A Future Giant Cuts its Teeth
The Mil company is arguably the first name that comes to mind when the subject of Russian helicopters is mentioned, this has been the case since the days of the former Soviet Union and the Cold War. The majority of helicopter designs from the Former Soviet Union or post Soviet Russia have come from the Mil or the Kamov design bureaus; however, it was Mil that was first out of the gate with a practical helicopter design for mass production. That helicopter was the Mi-1, known to the western world by its NATO reporting name: “Hare”.
The Helicopter Comes of Age
While the quest for a practical helicopter design had been pursued in various countries in the years prior to the Second World War, it was not until the immediate post war years that helicopter designs suitable for mass production were achieved.
The Mi-1 was designed in the late 1940s and entered series production in 1950. It’s closest western counterparts were the Sikorsky S-51 from America and the Bristol Sycamore from Great Britain; while the three helicopters were contemporaries and broadly comparable in roles and abilities, the Mil design saw longer and larger production runs than the Sikorsky or Bristol machines did.
The 1950s was a very active time for aircraft development and helicopter technology grew by leaps and bounds alongside more conventional aircraft developments. The Mi-1, like its American and British contemporaries experienced a great deal of variation through the course of its development and production.
An Early Jack-of-all-Trades
In the context of being a member of the first generation of mass produced helicopters, the Mi-1 did very well for itself. What began as a three seat helicopter with communications and liaison as primary duties turned into a machine that saw a production run of approximately 15 years with more than 2500 units in over 20 variations both military and civil built between Soviet and Polish production lines.
The Mi-1 found users well beyond the confines of the former Soviet Union and the Warsaw Pact; the helicopter found its way to South and Central America, various points in Asia and the Middle East.
In its life, it performed general transport, air ambulance, passenger transport, agricultural, combat and flight training duties to name but some of the jobs given to it.
The Mi-1 not only outnumbered its Sikorsky and Bristol counterparts in production, but also outlasted them in service; the last Mi-1s in Polish and Soviet service were retired in 1983.
The Mi-1 today and Learning More
Of the more than 2500 examples of the type built, several are available for viewing in museums worldwide.
As of 2013, an Mi-1 was returned to flying status in Russia.
This link will take you to the Polish Aviation Museum’s page on the Mi-1 for further reading: