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MD Helicopters MD900 Explorer

Twin-Engine Light Utility Helicopter (LUH)

MD Helicopters MD900 Explorer

Twin-Engine Light Utility Helicopter (LUH)


The MD Helicopters Explorer line has seen global expansion with operators ranging from Belgium and Germany to the United Kingdom and the United States.
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ORIGIN: United States
YEAR: 1992
STATUS: Active, In-Service
OPERATORS: Belgium; Germany; Hungary; Hong Kong; Luxembourg; Mexico; United Kingdom; United States

Unless otherwise noted the presented statistics below pertain to the MD Helicopters MD902 model. Common measurements, and their respective conversions, are shown when possible.
LENGTH: 32.32 feet (9.85 meters)
WIDTH: 33.83 feet (10.31 meters)
HEIGHT: 11.98 feet (3.65 meters)
WEIGHT (EMPTY): 3,373 pounds (1,530 kilograms)
WEIGHT (MTOW): 6,250 pounds (2,835 kilograms)
ENGINE: 2 x Pratt & Whitney Canada PW206E turboshaft engines developing 550 horsepower each and driving a 5-bladed main rotor and NOTAR tail system.
SPEED (MAX): 162 miles-per-hour (260 kilometers-per-hour; 140 knots)
RANGE: 339 miles (545 kilometers; 294 nautical miles)
CEILING: 17,503 feet (5,335 meters; 3.32 miles)
RATE-OF-CLIMB: 1,000 feet-per-minute (305 meters-per-minute)

Typically none. military versions may be equipped with rocket pods, cannon pods, gun pods, and machine guns as needed.
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Series Model Variants
• MD Explorer - Base Series Name.
• MD900 "Explorer" - Initial production variant; 2 x Pratt & Whitney Canada PW206A, PW206E, or PW207E turboshaft engines offered.
• MD901 "Explorer" - Proposed civilian market transport variant; powered by 2 x Turbomeca Arrius turboshaft engines; revised undercarriage.
• MD902 - MD900 successor; upgraded variant with 2 x PWC PW206E or PW207E turboshaft engines; revised IIDS.
• MH-90 "Enforcer" - Armed USCG variant.
• MD969 "Combat Explorer" - Militarized version of the MD900 series.
• "Swift" - Proposed high-speed compound helicopter form to compete in the US Army Future Attack Reconnaissance Aircraft (FARA) program.


Detailing the development and operational history of the MD Helicopters MD900 Explorer Twin-Engine Light Utility Helicopter (LUH).  Entry last updated on 3/8/2019. Authored by Staff Writer. Content ©
The Light Utility Helicopter (LUH) market can be a lucrative one for a company lucky enough to interest foreign buyers. The MD Explorer, offered by MD Helicopters, has found modest success in a variety of sectors, both military and civilian. It is actively included in the current MD Helicopters lineup alongside the venerable MD500 line and the MD600. The MD900 is currently represented by the upgraded standard, the MD902, which continues the established traits of the product through affordability, reliability, and performance for the LUH market.

The MD900 series is a multi-role platform, configurable to meet customer demands. As such, it can be arranged to serve in such markets as security, law enforcement, military, VIP / general passenger transportation, light cargo transportation, Search-and-Rescue (SAR), Special Operations (SPECOPS), MEDEVAC, and the oil & gas industries.

As built, the helicopter utilizes a sleek design look with its elegantly sloping nose and smooth contours. The two pilot positions (side-by-side seating) at front have redundant control systems and the wide-view glass panes offer exceptional vision and enhanced situational awareness out-of-the-cockpit. Aft of the cockpit is the passenger compartment which is typically arranged to carry six. A twin side-by-side engine arrangement is featured over the cabin roof and this is used to drive a five-bladed composite main rotor overhead while powering a "NOTAR" ("NO TAil Rotor") system at the rear (the MD900 design lacks a traditional tail rotor unit). The tail stem is elevated with the shaft running straight aft and terminating with the NOTAR unit. Atop the tail is a twin-finned rudder. The undercarriage is of simple four-point skid arrangement.

Internally, the cockpit supports the Genesys Aerosystems Integrated (GAI) IDU-680 series EFIS/EICAS/MFD all-digital "Glass Cockpit" sporting four large displays. A center console provides access to shared control systems between the two pilot positions. The passenger section can be arranged to seat six in twin three-seat, face-to-face configuration or changed to carry a medical litter with accompanying staff, wider seats for luxurious VIP transport, or six-person-seating with additional cargo space aft for offshore industry work.

