Kazan multipurpose helicopter Mi-38 flies to be premiered in Emirates

The future of Kazan Helicopters depends on the machine’s success, but it won’t have an easy victory, independent experts warn

The world premiere of the heavy civil helicopter Mi-38 is prepared at Dubai Airshow 2019. It is the leading international exhibition and an airshow — one of the fastest-growing airshows in the world. Despite expectations, the Kazan Mi-38 won’t be decked in the style of Aurus as it was done at the Russian presentation of Ansat, but the latest helicopter will be equipped with Russian engines TV7-117V instead of American Pratt & Whitney, the press service of Kazan Helicopters confirmed. Export prospects of the Kazan factory depend on the success of the machine among Arab and Chinese potential clients at the exhibition, independent experts note in a talk with Realnoe Vremya.

Mi-38’s world premiere without Aurus

Dubai Airshow 2019 will for the first time show the latest civil helicopter Mi-38 by Kazan Helicopters, the press service of Russian Helicopters said. The world premiere of the long-awaited helicopter of Kazan Helicopters will take place on the territory of the transport and logistic complex Dubai World Central where an exposition with novelties will open and the traditional airshow is held. Multipurpose fighter aircraft and planes from different countries of the world are expected to be presented here.

Russian Helicopters will present the Mi-38, which is considered a heavy vehicle, with a VIP cabin. Interestingly, it was decided not to resort to the high-profile marketing approach at the premiere — to design the interior of the Mi-38 in the branded style of Aurus as it was done during the Russian presentation of Ansat at MAKS-2019 in Zhukovsky.

The press service of the holding laconically denied the assumption that the “Arab” version of the Mi-38 might reproduce the interior of Aurus. The livery and the design of the VIP cabin design are kept in secret. “When developing the interior of the helicopter, the latest technical solutions in safety and comfort were applied,” Russian Helicopters specified.

Russian engine

The latest helicopter will be equipped with Russian engines TV7-117V instead of American Pratt & Whitney the helicopter was designed with at first, the press service of Kazan Helicopters explained to Realnoe Vremya. Noting technical advantages of the new helicopters, Russian Helicopters indicate that “a scheme with the rear location of engines in front of the main Mi-38 gearbox was chosen instead of the traditional placement, which allowed reducing the air pressure and noise level in the cabin and enhancing the machine’s safety”. Also, the Mi-38’s price is a competitive advantage that compares it favourably with foreign analogues in this class of helicopters, the producer stresses.

The project Mi-38 developed with federal money. “R&D and tests were financed by the Ministry of Industry and Trade of Russia,” representatives of Russian Helicopters explain but don’t name the total sum of costs.

“The helicopter was initially designed considering the compliance with the strictest latest and future security, eco-friendliness and noise rules. Great attention, however, was paid to meet clients’ needs in performance-related and economic characteristics. Engineers took a series of measures aimed to expand the possibilities and provide the maximum universality of the helicopter’s use further. Refinements designed to provide reliable and comfortable performance of the new machine in a hot climate and in the desert must be of great interest for clients from Middle Eastern countries,” Minister of Industry and Trade of Russia Denis Manturov noted.

Together with Ansat: both helicopters to show off in the sky over UAE

The exhibition programme of Mi-38 envisages that the helicopter will be demonstrating not only at the static exposition of Russian Helicopters holding but also participating in exhibition flights.

“Dubai Airshow will become the first foreign site where we will demonstrate our latest Mi-38, so we can be talking about the world premiere of this machine,” Director General of Russian Helicopters Andrey Boginsky claimed.

Besides, Kazan Helicopters will present light helicopter Ansat, which is already well-known in the world market. After its European debut in Salon du Bourget, it will be exhibited for the first time in the Middle East. The machine will also participate in the exhibition flights. Ansat was included in the exposition because urban mobility dynamically develops in the UAE.

Fate of Kazan Helicopters depend on success of Mi-38

What is the benefit of the Middle Eastern air show for Kazan Helicopters? Should one expect the signing of export agreements? Russian Helicopters prefer not to reveal the ideas in advance. The press service of Kazan Helicopters said that it was planned to discuss prospects of exports with potential clients at the air show who will see Russian developments not in miniature but in the sky.

“Who might be interested in this machine? There is no need to guess here: it is same China, India, the Middle East, Southeast Asian countries and even CIS countries. As we remember, the Mi-38 was initially designed with Pratt & Whitney engines. Undoubtedly, if it entered the world market with these engines, it would be easier to accept it (Editor’s Note: sanctions impeded it),” Editor-in-Chief of Weaponry Export magazine Andrey Frolov noted in a talk with Realnoe Vremya.

In his opinion, the UAE was chosen as a site for the Mi-38’s world premiere because this country is ready for joint high-tech projects with Russia. “Agreements on joint production are looming. And if we allow that we could agree on a joint venture to produce Mi-38s in the UAE, we can close the engine issue. And then the machine becomes more attractive for the foreign buyer,” he noted. The Mi-38 with Russian engines will be in demand among Russian clients.

“The market niche is narrow for VIP vehicles, and competition is high enough. Volume is measured in units. It will be hard to work its way,” Senior Researcher at the Zhukovsky Academy Yevgeny Matveyev is sure. “Battle in this niche is not only in performance-related characteristics, price parameters because the machine is already expensive. Political motives will become a decisive factor. This machine is designed for top officials, leaders of countries, this is why much will turn on the political weight of the manufacturing country. We have our niche in countries with pro-Russian moods.”

At the same time, the experts openly said that the future of Kazan Helicopters will depend on the success at Dubai Airshow 2019. “The success of the M-38 for Kazan Helicopters is a matter of survival,” Andrey Frolov notes. “Neither Ansat nor other variants of new types of helicopters solve the issue of the utilisation rate at Kazan Helicopters fully. The $1-billion Indian contract remains unsigned. The problem gets worse because unlike the Ulan-Ude aviation factory Kazan Helicopters doesn’t have the updated livery of popular machines, while the resources of the Mi-17 are about to end.”

By Luiza Ignatyeva