Kazan Helicopters getting involved in fight against forest fires

Two rotorcraft have already been transferred to Avialesookhrana, four more are going to be handed over ahead of schedule

Kazan Helicopters getting involved in fight against forest fires
Photo: Maksim Platonov

Kazan Helicopters Plant of the Russian Helicopters Holding is trying to gain a foothold in the elite segment of specialised fire-fighting helicopters that have not been built in Kazan for several decades. With the beginning of the renewal of the fleet of aviation equipment subordinated to the Federal Forestry Agency Avialesookhrana, Kazan Helicopters received a contract for the supply of six Mi-8MTV-1 helicopters worth 3,2 billion rubles. On 21 December, the head of Avialesookhrana, Nikolay Krivosheev, solemnly received symbolic keys for the first two cars, and four more helicopters were promised ahead of schedule before the onset of summer, when most of the forest fires occur in the taiga regions of Siberia and the Far East.

Avialesookhrana flying up

Starting next year, a squadron of Kazan Mi-8MTV-1 helicopters will be sent to extinguish wildland fires in remote areas of Siberia, Transbaikal and the Far East. In a solemn atmosphere at the Kazan Helicopters Plant, the first two fire-fighting vehicles built by order of the Avialesookhrana were handed over. The handover of the helicopters took place within the framework of the large state contract for the supply of six specialised helicopters, concluded at the end of this year. According to its terms, Kazan Helicopters is obliged to ship the equipment by the end of 2022, but the plant undertook to fulfill the contract ahead of schedule.

Vladislav Saveliev, the deputy director general of the Russian Helicopters Holding, said that the first machines were ready in two months (after signing the contract — ed.), and the plant promised to deliver four more in the first half of 2022. Saveliev explained this activity by that Kazan Helicopters is interested in participating in the “large programme to equip the fleet of aviation equipment of the Avialesookhrana”.

In the coming days, the built helicopters will go to their base: to the interregional forest fire centre Sever in Krasnoyarsk, which was created at the instruction of the president of the Russian Federation to protect the Baikal natural territory and the forest fund of Siberia and the Far East from fires.

Vladislav Saveliev said that the first machines were ready in two months after signing the contract, and the plant promised to deliver four more in the first half of 2022

The Minister of Natural Resources and Ecology of Russia, Alexander Kozlov, who joined the ceremony via video conference, seemed to be more pleased than the others.

“I've heard your important message that four more helicopters will be delivered in the second quarter," he took the helicopter manufacturer up on that.

Sever Centre will also be responsible for federal nature reserves

According to him, the creation of the forest fire centre Sever, where the helicopters will be based, is an event of paramount importance.

“It is from Sever that our paratroopers will be sent to extinguish forest fires in hard-to-reach and remote territories. The helicopters of Sever will fly in the sky over Irkutsk Oblast, Yakutia, Transbaikal, Buryatia, Krasnoyarsk Krai, over the Baikal natural territory," he said.

The Russian government allocated 5 billion rubles for staffing the centre with personnel, aviation and ground equipment, of which 3,2 billion rubles were allocated for the purchase of air equipment, the customers explained. Until now, the Federal Forest Protection Service has leased flight equipment to extinguish fires from the Ministry of Defence of the Russian Federation or from Utair Airlines. But this was not always convenient, since when extinguishing fires, the “golden hour rule” applies, when fire damage increases with the duration of the disaster. To respond promptly to fires, the service must have its own aircraft.

We add that the permission of the flight operator of Avialesookhrana was received in 2019, when it acquired a foreign Robinson helicopter. By that time, Ansat was not ready in a fire-fighting configuration.

Russian government allocated 5 billion rubles for staffing the centre with personnel, aviation and ground equipment, of which 3,2 billion rubles were allocated for the purchase of air equipment

Kazan Helicopters lift 4 tonnes of water

Mi-8MTV-1 helicopters are capable of lifting up to 4 tonnes of water and 22 paratroopers into the air, and in terms of economical fuel consumption, they surpass competitors — Ka-32 and Mi-26 (up to 10 tonnes of water).

“Why have they been chosen? We extinguish fires where it is unaccessible for equipment, bulldozers, and first of all, we need air delivery vehicles," the head of the Avialesookhrana, Nikolay Krivosheev, explained the choice. “These two cars are equipped with additional tanks and can cover a distance of 1,000 km (that is, they can take firefighters back — ed.). Plus, power plants can operate in different temperature conditions.”

Answering the clarifying question from journalists whether there is a request for equipment with a large volume of water discharge, he said that “this task has been solved”.

“There are other machines that can work with other water discharge devices — this is the Mi-26," he said.

According to him, the service would like to “definitely expand the fleet”,but did not provide specific data. “We are striving for this," Nikolay Krivosheev said.

Later, Vladislav Saveliev, the deputy director general of the Russian Helicopters holding, added that there is another modification in the holding line — Mi171-M3, which is capable of lifting 5 tonnes of water.

“We extinguish fires where it is unaccessible for equipment, bulldozers, and first of all we need air delivery vehicles," explained Nikolay Krivosheev

Kazan Helicopters aimed at 100 helicopters, but there are no workers

Meanwhile, Kazan Helicopters is increasingly immersed in the production of helicopters for the Russian market. According to Vladislav Saveliev, this year the plant plans to hand over about 70 helicopters for various purposes, and in the future to “grow” to 100 units.

“The management of the holding sets the task to increase production: a very large programme of equipping air ambulance, deliveries of fire helicopters have begun. Besides, it is necessary to expand the production of the Mi-38," he listed the main areas of work.

In the meantime, the delivery of all 70 cars remains in question.

“If everything goes well, customers will accept helicopters, then perhaps, this figure will be confirmed. In any case, more than 50 helicopters have already been delivered. We will work — there are still two weeks ahead," he said.

Kazan Helicopters, like the rest of the defence industry enterprises, has faced a shortage of workers. The managing director of Kazan Helicopters Plant, Vladimir Ginsburg, announced a 4% increase in wages for all employees of the enterprise from December 1. Besides, by the decision of the general director, the wages of machine operators have been increased by 20% since January 1. Workers in hazardous industries — painters and slingers — by 30%. According to him, the personnel issue is acute at the enterprise and now the main task is “to return those people who left the team for various reasons”.

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Luiza Ignatyeva. Photo: Maksim Platonov
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