On 8 February 2019, a first batch of new Russian built helicopters “Ansat” and Mi-8AMT was officially handed over to the “National Air Medical Service” (NSSA) at the Moscow Helicopter Plant. National Air Medical Service is a new organization which was awarded an official status of a nation-wide air medical service operator in Russia. NSSA started as a pilot project of a private multi-region air medical service that was launched in 2014 on the basis of “Heli-Drive” heliport in St. Petersburg. Now NSSA helicopters fly in different regions of Russia, in particular in St. Petersburg and Leningrad Oblast, in Moscow, Novgorod, Sverdlovsk districts. Operations of the NSSA are expected to soon expand over other regions of Russia.
When the new helicopters handed over to the NSSA arrived in St. Petersburg from the Moscow Helicopter Plant, I wanted to have a closer look at these new helicopters, especially the new “Ansat” which I could see mainly at HeliRussia exhibitions.
At present, air ambulance helicopter fleet of NSSA includes mainly foreign light helicopters Bell 407, Bell 429, Eurocopter AS-350 and AS-355, while in some regions Russian Mi-2 helicopters are also used.
Among the new Bell 407 helicopters operated by NSSA is the one registered as RA-01635, which was built at the Ural Civil Aviation Plant (UZGA) in 2018.
New “Ansat” helicopters designed and built at the Kazan Helicopter Plant (KVZ) differ from Bell 407 and AS-350 by larger cargo capacity and cabin internal volume, which accommodates all necessary medical equipment and provides more room for medics to operate when the helicopter carries a patient or an injured person.
Main performance characteristics of “Ansat” helicopter version with a mechanical-hydraulic control system (GMSU), which has two Pratt&Whitney PW207K engines with FADEC digital automatic control system, are comparable to those of Eurocopter EC-145 helicopter that is widely used by European air medical services.
Cabin of “Ansat” in air medical version is quite spacious and accommodates a stretcher with a patient or an injured person accessible from any side, and 2 medics, as well as all necessary equipment for emergency aid and patient life support for the time of flight to a hospital. Stretcher is loaded and unloaded, and passengers embark and disembark via large sliding doors on both sides of the helicopter.
“Ansat” cockpit has two sets of controls. Control panel appears to be quite simple and is provided with both age-old “clocks” and multifunction displays. One pilot is enough to fly this helicopter from the right seat, thus a passenger may also take a seat beside the pilot, if necessary.
“Ansat” is larger as compared to Bell 407 helicopters, but at the same time it is rather quiet and agile.
Noise level on takeoff, approach and in flight is similar to that of EC-145 helicopter, which meets modern noise level requirements effective in Europe and US. And, subjectively, Bell 407 helicopters which may be often seen, for example, in the skies over St. Petersburg, are somewhat louder than the “Ansat”.
The helicopter is easy to fly and at the same time it meets all modern technical and flight safety requirements. With its range of 510 km, “Ansat” is capable of performing air ambulance flights within one given region and landing both within cities or large populated areas and in places which cannot be reached by road. A small helipad is enough for the light helicopter to land and take off. Skid landing gear used on this version of the “Ansat” ensures a safe and gentle landing both on unpaved spots and on helipads with artificial hardened surfaces.
It should be noted that, besides new “Ansat” helicopters provided to the NSSA, this aircraft type is already used to perform air ambulance flights by several airlines in different regions of Russia. Thus, you can safely assume that this helicopter has already proven itself to be not only suitable for passenger flights but also for air ambulance missions.
Mil Mi-8AMT built at the Ulan-Ude Aircraft Plant (UUAZ) is an improved version of the famous medium helicopter that has proven itself over decades to be a reliable machine which is undemanding in terms of storage and operation. Cabin of the helicopter accommodates large amounts of different medical equipment. It also accommodates up to 12 patients or injured persons on stretchers as well as the necessary team of medics.
Like the “Ansat” helicopters, Mi-8AMT also have a new vivid yellow and red livery reminiscent of widely used paint schemes of ambulance cars. All Mi-8AMT helicopters of the NSSA fleet have vibration dampers which make flying the helicopters more comfortable by significantly reducing vibration.
Mi-8AMT helicopter has a greater range of flight than the “Ansat”, which makes it useful in especially remote areas or allows it to perform long-range flights, for example when patients need to be transported to specialized hospitals in large populated areas in other regions.
Mi-8AMT helicopters in the NSSA fleet have internal and external large capacity auxiliary fuel tanks which provide for a range of flight in excess of 1000 km or more than 5 hours’ long flights.
Unlike foreign helicopters which need a hangar for long-term parking, Mi-8 helicopters are adapted for long-term open-air parking. In this case, Russian winter requires rotor blades to be covered so as to avoid problems caused by frequent precipitation and temperature fluctuations which tend to form a very unwelcome ice layer on the rotor blades. Access to twin TV3-117VMA engines, auxiliary power unit and main gear box of Mi-8 helicopter is enabled by large side-opening cowlings, obviating the need for ladders.
Cockpit of the Mi-8AMT includes both age-old “clocks” and a multifunction display which shows the image from the weather radar mounted on these helicopters.
RA-22846 was already seen in September 2018 at “Hydroaviasalon” exhibition in Gelendzhik, Russia. Subsequently, its livery was supplemented with red stripes to emphasize that this helicopter is an air medical service aircraft.
“Ansat” and Mi-8AMT helicopters which were added to the NSSA fleet will soon be transferred to different regions of Russia where they will become operational.
At present, the project of a nation-wide air medical service operator in Russia includes establishing 130 heliports, as well as helipads in more than 1500 hospitals in different regions. Air medical service operations will be synchronized with existing emergency response services under a common emergency phone number “112”, which would effectively make a helicopter an alternative to an ambulance car in certain cases.