Staff Writer (Updated: 10/7/2015):
The Mi-8 was developed as a replacement for the Mi-4 "Hound", a piston-engined transport helicopter appearing in 1953 that could seat up to fourteen personnel. Utilizing some of the successful internal workings of the Mi-4, the new Mil design featured a single Soloviev turboshaft engine of 2,700 shaft horsepower mated to an all-new enlarged fuselage. The prototype took on the name of Mi-8 ("Hip-A") and achieved first flight on July 9th, 1961. Follow-up developmental testing soon revealed the design to lack in power and, as such, the single engine idea was dropped in favor of a twin-engined design featuring two Isotov TV2 turboshaft engines. A five-blade main rotor was also used in this revision which produced the second prototype, first flying on September 17th, 1962. Minor revisions followed and the Mi-8 was fully introduced in Soviet Air Force service sometime in 1967. The initial production versions all fell under the NATO designation of "Hip-C" and constituted the base militarized model and a civilian model (noted for its square windows instead of round). Since then, the Hip series has been expanded to include a plethora of upgraded and specially-designed versions.
Externally, the Mi-8 maintains a most utilitarian look about her. She sports a low-slung front crew area with extensive glazing that offers up excellent views from the cockpit. Immediately to the cockpit's rear is the spacious crew cabin with side-mounted sliding doors. On most versions, the tricycle undercarriage is static (one such Hip offered a retractable undercarriage) which adds to the types distinct look. Two engines are mounted above and to the rear of the crew cabin area and power a large five-blade main rotor system. The empennage is also a distinct feature of this rotorcraft as it sits high in the design and sports a single vertical tail fin, horizontal plane and a three-blade tail rotor mounted to the starboard side (the similar Mi-17 mounts the tail rotor to port). A modified Hip system features a rear-loading ramp. The crew consists of a pilot, co-pilot and a loadmaster.