Runway opens new horizons
The Orsha Aircraft Repair Plant has mastered the serial production of helicopters, enabling them to seriously compete with well-known manufacturers. Thanks to investments, the Belarusian company intends to enter the international helicopter market and the second domestic helicopter, the Mi-8 MSB, has recently been launched.
By Olga Kruchenkova
Key to investor
At the end of 2011, a control packet of shares in the Orsha Aircraft Repair Plant was bought by the Ukrainian company Motor Sich, one of the world’s leading manufacturers of aircraft engines.
“People often ask how we have attracted such a serious company, but the answer is obvious. The investor came to a working factory that has all the certificates and licenses for the reparation and modernisation of helicopters of various designs,” said Director General Vladimir Troitsky.
Motor Sich is committed to creating over three hundred jobs in Bolbasovo within five years, to allocate $12 million for production modernisation and to invest about Br20 billion in the socio-economic development of Bolbasovo. Vladimir Troitsky is sure that the final investment will exceed the stated amount, because two-thirds of that sum has been already allocated so far.
Time to go on a record
The new Mi-8 MSB is a highly modernised version of the world renowned Mi-8T — transport and assault helicopter.
“This machine has a very reliable airframe, so despite the fact that it was developed in the 60s, production has barely changed,” says Vladimir Troitsky. “However, the old model had problems with an engine that did not meet modern requirements for power, altitude, speed and fuel consumption. Motor Sich engineers developed a fifth-generation engine, and most importantly, developed the technical ability to install it on the old fuselage. This is a big alteration that has taken a whole year to master. It was necessary to make more than a thousand parts, to strengthen fuselage and to install the new starting system. At the end, we had a helicopter, unique in its characteristics that surpassed modern ones, including the Mi-8 MTB-5.”
“The advantages of this are impressive. According to the developers, thanks to the turbo shaft engines, a four-kilometre height is reached by the helicopter just in seven minutes against the forty taken by the Mi-8T. The machine is particularly effective in mountainous terrain and high temperatures, and it boasts a 30 per cent increased service life. The new engine saves up to 20 percent of the fuel and increases the flight range up to 600 km without using additional fuel tanks.”
Production of this air-assigned technology will be fully entrusted to the Bolbasovo plant, where the production of all parts and assemblies, except for the engine and gearbox has already been mastered.
“In such a narrow sector it is very difficult to find a niche, but with the Mi-8 MSB we will be able to challenge our competitors,” said the Director General. “The machine is in no way inferior to the new helicopters, and it is half the price. Additionally, there are more than three thousand of old Mi-8Ts throughout the world. It makes no sense to repair them with the old engine, and it would be a shame to throw them away. Now, these owners can modernise them and actually get a ‘new’ helicopter for a third of the price.”
Interest in the new product is tremendous. According to the director, just two weeks after the presentation, a buyer appeared and the first sale will be completed before the end of the year.
The plan for 2014 is to release twenty new helicopters. At the same time, the modernisation of the Mi-2 has begun and, when finished, will have many different characteristics.
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