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Published on Jul 2, 2014
The Mi-8 helicopter used by His Holiness John Paul II during his pilgrimage to Poland in 1979 has been put on display in the Polish Aviation Museum at Krakow. Carrying military serial 620, the Mi-8 is shown in the colours of the VIP flight - 36 Specjalny Pułk Lotnictwa Transportowego, or 36th Special Regiment of Aviation Transport in English. Pope John Paul II was notable as the first non-Italian Pope for over 455 years, and the first Pope from Poland. The addition of this helicopter to the collection not only continues the recording of the 1979 visit but also matches up with the street address of the museum - which was renamed to "al. John Paul II" in memory of his papacy of over 26 years. Mi-8 is a medium transport helicopter, powered by two turboshaft engines, designed in early 1960s at the Mil Design Bureau in the USSR as the successor of the piston powered Mi-4. The first prototype, powered by a single engine first flew in 1961. The next prototype, powered by two engines TV-2, first flew in 1962. Mi-8 became one of the world's most popular transport helicopters. Numerous versions, like transport, passenger, VIP transport and rescue were developed as well as meny specialized subvariants, like minelayer, minesweeper and flying command post. More than 9,000 were built and the production of the development version continues. The Mi-14 amphibian helicopter is based on Mi-8 design. In 1976 another Mi-17 version was developed (in Russia designated Mi-8M), powered by more powerful TV-3 engines, enhancing the helicopter's performance in hot and high environment, which was utilized by the Soviet army during the war in Afghanistan. Polish military aviation has operated the Mi-8 since 1968 in the transport, rescue, executive and passenger version, and the Mi-17 since 1987. Three Mi-8s are also operated by the Police aviation. The example on display, serial number 10620, tail number 620 is a Mi-8 of the military VIP transport variant. It was manufactured in 1973 at the Kazan Helicopter Plant. It served with the No. 36 Special Air Transport Regiment at Warsaw. It was one of Mi-8 used during JPII's visits in Poland. The helicopter was donated to the Museum in December 2009.