Transport of Catamaran
Alinghi 5 à through the Alps
The art of making
a catamaran fly.
This August, an unusual event combining water sports and
took place in the Swiss Alps and more particularly in the canton of
Vaud. Indeed, the Mil Mi 26 T helicopter came to transport the Alinghi
Team new catamaran from Lake Geneva in Switzerland to Italy to launch
it on the Mediterranean Sea. Then how couldn’t someone be
interested in a flying machine capable of such achievements?
MIL MI 26 T: the birth of a
Mil Mi 26 T
To trace the origin of this tremendous aircraft, you have
know about the topography of a county; Russia. The immensity of this
land and the many inaccessible areas create the need for a reliable
means of transport capable of working in harsh conditions. So MIL
Hélicoptère Industrie meets the Russian demand by
constructing heavy helicopters capable of lifting heavy loads
internally and externally.
The precursor of the MIL MI 26, the MI-6 (NATO codename
“Hook”), was born in 1954. This first aircraft was
to cover every demand from the OKB (experimental design bureau)
concerning the creation of a helicopter capable of carrying an 11-ton
load over 240 kilometers. Thereby it will be particularly useful for
the operations in Siberia where road transportation is hard in these
extreme conditions. The helicopter was designed for military as well as
civilian use. When the MIL MI 6 Hook went into production, it was
powered by Soloviev D-25V turbines at 5550 SHP each and a five-blade
rotor with a 35-meter diameter.
Mil Mi 6 Hook and
MIL MI 26T
The MIL MI 26 (NATO codename “Halo”) was first seen
in 1977. This aircraft went into production in 1980. Up to now, about
300 Halos have been built. When you look at the MI 6 and at the MI 26,
you can notice a resemblance, but the MIL MI 26 is 66% more powerful
than the MIL MI 6 although it is heavier. The MI 26 can carry a 20-ton
cargo, can take 82 people on board or contain 60 stretchers. It is
powered by the LOTAREV D-136 turbines at 11550 SHP each. The MI 26 is
the only helicopter in the world to operate with an eight-blade main
rotor. The rotor blades are made of composite material, and the rotor,
with a 32-meter diameter, is made of titanium. Its maintenance is
simplified which makes the operations in remote areas easier. The MIL
MI 26 is equipped with a 119 kW auxiliary turbine, the APU TA-8V, to
provide the electrical and the hydraulic power that help the two
LOTAREV turbines start up. Its loading capacity in the hold is
comparable to the one of the American C130 Hercules military transport
aircraft. It is equipped with cargo doors to make the loading of
vehicles easier. The crew is composed of five men: the pilot, the
co-pilot, the electrical engineer, the navigator and the loadmaster.
The MIL MI 26 Halo is in the Russian tradition of heavy helicopters and
remains the most powerful helicopter on Earth. The modernization of
this helicopter is under consideration until 2011 in order to provide
modernized all screen aeronics and a crew reduced to three people.
France and Germany are evaluating this aircraft and are interested in
it for their armies.
Mecanics views of Mil Mi 26 T
d'introduction sur le marché :
Diamètre du rotor :
pales anti couple :
Diamètre de l'anti couple :
Longueur rotor tournant :
Longueur du fuselage :
compartiment cargo :
de la soute :
Variable de 2,9
a 3,2 mètres
compartiment cargo :
Poids à vide
20 000 Kg
Speed max :
à 800 Km suivant la charge maximale
11,900 litres - réservoir supplémentaire
The Alinghi Team was born in 2000 and they have a number of boat races
victories to their credit such as the Louis Vuitton Cup in 2002 or more
recently the America’s Cup in 2007. For the 2010 edition
will take place in the Persian Gulf in Ras Al Khaimah in the United
Arab Emirates, the Alinghi Team built no ordinary catamaran: it is 27.4
meters long, 52 meters high and weighs 12 tons. The mast alone weighs 2
tons. The boat was built in the Villeneuve suburbs, 300 km from the
first sea as the crow flies.
