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MAKS: New lease of life for latest Mi-8/17 variant

Russian Helicopters has shown the first prototype of the Mil Mi-171A2 at the MAKS air show in Moscow - the latest variant of the ubiquitous Soviet-era Mi-8/17 medium-twin helicopter, which traces its lineage back to the 1960s.

Certification trials are under way for the multi-role type, with a second flight test aircraft due to join the programme by December. Approval is targeted for the end of 2014, with service entry following in early 2015.

Updates include new FADEC-equipped Klimov VK-2500PS-03 turboshaft engines, improved main rotor blades and a redesigned tail rotor. Maximum take-off weight has increased by 1,000kg to 13,000kg (29,000lb), while cruise speed also grows by 21kt to 140kt (259km/h), with maximum speed rising to 151kt.

The main gearbox, transmission components and rotor head have been modified, while the main rotor blades are now made from composite material. An X-shaped tail rotor has replaced the previous three-bladed design, leading to a reduction in noise.

Mikhail Komar, director of the Mi-8/17 programme, says test pilots have reported that the new components improve the helicopter's manoeuvrability and cut vibration levels.

Offshore operators have shown interest in the new model, says Komar, but the type will also be offered for other roles, including search-and-rescue and passenger transport.

Russian Helicopters is aiming to reduce acquisition costs through the use of a basic layout with minimum equipment that can be configured for different operational requirements, he adds.