The MD900's anti-torque capability, normally handled by a tail rotor to offset the natural occurring force in propeller-/bladed-type designs, is provided for by the patented NOTAR system. This system utilizes more precise direction control to accomplish the same effect without the complexity or danger of exposed spinning blades at ground-level. Furthermore, the NOTAR system reduces operating noises which are critical to operations at some airports and over populated cityscapes.

The MD900 line began with the original MD900 "Explorer" production model and this form was furnished with 2 x Pratt & Whitney PW206A, PW206E, or PW207E turboshaft engines. Arriving next was the MD901 "Explorer" offering which proposed a switch to 2 x French-originated Turbomeca "Arrius" turboshaft engines along with a tri-angel undercarriage but it appears that lack of interest has doomed this mark.

The MD902 represents the current (and upgraded) production standard of the MD900 line by MD Helicopters. These carry 2 x PW206E or PW207E turboshaft engines and feature enhanced Integrated Instrument Display Systems (IIDSs). Older MD900 models can be upgraded to this standard.

Dedicated military versions have included the MH-90 "Enforcer" which was used from 1998 until 2000 by the United States Coast Guard (USCG) service for interdiction duties. The MD969 "Combat Explorer" became a militarized, fully-armed platform for direct-contact work. The "Swift" is a new model being proposed by MD Helicopters for the U.S. Army's ongoing "Future Attack Reconnaissance Aircraft" (FARA) program.

Most in-service MD900 helicopters operate in the law enforcement and air ambulance roles.


Our Data Modules allow for quick visual reference when comparing a single entry against contemporary designs. Areas covered include general ratings, speed assessments, and relative ranges based on distances between major cities.

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Relative Maximum Speed Rating
Hi: 200mph
Lo: 100mph
    This entry's maximum listed speed (162mph).

    Graph average of 150 miles-per-hour.
City-to-City Ranges
Graph showcases the MD Helicopters MD902's operational range (on internal fuel) when compared to distances between major cities.
Aviation Era
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Useful in showcasing the era cross-over of particular aircraft/aerospace designs.
Unit Production Comparison
Comm. Market HI*: 44,000 units
Military Market HI**: 36,183 units

  * Commercial Market High belongs to Cessna 172.

  ** Military Market High belongs to Ilyushin Il-2.

Altitude Visualization
Small airplane graphic
Supported Roles
Ground Attack
Aerial Tanker
A2A=Air-to-Air; UAV=Unmanned; CAS=Close Support; ASW=Anti-Submarine; AEW=Airborne Early Warning; MEDEVAC=Medical Evac; EW=Electronic Warfare; SAR=Search-Rescue
Commitments / Honors
Military lapel ribbon for Operation Allied Force
Military lapel ribbon for the Arab-Israeli War
Military lapel ribbon for the Battle of Britain
Military lapel ribbon for the Battle of Midway
Military lapel ribbon for the Berlin Airlift
Military lapel ribbon for the Chaco War
Military lapel ribbon for the Cold War
Military lapel ribbon for the Cuban Missile Crisis
Military lapel ribbon for pioneering aircraft
Military lapel ribbon for the Falklands War
Military lapel ribbon for the French-Indochina War
Military lapel ribbon for the Golden Age of Flight
Military lapel ribbon for the 1991 Gulf War
Military lapel ribbon for the Indo-Pak Wars
Military lapel ribbon for the Iran-Iraq War
Military lapel ribbon for the Korean War
Military lapel ribbon for the 1982 Lebanon War
Military lapel ribbon for the Malayan Emergency
Military lapel ribbon representing modern aircraft
Military lapel ribbon for the attack on Pearl Harbor
Military lapel ribbon for the Six Day War
Military lapel ribbon for the Soviet-Afghan War
Military lapel ribbon for the Spanish Civil War
Military lapel ribbon for the Suez Crisis
Military lapel ribbon for the Vietnam War
Military lapel ribbon for Warsaw Pact of the Cold War-era
Military lapel ribbon for the WASP (WW2)
Military lapel ribbon for the World War 1
Military lapel ribbon for the World War 2
Military lapel ribbon for the Yom Kippur War
Military lapel ribbon for experimental x-plane aircraft
* Ribbons not necessarily indicative of actual historical campaign ribbons. Ribbons are clickable to their respective campaigns/operations.

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