Russian firm builds ‘helicopter for businessmen’

A Russian start-up helicopter manufacturer aims to break into the US-dominated light helicopter market with a new machine that will cost around the same as a top-end saloon car.

Berkut, based in the southern Russian city of Tolyatti, has developed a two-seat co-axial rotor helicopter. The company says eponymous Berkut copters will cost just $70,000 each for an order of ten machines or more, when fitted with a Russian-built rotary engine. The price will be around twice this for those fitted with an American piston engine.

The American Robinson R-22, which currently dominates the world light helicopter market, costs around $200,000.

Berkut say their little machine, weighing just 480 kg empty, will cost just $50 an hour to run using standard 95 octane gasoline.

The helicopter is unusual in that it has a coaxial layout, with two main rotors one on top of the other, avoiding the need for a tail rotor. Berkut say this makes it safer, more stable, and produces lower vibration levels. Traditionally, the main user of such helicopters has been the Soviet and Russian navies, which preferred coaxial designs as they are easier to fit on cramped ship’s heli-pads.

The company hopes to get Russian certification to allow test flights by October.

Berkut believes the machine will be popular with students learning to fly, hobby fliers, and for business users for jobs like crop-spraying, survey and photography work, as well pipeline and powerline survey.

The company has no firm orders yet, but says it has had considerable interest in the aircraft at the show and hopes to produce at least ten a month from next year.

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