8 SEATS ■ 205km/h (125mph)
The Mi-2 appeared in a wide variety of color schemes depending on its mission. Agricultural sprayers were generally a gloss olive green; Medevac aircraft were red and white; and passenger versions appeared in several variations of orange and blue finishes, one of which is shown here.
Izotov (2x 400shp) Ш MTOW 3,500kg (7,7001b) Ш Normal Range 240km (148mi) Ш Length 12m(39ft) Ш Rotor Diameter 15m(48ft)
First of the Mils
The Mil Mi-1, of orthodox helicopter design, with a single main rotor and anti-torque rotor mounted on a tail boom, was the first Soviet helicopter to go into series production. As the first of the long line, making its first flight in 1948, it went through the teething troubles of all infants, and its early years were almost in the nature of experimental research. Most Mi-ls had three-bladed rotors, and during the development period, the life of both the blades and the rotor head were considerably improved, while the overhaul of the Ivchenko engines went from TBOs of about 150 up to more than 1,000. They were used mainly by the Soviet Air Force, but Aeroflot began to take delivery in May 1954, using them for agriculture, forest patrol, ambulance, and other aerial work, and occasionally for carrying passengers in mountainous areas.
The Mil Mi-4
Carrying only three passengers besides the pilot, the Mil Mi-l’s work load was limited. By 1952, in response to a specification, directly from the Kremlin, for a larger machine, Mil produced the Mi-4 (there was no Mi-3; and the Mi-2, curiously, came later), in competition with Yakovlev’s Yak-24 design. It too had early problems, but necessity was the mother of invention. Four-blad – ed rotors made from a steel tube/wooden rib/plywood-and-fabric combination gave way to allmetal construction, including honeycomb sections. Magnesium corrosion led to replacement by aluminum parts. But when all was done, a good aircraft emerged and, as noted on the opposite page, the Mi-4 had the honor to open the first regularly scheduled helicopter airline service in the Soviet Union, carrying between eight and eleven passengers on each flight.
The Mil Mi-2
Mikhail Mil had already taken advantage of the light weight of turbine engines when he produced the Mil Mi-6, world’s largest helicopter at the time, in the autumn of 1957. He then turned his attention to sharpening the performance of the smaller craft. In essence, he used two smaller and lighter turbine engines to make a new version of the Mi-1. By placing the engines above the fuselage, there was room enough for eight passengers. This was almost as much as the larger Mil Mi-4 could carry, so that essentially the Mil Mi-2 was able to replace both of the older types.
True, the passenger cabin was a little more cramped. The Mi-2’s 4.47m (14ft 8in) length was a foot longer than the Mi-4’s; but its 1.2m (4ft) width and 1.4m (4ft 7in) height were almost two feet narrower and more than a foot shorter, respectively. But this did not seem to matter, as helicopter journeys are invariably of short duration, and the clientele does not need either to stand up or to move about.
Equally, the Mi-2’s range was inferior to that of both predecessors; but this could be improved by supplementary tanks, if necessary. In compensation, the Mi-2’s speed was 25 percent more than the Mi-4’s and 50 percent more than the Mi-l’s.
Rotor-blade technology was impressive. Of bonded construction entirely, the three-bladed main rotor was equipped with leading-edge electro-thermal de-icing, with a 2,000-hour or more life. The anti-torque tail rotor had only two blades. Altogether, the Mil Mi-2 emerged as a thoroughly reliable, modern aircraft of advanced construction, and it took its place in Aeroflot’s inventory from 1967 onwards as a standard type which has stood the acid test of time and stringent operational conditions.
THE SMALLER MIL HELICOPTERS
Throughout the history of the Soviet Union, the extension of the railroad system has always been a constant economic objective, to provide the logistics connection between the sources of wealth, particularly mineral wealth, and especially in the far reaches of the Asian territories. Gradually, branches of line sprouted from the Trans-Siberian Railway, often linking it with northerly ports on the great rivers, the Ob, the Yenesei, and the Lena. Of these, the most remote was the Lena, whose source is close to Lake Baikal, but which flows northeast through what was, until recently, largely uncharted territory.
By 1950, a line had reached Bratsk, site of a huge hydroelectric station under construction, and during the next decade, this was extended to Ust’ Kut, on the Lena. For the first time, albeit only during the May-October summer season, when the Lena was ice-free, the historic trading center of Yakutsk, surrounded by newly-established satellite mining sites of great wealth, was linked with Moscow by a modem surface transport system.
Birth of the BAM
On 8 July 1974, the Supreme Soviet officially declared the creation of a railroad construction program of great magnitude. The Baikal-Amur Magistral (Main Line, or Artery), or the BAM, was to parallel the Trans-Siberian Railway over about 3,500km (2,200mi) of its eastern length. This action took place at a time when relations between the Soviet Union and China were cool, and the BAM was widely perceived as a defensive measure against the possible cutting of the TransSib by an attacking force. But the BAM also opened up vast possibilities for improving the access to the riches of Siberian mineral wealth.
Preliminary surveys had started on 30 April 1974, using Mil Mi-2 and Mi-8 helicopters. But progress at first was handicapped by the onset of an early winter — in August! Housing for the workers was incomplete, and one of the first tasks for the growing armada of supporting aircraft was to bring 2,500 tons of heating equipment to the first construction sites. The first workers arrived on the Ulkan River on 28
October 1974, and in the following year, in a Soviet equivalent of “Go West Young Man," teams of Komsomol (Young Communist Workers League) headed east in their thousands.
Aviation, including the resources of Aeroflot, supported BAM during the entire period of its construction, with mainline connections to cities on the trans-Siberian Railway, and countless sorties by feeder aircraft, fixed wing and rotary wing. Other than the 3,500km (2,175mi) of track, the mainly Komsomol teams built 2,237 bridges, established 60 cities, some of them now large centers, as well as many villages. Hundreds of thousands of passenger flights were made, and supplies for the 22 special construction trains and 37 mechanized columns, and the hundreds of bridging and tunneling units, were carried largely by air, until the BAM line was progressively completed.