Avia Baltika, the Mexico City-based dealership for Kazan Helicopters, is preparing to request approval from the government to go ahead with plans to assemble the Mi-17 in Mexico from kits supplied from Russia.

The plan is part of a broader initiative by Avia Baltika and Mexican-based Kazan parts supplier Sparc Aviation to develop a maintenance, overhaul, inspection and refurbishment site for the country's estimated 60 Mi-8/17s.

The site of the venture is yet to be determined and will depend on the outcome of talks with the government and availability. "We have a lot of faith that it's going to work, and the market definitely needsit," says Avia Baltika executive Carlos Garza.

The company is already planning to install an Mi-8/17 flight simulator in Mexico City, and is beginning refurbishment work on the first of up to 30 helicopters grounded by a lack of parts or other reasons. It also supports spares supplies to the Mexican navy, which operates 20 Mi-8s.

The Latin American and Caribbean region was flooded with cheap Mi-8/17s following the devaluation of the Russian currency in the 1990s, resulting in prices per unit as low as $50,000. Subsequent spares and maintenance issues, leading to the grounding of much of the fleet, led to the emergence of Sparc and Avia Baltika. Garza says the venture will also support sales of upgradedMi-174 I and II versions which are optimised for high-altitude operations, with 1,640kW- (2,200shp) rated TV3-117VM turboshafts, and to carry payloads of up to 5,000kg (11,000lb) at cruise speeds up to 135kt (250km/h). The latest versions cost $3.7 million per unit, making them competitive with similar western-built helicopters. Refurbished aircraft, with new components and systems, will cost $2.5 million each, adds Garza.

Source: Flight International