Mi-26 with water bucket slung below. As a water bomber it can carry up to 2,000 gallons of water or retardant. Click on the picture for the wav sound.
The Mi-26, called the Halo by NATO, is produced by the Mil Moscow Helicopter Plant. It is the largest helicopter in the world flying today.
The main rotor of the Mi-26 has eight blades. It is the only helicopter in the world to have that many blades. Its rotor hub is the largest in the world, and is made from titanium.
The helicopter is equipped with avionics which give it the ability to fly day and night, in virtually all weather. It can lift some 44,100 lbs. either in its cargo hold or on a sling below its fuselage. The cargo hold is the same size as on the U.S. C-130 transport aircraft and it is able to seat more than 90 combat troops.
The Mi-26 has two engines producing 11,400 h.p. each, the most powerful ever fitted into a helicopter. If one engine fails, it is capable of flight using the remaining operating engine. Its cockpit is, fittingly, the largest of any production helicopter in the world currently flying.
The tail rotor of the helicopter has five blades made from strong, light weight, composite materials. The rotor fin acts as a vertical stabilizer when the helicopter is at cruising speeds. This lowers the amount of power needed by the tail rotor to counter main rotor torque. Steps on the rear fuselage lead to the top of the helicopter to provide access to the tail and rotor.
There are clamshell doors in the rear of the Mi-26 fuselage. The two upper doors open outward, while the lower door has an integral ramp to allow the loading of large cargo without any difficulty.
Mi-26 helicopters are known for their reliability and ability to operate in harsh climates. In some places they may have to operate for up to one week without proper engineering support.
The concept of Mi-26 heavy lift helicopters dates back to the 1970's when the Soviet Union needed a helicopter to transport its nuclear missiles to their launch sites in Siberia. Since then the helicopter has found numerous uses, for both military and civil operators.
In addition to its use as a water bomber, the helicopter has been used as a fully equipped airborne hospital. The United Nations has used the Mi-26 to transport stores in humanitarian relief operations. It has also been used for scientific data gathering, to drop retardant, and transport cargo to the Chernobyl nuclear station after the 1986 incident.
Size of the Mi-26 compared to a person.
The size of the Mi-26 has been both an asset and a liability. Although able to transport and precisely deliver huge cargo loads at high speeds, its powerful engines consume great quantities of fuel. Its operating expenses mean that the helicopter can only be used for the heaviest lift missions which more economical to operate helicopters are unable to perform.
The Mi-26 is still in production, with some 316 of the helicopters having been built to date. They are used primarily in Russia, but have been exported in limited quantities throughout the world.