The Helicopter Museum (THM) at Weston-super-Mare in Somerset has secured another rotary-wing coup with the acquisition of the first Russian Mil Mi-8 transport helicopter to go on display in the country.Â The 18m (60ft) long aircraft, previously in service with the Polish Air Force, arrived at the museum by road on 5th February.
THM Chairman Elfan ap Rees, who spent five years sourcing the new exhibit and organising its delivery, said â€œThe Mi-8 was an important military and commercial helicopter during the Cold War period, providing the Soviet Union and her Warsaw Pact neighbours with a valuable assault transport capability, but also helping to open up the Siberian oil reserves and connect remote communities.Â Adding it to the collection fills an important gap for us, showing the transition and development of Russian helicopter technology in the 1960s and complements its piston-engined predecessor, the Mi-4 which the Museum also has on show.â€
First flown in the early 1960s as Russiaâ€™s first turbine-engined medium transport helicopter and with a large open cabin with rear ramp access, the Mi-8 family has become a rugged stalwart and continues in production today, with more than 11,000 built to date.Â Recent customers include the Iraq Air Force and the Afghan National Army, whilst civil versions support the United Nations and other aid organisations in a number of countries around the world.
The THM example is a rare Mi-8PS VIP variant, initially delivered to the Polish Air Force in the 1970s for government use and eventually retired by 2005.Â The aircraft is now in the process of re-assembly by THM volunteers in the Conservation Hangar at the Museum before going on display.
Transporting the Mi-8 to the UK however has seen the Museum invest almost Â£10,000, a cost that it now needs to recover.Â Sponsors or donations will be gratefully recorded and can be sent to the Treasurer, British Rotorcraft Museum, Locking Moor Road, Weston-super-Mare, Somerset. UK BS24 8PP.
The Helicopter Museum is a largely volunteer-run charity, unique in the UK, and already holds the worldâ€™s largest dedicated rotary-wing collection.Â open throughout the year, Weds â€“ Sundays.Â More information is available on the website; www.helicoptermuseum.co.uk
END 5th February 2010
The Mi-8PS acquired by THM is serial 10618, delivered to the Polish Air Force in the 1970s for service in a VIP configuration with 36 Special Air Transport Regiment, based at Warsaw â€“ Okecie.Â Externally identifiable by the square, rather than round, cabin windows the PS variant was built in limited numbers for heads of state and similar high-ranking VIPs.
â€˜618 was one of 11 similar Mi-8PS painted in a smart red/white national colour scheme for service with 36 SPLT, sometimes known as the â€˜Papal Squadronâ€™ because the unit supported the travels of Pope John Paul II during his pilgrimages to Poland in June 1979, and again two years later.
Subsequently â€˜618 was modified for a military Command and Control role and reallocated to 37PST assault regiment at Leznica Wielka near Lodz.Â Here it was repainted into a camouflage colour scheme and later reverted to a military transport role before being finally retired by 2005.