As of April 1st 2012, Robinson Helicopter Company has discontinued sales of and is no longer filling orders for the older-style stainless steel MR blades for R44 Astro and Raven I helicopters. Per AD 2011-12-10 and R44 Service Letter 37- Robinson introduced new C016-7 aluminum-skinned blades to increase dent resistance and reduce corrosion that resulted in instances of debonding in the old blades.
With the discontinuation, R44 Astro owners are now faced with the expensive proposition of upgrading subject aircraft with hydraulic flight controls along with an extensive list of additional component upgrades. Add to this the fact that the hydraulics installation can only be completed at the Robinson factory- the expense of this option can easily total $40-50k per helicopter, not factoring for operational downtime. Lastly, Robinson will not release a helicopter from service at the factory unless all Service Bulletin items have been brought into compliance- including the pricey and time-consuming fuel bladder kit retrofit per SB 78 which, due to supply delays can add 4-5 months and an additional $6800 to the price tag.
According to the FAA, this AD will effect approximately 2300 Robinson aircraft, or one-half of the total fleet. While Raven II and some Raven I operators can bring their aircraft into compliance relatively easy with “minor” component upgrades and purchase of the new aluminum MR blades- it remains to be seen weather the estimated 500 Astro owners will pony up. Doubtless, the remaining -4 model stainless steel blades will become increasingly scarce as a growing number of operators seek to avoid the time and expense of compliance.
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- Australia grounds R44s without bladder tanks
- 02-May-13 G-MRRY Robinson R44 Denham, UK
- 02-May-13 N442RN Robinson R44 Pomeroy, US-Washington
- EASA approves Aspen Avionics in Robinson R44
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- 23-Apr-13 ZS-HLS Robinson R44 Schoemanskloof, South Africa (4F)
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