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The Mi-26: The World's Largest Operational Heavy Lift Cargo Helicopter

February 19, 2012 | Comments: 0 | Views: 192

The Mi-26 was developed in the 1970's as a heavy-lift helicopter after the unsuccessful development of the Mil V-12. The designers were required to design a super lift helicopter that had an empty weight less than half of its maximum takeoff weight. As the successor to the Mi-6 and Mi-12 heavy lift helicopters the Mi-26 was designed for both military and civilian use. Primarily the Mil-26 was designed to meet military requirements with twice the cabin space of the previous world's largest Mi-6. In this role it was designed to move mobile ballistic missiles and 13 ton amphibious armoured personal carriers to remote locations after military transport plane delivery to large airfields.

After extensive development the Mi-26 first flew on December 14, 1977 and the first production aircraft was completed in October of 1980. By 1985 the Mi-26 was operational in soviet military and civilian roles and was the first rotary aircraft to be factory equipped with an eight blade rotor system. The Mi-26 is only slightly heavier than the Mi-6 but has a much higher lifting capability of 44,000 lbs (12Tons). The massive helicopter has an engine load sharing system that allows it to sustain itself in flight if one engine fails or losses power, depending on mission weight. The Mil's Design Bureau took it upon themselves to design the Mi-26's main gearbox after its regular supplier refused and stated it was impossible. The result was the VR-26, a non-planetary, split-torque designed main gearbox which could absorb 19,725 shp but remained relatively light.

Some notable missions during its operational history include its role in the Chernobyl disaster response where a modified version was used for radiation measurements and precision drops of insulating material. Four Mi-26 helicopters were used to set the world team skydiving record in 1996. One was used to recover a 25 ton Siberian Woolly Mammoth encased in a block of ice in October 1999. Another Mi-26 was utilized to recover two stranded US Army MH-47E Chinooks in Afghanistan in 2002. And most recently Chinese Mi-26 heavy lift helicopters were used to transport heavy earthmoving equipment into areas cut off by the 2008 8.0 Sichuan earthquake.

The aircraft is operated in many countries around the world and is used in a wide range of military and civilian roles. The Mi-26 has a crew of five consisting of 2 pilots, 1 Navigator, 1 flight engineer and 1 flight technician. It is the second largest and heaviest helicopter ever constructed, after the experimental V-12 and can carry 90 troops or 60 stretchers. Two Lotarev D-136 Turbo shafts at 11,399 shp each provide the power for the Mi-26. With a maximum speed of 295 km/h (183mph) and a maximum range of 1,920 km the Mi-26 is very capable and able to transport large payloads at great speeds for considerable distances. In July 2010, a Russian-Chinese development of a successor type was announced.

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Source: EzineArticles
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