The obvious difference between the piston-powered R44 and the turbine-powered R66 is the engine, but there are other features that make the R66 an entirely new machine, even though there's no mistaking that it is a product of Robinson Helicopter.
Following a watershed year that marked the retirement of company founder Frank Robinson, the certification and first deliveries of its new R66 turbine single and its worst sales numbers since 1987, Robinson Helicopter (Booth No. 2928) is positioning itself for strengthening sales and new product development.
Heli-Expo returns to Orlando, Fla., March 5 to 8, bringing together more than 17,000 participants, 600 exhibitors and 65 helicopters in the spacious Orange County Convention Center.
Last year Robinson Helicopter manufactured 162 helicopters, down from a peak annual production of 893 just two years earlier. It was the lowest annual production rate for Robinson since 1987. This year the company anticipates it will make 300 helicopters. The total includes an estimated three-per-month production of the newly certified R66 turbine single.
On October 25, Robinson Helicopter entered a new phase as a manufacturer of turbine-powered rotorcraft when the FAA handed over the new R66’s type certificate to founder Frank Robinson and his son and company president Kurt.
Robinson’s long-awaited R66 turbine single was scheduled to receive FAA type certification on October 25. The price has increased to $790,000 and the company says it has firm orders for approximately 100 of the helicopters.
The FAA handed over two certification documents to Robinson Helicopter founder Frank Robinson and his son and company president Kurt yesterday at a ceremony at the helicopter manufacturer’s Torrance, Calif. factory.
Frank Robinson feigned insult when asked about his possible retirement at a 2009 press conference.
“Why?” Robinson shot back with a grin when asked about it. “You know what [the late comedian] Jack Benny said when they asked him what he was going to do with all that money when he died? He said, ‘If I can’t take it with me I won’t go.’ He didn’t need [a retirement] and I think I don’t either.”
Frank Robinson, 80, has retired from the iconic helicopter company he founded in 1973, just weeks before the company expects to receive certification of its R66 turbine single. The company announced on Friday that Robinson’s son Kurt, 53, currently a Robinson vice president, would take the titles of president and chairman. Kurt Robinson has been with the company since 1987 and holds an MBA, a law degree and a commercial helicopter rating.
Robinson Helicopter is expected to announce factory-authorized dealers for the new turbine R66 this month. Robinson vice president Kurt Robinson said he does not expect all dealers of the company’s existing piston-engine R22 and R44 helicopters to become R66 dealers, in part due to a new Robinson-mandated requirement that R66 dealers hold a valid FAA Part 145 repair station certificate.