Mi-8 helicopters family has been in operation for more than thirty years now. During this time, the helicopter design, its engines, rotor and other systems have undergone considerable changes. It was only the onboard electronics, which remained intact. Besides this helicopter is probably the only aircraft in Russia which has no integrated equipment. There is no concept of integrated avionics for this helicopter. Therefore some operating limitations for operation in adverse weather conditions and in the night time are imposed on the Mi-8.

Ми-17The Kazan Helicopter Plant, the major manufacturer of this helicopter, has been the first to take notice of this problem. The reason is clear. It is they of all people, who are feeling the greatest pressure on the part of consumers: the requests to install this equipment or other on the helicopter. Besides, the problem of airborne equipment modernization has become essential in connection with the ever-growing use of helicopters operated by two-man crews. And as the fashion for such helicopters has already been formed, it is only necessary to follow it. The replacement of the crew with a two-man crew requires a higher flight automation level and revision of the crew operation concept. This problem cannot be solved without complete modernization of airborne equipment.

The main players on the modernization market are companies manufacturing avionics and delivering complete airborne equipment integration solutions. In this situation, there is a risk to receive an engineering solution, which is certainly implemented in accordance with the customer’s demand, but with a manifest preference to the airborne equipment produced by this company. If, e.g., an order for a helicopter retrofit is granted to a company which has, among other products, a solid range of radio communication equipment, you will more often than not receive a helicopter with excellent communication equipment for all the possible contingencies at the expense of navigation equipment. And the other way round. There is an identical situation with the modernization of helicopters carried out by the companies which have an extensive experience in the military sphere only. A civil helicopter will, in this case, without fail be fitted out with MIL-STD-1553 databus. It looks like the base version of the helicopter equipment should be selected by the helicopter manufacturer who is closest to the consumer and also has an wide tender experience. This is the only way to obtain an aircraft whose basic avionics configuration meets the customer requirements to 70 per cent. It is for the buyer to choose the remaining 30. In this case you will have reliable, technically competent and low-budget solution.

In this connection, that fact that Kazan Helicopter Plant has undertaken to carry out Mi-8 helicopter family modernisation seems to be utterly justified. There is no doubt, that owing to the close cooperation of the Plant with Mil Design Bureau and certification agencies, this work will be completed in short time and up to the mark.

Now some words about the project per se. In a new version there are two fiber-optics AHRS, VOR, ILS, DME equipment, optionally TACAN, GPS\GLONASS satellite navigation systems , new radio altimeter, Doppler velocity and drift sensor, and ADF and also new Air Data Computer installed on the helicopter. There is certainly an ATC transponder whose type is approved by the customer. The weather radar is installed optionally. The customer chooses the communication equipment. All equipment is installed in one or two complete sets depending on the customer requirements or the regulations.

A new cockpit appearance is a «full glass cockpit”. There are four 10.4 ” MCDU’s (Multifunction Control Display Unit) specially adapted for operation on board the helicopter and in the adverse climatic conditions. The MCDU’s serve for the display of flight and navigation situation. All the onboard navigation and communication equipment is controlled from two FMS’s. The cockpit can be easily configured with regard to the mission plan. The MCDU’s display all the information the pilots may require, including the detailed topographic maps with the overlaid radar picture and warnings about the nature of the terrain and CFIT (controlled flight into terrain) potential danger. Generally speaking, the cockpit is worth a special attention. The ideas implemented in it represent the world’s fullest hazard avoidance system. Suffice it to say that functions like TAWS (Terrain Awareness and Warning System) is only a small part of what is available here. There is a capability of storage and operation with aeronautical and topographic databases.

From the ergonomics viewpoint, this cockpit equipment is currently best fitted for helicopters. It is enough to say that all information environment, indication and logics of operation have already been practised on the Research Flight Simulators in TRANSAS, St.-Petersburg, for about a year . The development of the cockpit equipment is carried out with regard to the most recent research in the human factor field.

In navigation, a highly redundant complex ensures perfect navigation at any flight stage. The RNP-1 developers state that this is no news for them. The Mi helicopter has an excellent chance to obtain IFR capability. The nearest prospects are to expand the helicopter functions by providing some additional equipment.

Thus, as early as in the immediate future, after the completion of the required range of flight and other tests, a basically new helicopter from the viewpoint of its capabilities helicopter can emerge on the market. And the helicopter itself will turn into one of the most up-to-date aircraft with all the features intrinsic in Mil brand: reliability, easy operation and repairs, excellent flight characteristics.