Robinson Helicopter revealed its intention to obtain approval to operate its R44 and R22 piston-engine helicopters on unleaded fuel this week at Heli-Expo. According to Robinson CEO Kurt Robinson, engine maker Lycoming needs to obtain FAA approval to burn unleaded fuels in its engines while Robinson must perform airframe testing with the fuels on board for each of its relevant helicopter models.
Robinson Helicopter announced Tuesday at Heli-Expo that it is working with Lycoming and the FAA to have unleaded fuels approved for use in piston engines installed in its R22 and R44 models.
CEO Kurt Robinson said the FAA had issued the company a project code for the effort and made it a priority. He said he hoped to have all the necessary approvals from engine maker Lycoming in the first half of this year. “It’s environmentally the right thing to do and it bothers me that it hasn’t been done,” Robinson said.
The aircraft modification segment of Butler National’s wholly owned subsidiary Avcon (Booth No. C3004) is exhibiting at Heli-Expo for the first time. Avcon is armed with a novel concept design for a skid-mount portable system for Lidar system operations in rotorcraft. Avcon modifies business and cargo aircraft, both fixed-wing and rotorcraft, in Newton, Kansas, and provides many FAA-approved solutions to a variety of operators.
Led by increasing demand for its R66 turbine single, Robinson Helicopter posted strong numbers last year, delivering 517 aircraft, up from 365 in 2011, according to company CEO Kurt Robinson. “Things have definitely picked up,” he told AIN.
Boeing’s Aviall has entered into an exclusive agreement with Rolls-Royce to support the RR300, the engine that powers the Robinson R66. The agreement runs through the first six months of 2022. Under the deal, Dallas-based Aviall will distribute RR300 new spare parts and modules, exchange material, exchange modules, RR300 kits, tooling and electronic publications and have responsibility for sales, marketing, forecasting, stocking, inventory, warranty processing and order fulfillment.
Aviall Services has entered into an exclusive distribution agreement with Rolls-Royce for parts, modules and tooling for the RR300 turboshaft used on the Robinson R66. Deliveries of the R66 have already passed the 150 mark; the helicopter manufacturer expects deliveries to peak at several hundred per year, with annual flight hours reaching nearly 900,000 by 2020.
Robinson Helicopter enjoyed a robust first six months, producing 234 aircraft–76 R66 turbine singles and 156 R44s. Sales of the R66 have been particularly strong, even as the base price of that aircraft was raised to $822,000, effective July 1. In response to demand for the R66, Robinson plans to raise production of that aircraft from four to six per week by year-end, increasing Robinson’s total aircraft production to 13 per week from the rate of 10 per week at the beginning of the year and the current rate of 11 per week.
The families of the two Colombian men killed in the July 2011 crash of a Robinson R66 have hired Los Angeles law firm Baum Hedlund to represent them. Last month the law firm issued a press release featuring photos of the dead men with their families and blasting Robinson for placing “profit over passenger safety.” Baum Hedlund has faced off with Robinson in five previous crashes of R22s and R44s.
Robinson Helicopter recently delivered its 100th R66 single-engine turbine helicopter to long-time customer and South African-dealer National Airways Corp. Just 14 months after receiving FAA certification, Robinson has received more than 380 orders for the five-passenger Rolls-Royce RR300-powered R66, 70 percent of those from the export market. Customer response to the R66 has exceeded expectations, said Robinson CEO Kurt Robinson.
Rolls-Royce (Booth No. 9040) has almost completed development of the 475-shp RR500 turboshaft but is still waiting for an aircraft manufacturer or modifier to specify the engine for a new project. Meanwhile, the Indianapolis-based engine manufacturer has moved into full-rate production with the 300-shp RR300 turboshaft, which powers the Robinson R66 light single. Improvements are also underway on the M250, to which both of the newer engines trace their roots.