Air help for this powerhouse
Before sailing to new achievements, there was a technical challenge
left to be taken up by the Alinghi Team this summer 2009: finding out
how to lift a 10-ton catamaran from the Villeneuve shipyard to Lake
Geneva for try-outs, and then to the Mediterranean Sea in Genoa, Italy.
The road transportation was impossible as well as the river
transportation, the river not being wide enough. The only solution was
the air route. But Lake Geneva is 300 km from the nearest sea, and
between the lake and the sea, there is the European highest mountain
chain: the Alps. Alinghi asked the Heliswiss International company, air
lifting specialist, for technical solutions. The solution came from the
East, from a terrific helicopter built by the former Soviet Union: the
MIL MI 26. The MIL MI 26 is a state machine belonging to the Russian
ministry for urgent situations. The aircraft came straight from Russia,
near Moscow. It landed at Lausanne Blecherette Airport in Switzerland
on July 4th 2009.
The boat was to float on Lake Geneva five days later for its
try-outs and was to be christened at the same time. The transportation
was planned for July 9th at small hours, but the weather conditions
were not favorable: therefore the operation took place in the late
afternoon. In the morning, a Kamov KA 32 A12 from the Heliswiss
International company carried the mast all the same, which was in some
way a foretaste of what was awaiting the MIL MI 26 T.
The Russian heavy helicopter carried the boat successfully
Geneva: the operation went quite fast because the boat was only a
few-minute flight from the Alinghi 5 catamaran’s temporary
port. The try-outs on the lake could start! They lasted a month.
On August 7th 2009, early in the morning, the Heliswiss International
company and the Alinghi Team were ready for the most difficult mission
of the Alinghi 5 program: carrying the boat from the Bouveret port in
Switzerland to Genoa in Italy. At about 7:30 a.m., a Super Puma AS 332
C1 from Heliswiss International transported the mast and opened the way
for the MIL MI 26 an hour early I order to give the Russian crew the
instructions concerning the weather. The onlookers packed quickly on
the lakeshore to wait for the flying crane.
At 9 p.m., the machine finally arrived. The technical crews were
already waiting on the boat to hook the four binders of the
60-meter-long sling. The maneuver was tricky because the boat was on
the water and the blow of the giant did not help the stowing operations
at all. The hanging of the boat to the sling lasted seven minutes. Once
it was done, the pilots started slowly pulling the boat out of the
That was it; here they went for a 300 km transportation lasting
approximately four and a half hours over the Alps, sometimes flying at
a height of almost 3000 meters.
The helicopter had to avoid flying over dwellings and buildings. The
way was almost a straight line from Switzerland to Italy. The biggest
difficulty for the pilots was to make sure that the catamaran hanging
from the helicopter would not start rotating. Of course, many
calculations had been previously made by the engineers to determine the
flight speed and the length of the slings that should be used. The
catamaran was equipped with a small parachute at the rear so that it
would remain in line during the transportation.
Halfway, at the Biella airport in Italy, the helicopter had
make a stop to fill up the tanks that had only been filled with 10000
liters of fuel oil to ensure enough power for the route over the Alps.
A ground crew was already there to make sure that the landing of the
boat would go smoothly.
Soon after 2 p.m., the precious load finally arrived safe and sound in
The MIL MI 26 will take the same route for its way back to
Lausanne Blecherette airport in order to retrieve some equipment left
there for the mission, and above all, to put the additional tanks back
which would enable the aircraft to go back to Russia with not less than
30000 liters of fuel oil.
This operation attracted many onlookers to admire the air monster as
well as the Alinghi 5 catamaran’s first flight before its
of fire for the America’s Cup in February 2010. This unusual
operation requested months of calculations and various permissions for
both countries. As far as the Russian crew is concerned, it was one
more successful mission. Back in their country, they will move on to a
deserved rest among their families. NEXT MISSION: forest fires in
Copyright : HelicoMontagne,
Alinghi Carlo Borlenghi, Photopresse, LCI, Alinghi TV.
Remerciement à Alinghi communication Espagne, Photopresse,
HeliAlps - Jean-Luc, l'équipage du Mil Mi26, OPS Helisiwss.