Friends of the Helicopter Museum

Flying a Kamov Ka-26

Sadly, DDR-SPY, whose restoration for static display was completed in 2002, will never fly again. However, in June 2005, a Dutch professional pilot, Olav van Bockel, found the Friends' website, soon after having had an opportunity to fly a Kamov Ka-26. 

We asked Olav to write some more about his Kamov experience. He sent us the words which appear below. Our thanks also go to Fly Russia, in The Hague, for supplying the three photographs and allowing us to use them on The Friends' site. We look forward to meeting Olav when he visits The Helicopter Museum.
"I am a Dutch commercial pilot with a PPL(H) rating. I have just flown the Kamov Ka-26 helicopter in Kaluga, Russia for the first time and I can tell you it was worth every penny of the not inconsiderable cost. It is remarkably easy and effective to fly, since there is no torque and it can be brought into confined areas, out of reach for conventional (i.e. tail rotor) helicopters. The Ka-26 I flew is RF-00874, operated by a private owner and in top condition. It has the passenger pod sought by you; this is very simple really, with six sideways-facing seats and a small hatch towards the cockpit. 

I negotiated for more than a year to set this up; this has to do with the incredible bureaucracy in Russia rather than any lack of cooperation on the part of the owner, who was only too keen to let us fly. Apart from myself, two others flew the Ka-26; one a PPL with about 200 hours on the Mi-2 and another with 15 hours total; even she said the Ka-26 was nicer to fly than the Mil Mi-2 ! 

The Ka-26
The aircraft was in first-class condition, with all systems working. The owner, who is also a qualified instructor, flew in the right seat (all Russian helicopters are flown from the left seat.). After a briefing (in Russian) we set off for about 10 minutes general handling and the remaining time hovering, circuits and confined area landing.
Startup of both engines is electrical instead of pneumatic, unlike most Vedenyev engines, with the “shower of sparks” method. After startup (and warming up where applicable) each engine is engaged via the overhead levers, then both engines are connected to the rotor system via the central lever.

Engine power is adjusted for both engines via the twist-grip throttle. Power setting is measured via the rotor rpm indicator, 96% being required for takeoff. 85% is minimum for cruising flight, power being adjusted between these values to suit flight conditions. Although I had previously flown only turbine types with automatic power adjustment (with the exception of a one hour flight some time back in a Bell 47G), power adjustment seemed not too difficult, in spite of lack of experience in this operation.

Lift-off is easy, because of a lack of torque and climbing flight is at 100 kmh, like the Mil Mi-2. In cruise, 150 kmh seems normal with acceleration seeming more rapid than in the Mi-2. Manoeuvrability in turns is almost unbelievable and it is easy to see why the type was so popular with police forces and aerial applicators. Visibility from the cockpit is good, better than from the Mi-2 but not as good as in the R-22 or similar.

In hovering operations, a limiting CHT of 200 degrees centigrade is fairly quickly reached and cooling down is then required. Maybe the type is therefore less suited for logging operations or similar. Confined area landings are amazing because of the limited size of the aircraft. Blade droop, on slowing down the rotor, is considerable (see picture) and needs care in off airport landings.

Landings are made tail-down, helped by the long-stroke undercarriage. An amusing party trick of this helicopter is its ability to taxi very fast, almost like a car.

Limitations for general use seem to be: limited engine cooling, requiring frequent stops, especially in hot conditions, and autorotation. The vertical slats in front of the cooling fans produce a siren-like noise. Although this was not tried, it seems rudder effect on rotors and rudders are opposite in auto-rotational flight; this however was not tried or discussed with the instructor. Would I like to have one as a private transport? Definitely, and two other pilots who flew it agreed on this.

Kamov OKB
Having flown this Ka-26, it seemed even better than its reputation. I personally have a high regard for the ability of the Kamov OKB. A new version Ka-226 with turbine engines is currently available. Top models today are the Ka-50 and Ka-52, which feature advanced control systems (including even the ability to fly itself back to base on the INS if the pilot becomes disabled!) and ejector seats. I have pictures of the rotor blade separation system being tested live on a Mil Mi-4. Brave pilots! Also, a system with winch and basket is being tested by Kamov to rescue people from high-rise buildings, in emergencies.  

Training foreign pilots in Russia.
After 1990 the former DOSAAF voluntary flying organisation was in dire financial straits. Moscow Parachute Club therefore offered flight training to foreign pilots to earn foreign currency. I was among a small group of mostly Dutch and German pilots who took up this offer, which was very good: I started out on the Mil Mi-2 helicopter for $ 100 an hour, impossible here. An extra advantage to Dutch pilots is the possibility to do almost unlimited off –airport and confined area landings, not allowed here in the Netherlands. I also trained sling load ops, formation flying and maximum performance manoeuvres for display work. Today the role of DOSAAF is taken over by FLA and ROSTO.  

So if you did not know yet you may be pleased to know you have just restored a true classic. I flew a Mil Mi-2 to Kaluga, another aviation classic and an interesting comparison to the Ka-26. 

Best of luck for your future restorations; I will keep watching your progress.

Best regards, Olav van Bockel
Haarlem, Netherlands."

Restoration of the Kamov Ka-26, DDR-SPY