12-Oct-2010 Source: HeliHub.com
As part of our interview with Frank Robinson last Friday, we discussed the future – principally the upcoming R66 model which is due for FAA certification in two weeks time on 25th October and the EASA approval 6-8 months after that. As the total number of helicopters delivered from the RHC factory at Torrance closes in on 10,000, the new R66 turbine is expected to provide a new impetus to the total.
Currently, RHC have just over 100 paid deposits for the R66, a figure no doubt held down by the effects of the global recession. Taking soundings from Giorgio Bendoni, Sales Director of UK dealer Sloane Helicopters, the main reason seems more likely to be that the potential customers want to see and try an R66 for themselves – the performance figures look good, they just want to verify them for real. Nothing beats actually sitting in and flying a new type. Sloane are expecting their first R66 in the UK around the end of November.
What market is RHC aiming at with the R66? Frank was very direct on this – the Bell 206 market, fair and square. The R66 is a five-seat turbine helicopter, just like the 206, and to that end should be capable of most if not all applications that the Bell has been put to every since the first deliveries to customers in 1967. Robinson considers the 43-year old technology will hold back the 206 significantly, but the R66’s base line price at $790,000 ex factory before options, transportation, local certification etc also needs to be borne in mind. While the purchase price of a pre-owned 206 is likely to be much lower, the maintenance and operating costs will balance out that advantage. No other helicopter type features so strongly in Robinson’s view of the R66 future. With the JetRanger production line closing at MSN 4690 after 43 years, the casual observer would expect Robinson to easily beat Bell’s average of 109 units a year – but will they last the course to produce the R66 over such a long period? The market looks set for a show-down.
Look out tomorrow for Frank’s analysis of his own future
This is one of a series of five articles from HeliHub.com’s interview with Frank Robinson – here are links to all five
* Frank Robinson completes UK tour
* Frank Robinson talks to HeliHub.com about the market for the R66
* Frank Robinson promises he will make it to 100
* Surviving the recession, by Frank Robinson
* Frank Robinson prefers R44 to R66 (and other anecdotes)