Moscow / 11 September 2012 – Russian Helicopters, part of state defence holding Oboronprom and a leading global designer and manufacturer of helicopters, is to join the international “Carbon Valley” project, which aims to develop next-generation composite materials for the aviation sector. These innovations – particularly carbon-fibre reinforced polymers and hybrid airframe parts – will substantially reduce helicopter production and operating costs and improve aircraft reliability and lifetime.
Economic effectiveness is one of the top demands of helicopter operators. By using the latest composites, Russian Helicopters can reinforce its position on the global helicopter market by meeting buyers’ main requirement.
Russian Helicopters joined the international composite materials producers association – dubbed CFK-Valley, or Carbon Valley, by analogy with Silicon Valley – in March 2012. Based in the German town of Stade, CFK-Valley brings together more than 100 hi-tech producers and research centres, including major international aviation, automobile manufacturers and specialist innovative materials companies such as EADS, Rolls-Royce, ThyssenKrupp, Volkswagen and GE.
In spring 2012, a Russian Helicopters delegation led by CEO Dmitry Petrov visited Germany to discuss applications of composite materials with colleagues from around the world. From April to August, 32 members of staff from Russian Helicopters’ engineering bureaus and production facilities travelled to CFK-Valley Stade for in-depth training on designing components made of composite materials and hybrid airframe parts, and for study programmes examining the structure, attributes and operational features of these materials.
In parallel, a number of projects were launched on using technologies based on innovative composite materials in Russian helicopter manufacturing.
Helicopter manufacturers use glass or carbon fibre composites in the main rotor blades and fuselage. Composite materials have a much longer fatigue life than metals, which substantially reduces servicing needs and the total life-cycle costs of the aircraft.
Composite materials generally comprise at least 20 per cent of new helicopters produced today.
Most helicopters produced by Russian Helicopters are equipped with composite main rotor blades. Fully 50 per cent of the Ka-62’s airframe, for example, is made of composite materials, making the aircraft much lighter and more economic to operate.
Composite materials are also used in the light multirole Ansat, which has a hingeless, maintenance-free rotor/shaft assembly. The hinges have been replaced by a rigid rotor setup with a flexible element – a composite torsion bar. The four-blade assembly consists of two crossed bars, with two blades affixed to each. Thanks to its hingeless rotor system, the helicopter is more controllable and manoeuvrable, is lighter, and costs less to manufacture and substantially less to operate. The hingeless torsion bar assembly is a Russian innovation and has great prospects for further development.
Russian Helicopters is continuing to work on important projects using advanced technologies. A major research focus for global helicopter manufacturers is to improve the aerodynamic, technological and economic characteristics of key helicopter components, such as the main rotor blade, rotor hub, transmission and primary fuselage structure. Using modern composites and technologies will help to increase transport effectiveness while simultaneously reducing operating costs, thereby increasing helicopters’ competitiveness vis-à-vis regional airplanes.