The Mi-26 helicopter was designed back in the mid-70s of the last century, and the helicopter made its first flight in 1977. The main goal of creating the largest helicopter in the world was the task assigned to aircraft designers to develop a large transport machine, which is suitable for both civilian purposes and military use. The first field tests of the Mi-26 helicopter took place in 1988 when there was a unique military operation related to the transportation of another Mi-8 helicopter shot down in Afghanistan on the external sling. It is worth noting that behind the largest helicopter in the world, the Guinness official record was set, related to the fact that in September 1996, the Mi-26 lifted 224 paratroopers on its board to a height of 6.5 kilometers.
To date, the helicopter is designed to perform a variety of tasks, but primarily related to military use. A combat rotorcraft can transport a huge number of passengers on board, comparable only to an airplane. However, the largest helicopter in the world has a short flight range – with tanks as full as possible, but without cargo, it can fly only about 800 kilometers, after which the Mi-26 needs refueling.
To better understand how big the largest helicopter in the world is in reality, imagine that the length of the helicopter is 40 meters, the diameter of its main rotor is 32 meters and the cargo compartment is 3.2 meters wide. Indeed, the Mi-26 helicopter is the largest in the world, and when viewed from it, it seems that the designers simply attached a lifting screw to the aircraft’s fuselage, thereby obtaining a gigantic aerial vehicle.
Today, the production of Mi-26 helicopters continues, since the need for really large helicopters is growing every day.
The world’s largest helicopter, which not only flies but can carry quite heavy loads, is the Mi-26. This machine can operate in rather harsh Arctic conditions and at the same time lift a load that is impossible for any other helicopter. The airflow from the blades of this machine is so powerful that it can break branches on trees and knock people down.
This helicopter model was completely ready by the end of 1960. Every year, dozens of such giants joined the army, and he also came to civilian organizations, where he worked for the good of his homeland. An even heavier B-12 helicopter was created based on such an aircraft. The Mi-26 itself was developed based on the no less famous Mi-6 helicopter.
More developed countries made great demands on aircraft. For this reason, the designers came up with the idea to improve the existing Mi-6 and create a new Mi-26. The new machine should lift even larger loads, up to 20 tons, and transport them over a distance of 500 kilometers. As for military operations, and civilian use, the new device must rise to a height of one kilometer or more. The heavy helicopter was a new generation machine, its working name among the designers was “product 90”. The design of the product 90, or Mi-26, was approved at the end of 1971. The construction of the first model began in 72, and after three years the State Commission accepted the helicopter. The Mi-26 heavy helicopter only in December 77 completed its first flight, and it lasted only three minutes. The first working models were equipped for military use, and only after a few more years, civilian organizations began to supply this machine.
The civilian model of the helicopter was put into production only in ’85. From the military machine, the civilian version differed mainly only in navigation equipment. The suspension system was also different, with which it was possible to provide the best transportation of sea containers. A specially developed platform allowed increasing the speed of cargo transportation up to 200 km / h. To use the machine in mountain conditions, a grab was developed for it, with which it was possible to transport firewood.
This helicopter has several advantages and records that it set before it went into mass production. Back in 1982, he was able to take a cargo weighing 25 tons and rise with it to a height of 4 thousand meters, and the entire mass of the helicopter at that moment was a little more than 56.7 tons. On this machine, Irina Kopets set nine world records when a woman was at the helm. In August, the 88th record was also the fact that the Mi-26 crew was able to fly in a vicious circle with a length of 2 thousand kilometers at an average speed of 279 km / h. During this flight, the pilots had to go through a strong meteorological front.
Mi-26 is capable of transporting any military equipment, the mass of which does not exceed 20 tons. All military equipment can be loaded under its power through the rear hatch of the helicopter, which opens with two wings. As for manpower, 82 soldiers or 68 parachutists in all equipment can be safely placed in such a cargo helicopter. In the event of hostilities, such a helicopter can be quickly equipped to transport the wounded, which can be placed on a stretcher, in this case, 60 soldiers and three accompanying doctors can fit. During long flights, it is possible to install additional fuel tanks directly in the cargo compartment.
The greatest contribution to the development and production of a new generation of helicopters was made directly by designers G.P. Smirnov and his colleague A.G. Samusenko, the chief designer was appointed O.P. Bach. The customer set very high requirements for the new machine, which has not yet been embodied in any helicopter model. To solve the problem of heavy lifting capacity, the designers had to resort to using a new engine with a capacity of 20 thousand horsepower.
When designing the machine, much attention was paid to the choice of the rotor and its quality parameters. After many experiments, special metal-plastic blades were made, which gave a significant increase in inefficiency. The rotor was designed and assembled with 8 blades and was 28 meters in diameter. The use of new materials allowed to reduce weight by 40%, it turned out even easier than the five-blade Mi-6. They decided to make an HB sleeve of such a large size from an alloy of titanium, which allowed it to reduce its total weight, and at the same time, the strength did not decrease. Compared to the Mi-6, the tail propeller of the Mi-26 was a very revolutionary design move, since it was made of fiberglass and the Mi-6 had a wooden propeller.
