners already have a 50:50 joint venture, HeliVert, which assembles AW139s for the Russian and CIS markets at a 40,000m2 (430,000ft2) site at Tomilino, near Moscow. However, the pair have yet to reveal where they will build the proposed 2.5t type.

Meanwhile, Russian Helicopters will also show at MAKS its third prototype of the medium multi-role Kamov Ka-62, which will enter static trials immediately following the show in preparation for a first flight in October-November. The airframer had previously suggested the 6.5t helicopter would make its maiden sortie at the Moscow show.

Prototype four, which will be identical to the serial production version and indistinguishable from number three bar extended windows, will fly from January.

The Ka-62 programme is a top priority for Russian Helicopters, which is contracted to begin deliveries of seven aircraft to Atlas Táxi Aéreo, of Brazil, from 2015.

Petrov is enthusiastic about Brazil, a fast-growing helicopter market where he believes the company's models may prove more attractive than their "Western analogues" owing to lower maintenance requirements.

Petrov says he is equally enthusiastic about prospects elsewhere in Latin America after two years of commercial success. Argentina has also been a bright spot, and he cites Peru and Colombia as "longstanding partners".

The Atlas Táxi deal is spearheading a Latin America strategy that will see a service centre on the ground, followed by a final assembly plant. Petrov says several models including Ka-62 are being considered for final assembly in Brazil; he is revealing no timetable, but expects to detail the project by year-end.

That strategy mirrors its approach in sub-Saharan Africa, where a long-term partnership with Denel Aviation and Paramount in South Africa resulted in the 2012 establishment of a significant service capability.

Talks are now under way, he adds, that could result in South African final assembly of the Kazan Ansat light twin, used predominantly as a trainer by the Russian air force.

As in Latin America, Petrov sees Africa as a high-growth region for Russian Helicopters.

The company's Mil and Kamov brands are operated in large numbers there, having been "loaned" to newly independent countries during Soviet times. But today, says Petrov, deals are on normal commercial terms and he expects to sign "a number of contracts" this year.