Robinson R66, Philip, S.D., Oct. 1, 2011–The light helicopter was destroyed and its owner/pilot was killed when the aircraft crashed in a pasture following an apparent in-flight breakup, according to the NTSB. The debris from the accident was spread over 15 acres and the main rotor was found approximately 500 feet from the fuselage wreckage. The flight had originated in Gillette, Wyo.
After a lackluster 2010, Robinson Helicopter is back on a healthier track, according to CEO Kurt Robinson. The Torrance, Calif.-based builder of single-engine helicopters recently hired 150 employees, bringing its workforce to 1,100, and increased production to some 10 helicopters per week.
A New Zealand company plans to build an all-composite, six-seat turbine single for less than the price of a new Robinson R66.
Engine maker Rolls-Royce released its annual turbine helicopter sales forecast at Heli-Expo 2011. The company predicts 16,900 new turbine helicopters will be delivered between now and 2020 with a value of $140 billion.
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.
Uniflight (Booth No. 2654) is developing a supplemental type certificate (STC) to install the 475-shp Rolls-Royce RR500 in the Bell 206. The $599,000 (2011 dollars, less engine core credit) STC includes the RR500 engine, new engine cowling and exhaust, Donaldson inlet-barrier filter and diffuser-vent filter and a Sagem eight-inch multifunction display for engine instruments.
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.