The conversion of Russian military helicopter to civilian use may fill an important, immediate need for America.
The below article mentions that the Ka-226T light twin was recently certificated by the Russian Interstate Aviation Committee’s Aviation Register and even more significantly mentioned that the sister ship Mi-26T, a heavy helicopter, that can carry 44,000 pounds as an internal or external load, will soon be ready for production.
Rostvertol, the manufacturer, offers a version designed for firefighting, the Mi-26dx. Its heavy payload capacity, cruise speed and range would appear to make it an ideal candidate for an aerial tanker in the United States. The US Forest Service and a number of state organizations have complained about the limited available aviation resources. Much of the available assets are old (average age 50 years) and pose a safety risk. The NTSB has issued warnings about this problem. An alternative may be a Chinese water bomber.
Given the desperate need for an effective, powerful aviation asset to attack the destruction of the forests in the West, perhaps a Russian solution could be brought to market. Though the Mi-26dx has been certificated by the Russian Interstate Aviation Committee’s Aviation Register, the 1998 US-Russian Federation Bilateral Aviation Safety Agreement would not support an immediate acceptance of the Mi-26dx by the FAA under that treaty.
There would have to be a special Certification Basis established to create a set of criteria for the FAA’s review of this aircraft. That involves a complex, difficult negotiation and requires special expertise to translate, literally and figuratively, the IAC AR process and standards into the FAA standards. Questions, like the independence of the Russian regulators from the commercial side of that government’s commercial interests or the rigor of the certification tests, must be delicately discussed.
Aside from these technical, regulatory issues, the diplomatic relations between these two powers are frosty to say the least. The US Department of State is not likely to devote time and efforts to anything which helps President Putin. In order to overcome this serious government-to-government blockage, strong countervailing interests, like the US Forest Service (its Cabinet Member Secretary Vilsak, Department of Agriculture), its Secretary Jewell (DoI’s National Parks are at risk), the Governors of the Western States and the large Conservation coalition which is so protective of these precious natural resources, will have to be convinced that the Mi-26dx is the answer to forest fire protection asset.
The Mi-26dx could douse our forest fires, but to fly through the FAA labyrinth will require help.