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16 May, 2008 02:02

Russia seeks foothold in helicopter market

Russia's helicopter makers are signing major deals with foreign engine and avionics manufacturers in an effort to claw back their falling market share. Heli-Russia, the first ever dedicated helicopter show to take place in the country, has been the venue

Russia is a huge market for helicopters, as most of its existing fleet is out of date and needs to be replaced.

The most common design in service is the Mi-8, which dates back to the 1960s. Hundreds are still flying all over Russia, especially in the oil industry.

But soon they could be replaced with a new breed of helicopter. Russian Helicopters are about to start production of the Mi-38, a new design with Canadian engines and Russian avionics. It’s built to international certification standards and includes advanced materials in its airframe.

Manufacturer Pratt & Whitney Canada has signed a protocol on co-operation with Russia’s UMPO and Russian Helicopters to make PW127 engines for the Mi-38 in Kazan.

“We’re looking at the civil market, basically for oil and gas exploration, that kind of market,” said Pratt&Whitney’s Josef Torketti.

Russian Helicopters hope that using foreign engines will help make the machine more attractive to customers.

“Signing this memorandum lies within the current trend of international cooperation. It will help us produce more competitive products,” said the company’s Deputy CEO, Igor Pshenichny.

Russian Helicopters expect domestic companies to order about 150 Mi-38s. The new helicopter will cost about $US 15 million.

Rosoboronexport, which owns Russian Helicopters, hopes that deals like this can help Russia regain a leading position on the world helicopter market, which it lost after the break-up of the Soviet Union.

 “In Soviet times, we had a 25 % share of the global helicopter market. Now our niche doesn’t exceed 15 %. In the next few years we have to regain our positions up to the levels of Soviet times,” said Deputy CEO of Rosoboronexport, Aleksandr Mikheev.

A number of agreements with other foreign manufacturers, including between Agusta Westland and Russia's Oboronprom are expected to be signed during the show.