Russia’s Mi-28N Night Hunter helicopters are grounded pending completion of the investigation into Tuesday’s crash in which the pilot died and his co-pilot was hurt. The Mi-28N belonged to the Budennovsk-based 487th Helicopter Regiment in the Southern MD.
Unnamed sources tell RIA Novosti investigators attribute the crash to engine failure caused by metal shavings in the engines or gear box. But one experienced test pilot told Vzglyad.ru that shavings usually don’t cause a sudden loss of control or engine failure.
Over the last year, problems with the Mi-28N’s gear box, flight controls, and tactical performance have been reported in the media.
In January, Izvestiya’s Dmitriy Litovkin visited the flight training center in Torzhok to look at the Mi-28N. He discussed the June 2009 crash of an Mi-28N at the Gorokhovets training range with the center’s chief, Colonel Andrey Popov. Litovkin said people believe that crash occurred when powder gases from a rocket firing got in the helicopter’s engines. Here’s a video. Popov acknowledged the Mi-28N’s growing pains, and said the manufacturer is constantly modifying the aircraft.
This certainly sounds like production problems to these nonexpert ears. There’s still a struggle between those who back the Mi-28N and others who favor the Ka-52 as Russia’s primary attack helicopter. With stronger state support, the Night Hunter has been winning the battle, but this accident might hurt its case. Meanwhile, a second Mi-28N squadron is supposed to be established at Budennovsk this year.