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Russian Mi-26T Helicopter Visits Whitehorse, Yukon


Click on each photo to enlarge it

    On May 5, 2006, Whitehorse received a visitor that brought out plane-watchers by the hundreds (more about that on the ExploreNorth Blog. It was an Mi-26T helicopter, the largest current-production helicopter in the world, en route to the Northwest Territories where it has been contracted to do some heavy freight hauls for a diamond mine. This extreme method of transport became necessary when the ice roads normally used melted much earlier than normal. The helicopter is operated by UTair, the world's largest operator of Russian-produced helicopters.

    Most people seemed to be surprised by how quiet the huge bird is - CBC radio had stated (obviously tongue-in-cheek) that we'd be able to hear it when it went over Haines Junction, 80 air miles west. The more rotors a helicopter has, however, the quieter it is, and the Mi-26 was the first in the world to use 8 main rotors (its maiden flight was December 14, 1977). Built by Mil in Moscow, the aircraft has impressive specs:

  • powered by two 10,000 shp ZMKB Progress (Lotarev) D-136 turboshaft engines - some variations raise that horsepower as high as 14,350shp
  • 111 feet long (for comparison, a Boeing 737/200 is 100.2 feet long)
  • main rotor diameter is 105 feet, tail rotor diameter 25 feet, length overall with rotors turning is 131.3 feet
  • cruise speed 160 mph (255 kmh)
  • freight capacity: 22 tons (a Lockheed C-130 Hercules can carry 21 tons)
  • passenger capacity: 90 people in military configuration, 63 in airliner configuration (4 abreast)

    In the 1960s, Mil built the V-12, a giant twin-rotor helicopter with an overall rotor-tip span of 219 feet 10 inches and powered by four 6,500-shp Soloviev D-25VF turboshaft engines. It is the largest helicopter ever built, but proved to be impractical, and the Mi-26 (which has a slightly greater carrying capacity) was its replacement.