Russia's Ministry for Emergencies Awaits Ka-226 Delivery
By Vovick Karnozov
AWN Moscow-Based Columnist
Russia's Ministry for Emergencies (Russian acronym MChS) continues to fund two major programs on development of new aircraft, the Kamov Ka-226 helicopter and the Beriev Be-200 amphibian jet.
In an interview with AWN, deputy minister Ivan Faleyev said that the ministry does not fund any other long-term aviation projects so as to have its financial resources concentrated on the two major efforts, and thus guarantee their materialization.
Reportedly, the Strela factory in Orenburg is well on track to deliver the first three Ka-226s in the MChS-specified configuration by the end of this year. Earlier it was reported that by the beginning of June, Kamov had passed all critical stages of the Ka-226 flight test and certification program using two operable prototypes.
Delays with the original schedule agreed upon in 1995, according to which Kamov and Strela had to deliver the first series-built Ka-226 to MChS by the end of 1999, were caused by the August 1998 crisis. Because MChS is a governmental structure fully funded from the state budget, it could not provide sufficient funding in real prices in the second part of 1998 and early 1999. It is understood that it was only until the financial year 2000 when MChS managed to provide sufficient budgetary funding in real prices sufficient to ensure first aircraft deliveries later this year.
Except for MChS, considerable support for the Ka-226 effort has been provided by administrations of Moscow city and Orenburg Region. Kamov company, which is based in Moscow's suburb Lyubertsy, has enjoyed "very special" attention of the city government - the latter, by awarding the company some orders for aerial work and deliveries of helicopters to the municipal structures, has tried to help Kamov managers keep the company's skilled personnel in place.
In cooperation with MChS and the major Moscow medicine institutes and hospitals, Moscow city government has set up a helicopter-based quick-reaction medical evacuation system for the Russian capital. Medical evacuation missions in Moscow are now routinely flown by a handful of helicopters, including Bo-105s belonging to MChS. Along with those, fire-fighting, street traffic observation, ecological monitoring and special police missions are flown by Mi-2, Mi-8, Mi-26 and Ka-32 helicopters belonging to various structures under supervision of the Moscow city government.
Helicopter services in Moscow are not yet that popular and sufficient as in the capitals of the Western Europe, Faleyev admitted. At the same time, MChS and its partners have achieved considerable results in personnel training and working out the respective technologies.
"We have worked out the major technologies of using helicopters in urban regions. These technologies have been mastered by helicopter crews, medical and ground support personnel," Faleyev claimed.
For the purpose of mastering these technologies, four years ago MChS purchased several Bo-105 and VK-117 helicopters from Eurocopter in the view of absence of modern light helicopters of local design.
"Operating these western aircraft helped us to prepare detailed specifications to a light indigenous helicopter intended for multirole service in urban regions," Faleyev said.
Although the initial Ka-226 design was found capable of meeting these requirements, Kamov engineers had to spend a year working closely with MChS specialists before the two organizations compiled the final version of the specification. Such a long time was necessity to make the helicopter able to provide a good airborne platform for MChS rescue teams.
The Ka-226 design is based on that of the Ka-26 from which it inherited overall dimensions, general layout, some structural members in the airframe and certain on-board systems. The major differences from the 30-year-old design are confined to the powerplant (two turboshaft Rolls-Royce Allison-250-C20R engines, 450 hp each replaced two outdated piston motors) and avionics.
Like its predecessor the Ka-226 has a coaxial rotor system which, although more complicated than the classic "anti-torque tail prop plus main rotor" configuration, features higher aerodynamic efficiency, better controllability and easier handling. Also, the coaxial rotor system is more compact, ensuring higher safety when flying rescue, medical evacuation and fire fighting missions in a city, especially in poor weather conditions. In future, the Ka-226 will be available in versions including those with Russian (Klimov) or Ukrainian (ZMKB Progress) engines.