The Soviet Union’s Mil Mi-26 Helicopter – reporting name Halo – is a heavy, transport helicopter used with both civilian and military operations. To date, it is not only the largest, but also the most powerful helicopter ever produced. The Mil Mi-26s first flight took place on December 14, 1977, with aircraft introduction in 1983.
The Mi-26 was originally designed to replace the Mi-6 (the world’s largest and fastest produced helicopter of that time) and the Mi-12 both heavy lift helicopters. The aircraft would be mainly used to move (and delivery to remote locations) larger military equipment such as amphibious vehicles and ballistic missiles.
The engine load sharing system on the Mi-26 allows the helicopter to remain airborne (with onboard weight restrictions) even if one of its engines loses power. This Russian helicopter is able to lift a total of 44,000 lbs. and is the second largest helicopter (first being the V-12) in size and weight.
History of the Mi-26 Operations
Following the Chernobyl disaster in 1986, the Russian’s were quick to develop a variant – known as the Mi-26S – to measure radiation and to deliver precision drops of the insulating cover needed on the damaged reactor. Extensive measures were taken to protect the crew aboard the helicopter when making deliveries in the areas containing the highest levels of radiation.
The Mi-26 performed flawlessly when used in 1996 to break the world skydiving freefall formation record. It was used again in 1999 to transport the 23,000 year old, newly discovered, well preserved Wolly Mammoth found in the Siberian Tundra. Other missions included the recovery of a Chinook helicopter downed in Afghanistan in 2002; and in 2008 to deliver heavy equipment needed to resolve land-slide dams which formed in the mountains of Wenchuan, China after an 8.0 earthquake.
- Crew: Five
- Capacity: 90 troops (or) 60 stretchers
- Cargo Capacity: 44,090 lbs.
- Maximum Take-off Weight: 123,450 lbs.
- Maximum Speed: 183 miles per hour, with a cruising speed of 158 mph
- Range: 1,190 miles with auxiliary tanks
- Service Ceiling: 15,100 feet
Rostvertol – a Russian helicopter manufacturer – has recently taken a course of action to refurbish and upgrade all of Russia’s Mil Mi-26 helicopters serving in their Air Force, making the aircraft comparable to Russia’s newly produced Mi26T.