The Russian program to develop a high-speed helicopter (dubbed the Russian Advanced Commercial Helicopter, or RACHEL), which has been on for three years now, will be split into two separate efforts in 2016, Andrey Boginsky, deputy minister of industry and trade, announced on the eve of HeliRussia 2015. Andrey Shibitov, deputy general manager for production at the Russian Helicopters holding company, explained that the program has reached the flying testbed phase. The testbed is expected to be built by year-end, and to fly in first quarter 2016. At the same time, Shibitov noted, it became clear after the first three years that the project needs to be split in two.
“According to our analysis, reaching a cruise speed of just 360 kmph, as envisaged by the first phase of the project, will make the helicopter’s life-cycle cost higher than our potential customers are ready to accept,” Shibitov noted.
Therefore, it has been decided to continue the development of an advanced commercial helicopter with over 10 t MTOW that would incorporate all the achievements of the RACHEL program secured to date while simultaneously meeting the market’s requirements. In parallel, research into ways to increase helicopters’ maximum speed will continue under the Speed program; airspeeds of 360-400 kmph are expected to be reached in the first phase, and airspeeds of 400-450 kmph or higher — in the second phase. Boginsky says that after Russian Helicopters has presented a business plan, changes will be made to the relevant federal funding program.