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In my previous article, I have already discussed the operations of Russian “Ansat” helicopters in medical aviation service. A year after, the number of “Ansat” helicopters operated by Russian airlines has increased, new helicopters became operational.

In general, aside from a few experimental and demonstrator airframes, Russian light helicopter “Ansat” developed by Kazan Helicopter Plant’s in-house design bureau is primarily used in civil service as a medical aviation (HEMS) helicopter, as well as a passenger aircraft, in particular for “very important persons”.

HEMS “Ansat” taking off

Russian light helicopter “Ansat” (which may be translated from Tatar as “simple”) was created in the Kazan Helicopter Plant’s in-house design bureau. One of the current serial production models is also sometimes referred to as “Ansat-GMSU” meaning an “Ansat” with a hydromechanical control system, unlike the version with a fly-by-wire (FBW) control system which was originally suggested but was not certified.

Notably, the “Ansat” has become the first Russian serially produced helicopter (unlike the Soviet Mi-34 which was only built in very small numbers) using a skid landing gear. Such landing gear arrangement is common among Western helicopter designs but it was almost never used in Russian helicopter design before the “Ansat”. Still, unlike civil service airframes, the Russian Air Force has chosen the “Ansat” (mainly as a trainer, also referred to as “Ansat-U”) with a non-retractable wheel landing gear, as shown below…

Russian AF “Ansat-U” trainer at MAKS 2015

Despite the present uneasy times, Russian aerospace industry has recently built a notable number of “Ansat” airframes. Now this helicopter gradually fills in the niche which was neglected by the Soviet and Russian helicopter industry after the venerable Mi-2.

Aside from a few airframes in “VIP interior” configuration, civil “Ansat” has proven itself first of all as a HEMS helicopter for those regions of Russia where destinations typically lie not farther than a 1.5-2 hours’ flight away from the base. Longer flights as well as more complicated weather and geographical conditions are normally dealt with by Mi-8 helicopters which (mostly in AMT and MTV-1 models) are now also built for civil service by Ulan-Ude and Kazan plants, respectively.

“Ansat” in a VIP transport configuration

National Medical Aviation Service (NSSA), which has become the first Russian public and private partnership based HEMS service, continues to operate “Ansat” helicopters in various Russian regions, in particular in St. Petersburg, Moscow Region, Veliky Novgorod, Tver, Yekaterinburg.

“Ansat” in NSSA livery, landing at the “Heli-Drive” heliport in golden winter light beside the giant IL-86, January 2020
Another “Ansat” in NSSA fleet, after arrival to the base heliport from another region, July 2020
In July 2020, thus Ufa (Republic of Bashkiria) based aircraft flew missions for NSSA n St. Petersburg. The aircraft features a simplified tail skid as compared to older airframes
“Ansat” RA-20030 undergoing maintenance works at “Heli-Drive”, July 2020
In August 2020 two more light helicopters built at the Kazan plant, RA-20031 and RA-20032, joined the NSSA fleet. RA-20031 is depicted soon after arrival, still without NSSA markings
The same aircraft ready for a mission on a sunny September day. Now it features the NSSA markings. The livery resembles the appearance of an ambulance car, but no more vivid yellow-red-black livery…
RA-20031 starting out for a HEMS mission, September 2020
“Ansat” RA-20032, currently based at Veliky Novgorod, gets airborne bound for her base after a fuel stop at “Heli-Drive” heliport. A brightly colored passenger Mi-8T in the background, September 2020
One more picture of RA-20032 taking off, September 2020

Besides, the NSSA, “Ansat” helicopters are also operated in HEMS role by other airlines, such as SKOL, VyatkaAvia, Russian Helicopter Systems (RVS).

“Ansat” RA-20036 from Pskov lifting off from “Leningrad” helipad at St. Petersburg Pulkovo airport with medics onboard, April 2020
RA-20037 operated by “SKOL” and based in Pskov seen leaving St. Petersburg Pulkovo airport after completing a HEMS mission, August 2020
“Ansat” RA-20041 of the Russian Helicopter Systems flies HEMS missions for NSSA in St. Petersburg and Leningrad Oblast’, April 2021

There is a notable tendency that increasing numbers of civil Russian helicopters are supplied to their operators in all-white livery, and many of them enter service with such “sophisticated” color scheme, some only getting inconspicuous titles or, as in this case, a red cross to show the HEMS role of the helicopter.

Last but not least, in 2020 the Russian Ministry for Emergency Situations (MChS) received its first “Ansat”. Here the helicopter is depicted hovering over a VIP transport Mi-8AMT after a maintenance check at “Heli-Drive” heliport, September 2020
The same MChS airframe from another perspective, performing a test flight, September 2020. For me, MChS livery fits the “Ansat”

To sum it up, it should be noted that serial production of “Ansat” helicopters continues, with new aircraft entering service in Russia primarily as HEMS helicopters.

Late 2020 – early 2021 saw first flights of an improved model of the light helicopter from Kazan, referred to as “Ansat-M”. Planned improvements include larger fuel tanks, which would increase the operational range. Doing this is vital, judging by the experience of “Ansat” operations. Avionics and electronics are also planned to be upgraded. Visually the “Ansat-M” is notably distinguished from current production versions by an updated tail section.

“Ansat” demonstrator in “Russian Helicopters” house colors arrives at the HeliRussia 2018 exhibition for static display. Updated tail section is clearly visible

Hopefully, the light helicopter from Kazan will see many years of flight, airframe upgrades and better organized operations in her critically important role as a HEMS helicopter. And, certainly, I hope to catch many more new aircraft in new colors and from new perspectives with my camera.

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