The big problem for the designers was the task of connecting two engines into a single unit with the help of a gearbox, for this a specially designed gearbox of the VR-26 brand was used. The main feature of the gearbox was that it was not engineers who designed and manufactured it, but, as it was before, at Mil’s company. Innovations in the manufactured gearbox made it possible to transfer twice as much power to the main screw than it was in the Mi-6.
Like it or not, the weight for all air units is the main problem. The designers were able to use new materials here, which allowed reducing the weight of the machine to the weight of the Mi-6, but at the same time, the cargo compartment and the cabin were almost doubled. It should be noted that increasing the dimensions and reducing the weight of the unit did not reduce the strength and rigidity of the helicopter fuselage.
Experienced designers took into account the shortcomings and vulnerabilities of all previous helicopter models. The main changes also affected the air intakes. Before they were installed a dustproof device that allows you to clean the air by 70%. This innovation allowed takeoff from dusty areas, while the engine power was practically not reduced. The Mi-26 was well thought out machine maintenance. To do without airfield services, a new aircraft cleaning system was installed on the helicopter. They also thought about the comfortable work of mechanics, since they always had to resort to using a stepladder, and now all the hoods are made in the form of work platforms.
For more convenient loading and unloading, the helicopter is equipped with two winches, which have a carrying capacity of 5 tons. There was also the possibility of raising and lowering the loading ramp using hydraulics, and this device can be controlled from the cockpit, from the loading compartment, and even outside the machine itself. As for loading, it can be noted here that the designers did a very big job since there are many functions for more convenient loading both from cars and from the ground.
The helicopter was equipped according to the latest achievements of science and technology. Weather radar was installed on the Mi-26, which allows you to fly in any weather conditions and at any time of the day or night. This device is very accurate and allows you to calculate the flight area with an area of 1900 km, and the time to prepare this device takes only 10 minutes. This helicopter was equipped with a three-channel autopilot, the latest flight data recording system, and message recording, which allows the crew to be notified of dangers and malfunctions.
The Mi-26 cargo helicopter can rightfully be considered the star of air shows around the world, as well as the owner of many world awards and records. However, in recent years, namely, after the collapse of the USSR, the cost of armament and production of this legendary machine has significantly decreased. But the history of this unit is far from over. Recently, this type of helicopter is widely used for commercial purposes in the territories of many states. The first models of this helicopter could fly without repair for six hundred hours, and today civilian models can fly up to 1200 hours without repair. The total operating time of the Mi-26 is 20 years or 8 thousand hours.
Today, the production of Mi-26 helicopters continues, but in small batches and on special orders.
- Mi-26 first production modification
- Mi-26A modification with an integrated control and navigation system for automatic approach and landing at a given location.
- Mi-26K designed a heavy crane helicopter with a maximum payload increased to 25 tons (see separate description).
- Mi-26L flying laboratory.
- Mi-26M is an improved version of the helicopter with a new main rotor with improved aerodynamics of the blades, new GTD D-127 ZMKB “Progress” with a capacity of 10440 kW each, and advanced equipment. The helicopter has improved performance when operating in conditions of high air temperatures and high-level runways and the event of a single-engine failure. The maximum transported load was increased to 25 tons. In 1992, an advanced project was developed, an experimental helicopter was under construction, mass production is planned after 1996. In 1993, a helicopter model was demonstrated at the 40th aerospace exhibition in Paris.
- Mi-26NEF-M anti-submarine. In 1990, 1 serial Mi-26 was converted.
- Mi-26P passenger helicopter with a passenger compartment with 70 seats, five in a row (3 + 2) with one aisle, with luggage and household compartments. To ensure comfort, a thermal insulation finish and an air conditioning system were used.
- Mi-26PP active jammer. Designed in 1988. It is made in one copy.
- Mi-26S helicopter for decontamination operations. It was distinguished by the presence of a reservoir for decontaminating liquid, a spraying system under the fuselage. Designed in 1986. It was used in the aftermath of the Chernobyl accident.
- Mi-26T is a civilian transport helicopter, similar to a military transport helicopter. The fire variant is equipped with a tank with a capacity of 7500 l for extinguishing liquid, which is sent to the fire through one or two nozzles.
- Mi-26TM version with a suspended cabin for piloting during operations with suspended cargo.
- Mi-26TZ tanker helicopter with additional tanks for fuel with a capacity of 14040 l and lubricants – with a capacity of 1040 l; Equipped with equipment for the simultaneous refueling of four aircraft or 10 vehicles.
- Mi-26TP firefighter helicopter
- Mi-26TS certified according to the CIS airworthiness numbers (based on FAE.29) version of the Mi-26 helicopter
- Mi-27 flying command post.
- Modification of the Mi-26
- The diameter of the main screw, m 32.00
- Tail rotor diameter, m 7.61
- Length, m 33.73
- Height, m 8.15
- Weight kg
- empty 28200
- normal take-off 49600
- maximum take-off 56,000
- Domestic fuel, l 12000
- Engine type 2 GTD ZMKB Progress D-136
- Power, kW 2 x 8380
- Maximum speed, km / h 295
- Cruising speed, km / h 255
- Practical range, km 2000
- Range, km 800
- Practical ceiling, m 6500
- Static ceiling, m 1800
- Crew 5
- Payload: 85 soldiers or 60 wounded on a stretcher with 3 escorts or 20,000 kg of cargo in the cabin or 18,500 kg in suspension