AHF↑Inside: Hip Heaven

In an assembly hall in Prague, a technician shines a light on a tiny metal tube. He carefully inspects it and finally gives it an approving nod. It is one of many components of a TV3-117VM engine, which in turn is part of a Czech Air Force Mi-171s Hip. Nearby, in a hangar outside Kbely airbase, the helicopter itself receives the same careful attention. Here, Mil helicopters undergo overhaul in the hands of LOM PRAHA, a company specializing in MRO for Mil helicopters and soon celebrating its 100th anniversary. A century of experience in aviation maintenance means top quality, courtesy of LOM PRAHA, a ‘Hip’ heaven.

A visit to LOM PRAHA means a showcase of craftsmanship, certified by Mil helicopters and the Klimov engine company among others. The company has a vast expertise in maintenance, repair, and overhaul (MRO) of Mi-8, Mi-17 and Mi-171 Hip helicopters, and their Klimov engines, gearboxes, auxiliary power units and other systems. The company also offers MRO services for Mi-2, Mi-24 and Mi-35 helicopters, plus L-39 trainer jet including their turbofan AI-25TL engines. Furthermore it is an original equipment manufacturer (OEM) of its own small piston engines, intended for various aerobatic and classic aircraft.

A Czech Mi-171Sh in the Kbely facility. (Image © Dennis Spronk)

Hip helicopters are always to been seen at LOM PRAHA, being carefully overhauled and maintained. During AIRheads↑Fly’s visit here in February, many of the helicopters present were Czech Air Force machines. The state owned company provides its services to an increasing number of foreign customers, but the largest client and strategic partner is still the Czech MoD.

Last screws
During a D-level overhaul – to be performed usually every 8 years or after 2000 flying hours – the helicopters are completely stripped down to the last screw. All of their components are inspected and are either repaired or completely replaced with new ones. During D-level maintenance – performed every 8 years or after 2000 flying hours – the helicopters are completely stripped and inspected, their parts replaced or repaired when necessary.

The engines, gearboxes and APUs are brought to the engine LOM PRAHA workshop in Prague Malesice for MRO. After arriving, they are completely taken apart, cleaned, inspected, repaired and put together again in accordance with the OEM’s technical bulletins. The maintenance staff is composed of experienced older engineers, as well as young ones, which are qualified fresh graduates of technical universities. Technicians are then shaped into experts, able to always supply the emphasis on the top quality LOM PRAHA offers to its domestic and global clientele.

It takes well trained technicians to figure these engines out. (Image © Dennis Spronk)
It takes well trained technicians to figure these engines out. (Image © Dennis Spronk)

The typical overhaul process takes five to six months, depending mostly on the shape of the helicopter as arrives for overhaul. When the overhaul is done, the aircraft is just like brand new. It’s a trademark of LOM PRAHA: “Our customers are often unable to distinguish one of our overhauled helicopters from a new one”, says Daniel Dvorak, marketing manager of LOM PRAHA – a company that provides work to over 850 people.

LOM Praha employees at work in the spotless work area in Malesice, Prague. (Image © Dennis Spronk)

Besides providing MRO services, which is the ongoing core business, LOM PRAHA also offers modernisations for Mil Mi helicopters. The Mi-17/171 helicopter is renowned for its flight performance – it is durable, reliable – and a true workhorse which is able to operate in conditions few other helicopters could. The avionics and other systems however, need attention in order to suit the needs of the customer requirements for the battlefield of the 21st century.

Czech Mi-171Sh helicopters, which were deployed in the ISAF operation, were fully modernised by LOM PRAHA. The modernisation effort concerned the implementation of additional composite armoring, ballistic protection, countermeasures, jammers, avionics, navigation systems, but also details such as more comfortable and crash-worthy crew seats and air conditioning units. Some of these Mi-171Sh helicopters were also upgraded with FLIR and served in special purpose missions.

Another Hip is overhauled in the LOM Praha RMO facility in Kbely. (Image © Dennis Spronk)

During ISAF, Mi-171 helos overhauled, modernized and maintained by LOM PRAHA, flew over 2800 flight hours, transported around 9000 troops and 350 tonnes of cargo. All of this, without a single accident or malfunctions in this high risk environment with challenging climatic conditions for any aviation hardware. The heavy use of Mil helicopters in recent years, means a lot of hard work for LOM, but also a possibility to gain further expertise in research and development into the upgrade possibilities.

Mil Mi-8/17/171 helicopters are machines that are built to last – over 12,000 in the different variants were produced and operate even in the toughest conditions all over the world. Yet, as workers position the massive gearbox of a Mi-17 into place, they know that this durability depends on their maintenance skills. In a few days, the helicopter they are working on will be pulled over to Kbely airbase to perform a test flight, after which the helo will return to its owner: the Czech Air Force. They’ll think they are receiving a brand new helicopter. They are not. They are receiving top quality work from LOM PRAHA.

It’s new, isn’t it? No, it’s not. It’s an overhauled Mi-171 gearbox and rotorhead, ready for many more hard working flight hours. A prime example of the quality LOM Praha delivers. (Image © Dennis Spronk)
The world of aviation is a world of certificates. The one top left is Mil’s Moscow Helicopter Plant certificate to LOM Praha. (Image © Dennis Spronk)
In a buying mood? LOM Praha has this former Czech Air Force Mi-24V Hind for sale, along with six others. Overhaul included, of course. (Image © Dennis Spronk)

© 2014 AIRheads’ editor Elmer van Hest



LOM PRAHA offers complex services for Mil helicopters
and L-39 aircraft, mainly for Mi-2, Mi-8/17, Mi-24/35s helicopters
and their equipment (turboshaft engines, gearboxes and auxiliary power units)
as well as repairs of L-39 aircraft and their engines.


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A bug eyed insect? No, a Mil Mi-171s Hip helicopter in the trusted hands of LOM Praha. (Image © Dennis Spronk)