September 18, 2013:
Russia has received certification of a model of its Mi-17 military helicopter equipped as a corporate and VIP (Very Important Person) transport. This Mi-17 version has additional navigation electronics, soundproofing, and safety systems, as well as a luxury interior for its passengers. The aircraft has three compartments. The forward one is for the pilots, the central one for eight passengers and a flight attendant, and the rear one for baggage. The certification guarantees that this model meets international standards for passenger helicopters.
The Mi-17 is the export version of the Mi-8, a twin-engine helicopter, roughly equivalent to the U.S. UH-1. But the Mi-8/17 is still in production and is the most widely exported (2,800 out of 12,000 made) helicopter on the planet. Many users have used the Mi-17 for non-military purposes, including dozens of them converted locally into VIP transports.
The Mi-8 is about twice the size and weight of the UH-1 but only hauls about 50 percent more cargo. However, the Mi-8 has a larger interior and can carry 24 troops, versus a dozen in the UH-1. The UH-1 was replaced by the UH-60 in the 1980s, while the Mi-8 just kept adding better engines and electronics to the basic Mi-8 frame. The Mi-8 costs about half as much as a UH-60, and the larger interior is popular with many users. Russia also offers lower rates for training pilots and mechanics.