In 2014 Robinson produced 329 helicopters in contrast to the 523 helicopters of 2013. Kurt Robinson, company President, said this was due to the catching up on the backlog of R66s. The other reason involved the fact that over 70% of Robinson helicopters are produced outside the USA and that has to do with economies around the world and how they are faring economically.
Russia, China, Australia and Canada; those are our main countries said Robinson, but underlined the current problems regarding the Russian market
He noted the sale in 2014 of eight R44 Raven IIs to the Royal Jordanian Air Force for flight training – a move that was “exciting for us.”
The R66 is certified around the world including Europe, China and Russia. The reports we are getting back are positive and we are not getting back any reported problems. Rolls Royce is reporting back on the number of hours on the R66 and the current estimate is that the fleet has flown over 275,000 flight hours – last year alone registering over 115,000 of those. That was from a total of 600 R66 helicopters.
Earlier on the first day of the show Robinson signed a 10 year agreement for 1,000 more engines from Rolls Royce, around a minimum of 100 per year. “It is a perfect engine for the aircraft,” said Robinson.
Into 2015, sales are increasing. Weekly production is: 1 x R22; 3 x R66; and 4-5 R44s. Even with that production Robinson is currently backlogged six months on the R66 and seven months on the R44 Raven II.
“We continue to base a priority in customer support. The worldwide number of service centres increased by 17 to a total of 478 worldwide. Of those 112 are certified as R66 service centres,” stated Robinson.
“News that is stealing the attention is the R66 can be fitted with the Gamin G500H and Genesys Aerosystems HeliSAS autopilot – a two access system for pitch and roll,” he said.
In terms of new projects, Kurt Robinson said that the snow certification has been a maddening experience. “It has to be snow that reduces your visibility to less than a quarter of a mile and the temperature needs to be 30F or warmer. We are still working on that but mother nature is not working for me right now.”
The other item the company is working on is the R66 cargo hook, operated by either pilot or passenger. Certification should be completed by the end of the year, he said, and it will be rated to 1,200 lbs.
Robinson anticipated questions on the safety alert regarding the R44 Raven II in New Zealand concerning the CO16-7 main rotor blade fatigue crack. The helicopter is question had an agricultural spray rig attached. “The pilot felt vibration, he made a precautionary landing and examined the blades and found the crack. The CAA examined the blades and have finished their examination and have returned the blades to us.” Robinson has produced over 5,000 of the blades and the safety alerts and the company has recommended pre-flight checks. A more recent R44 crash (with two fatalities) has been found not to be caused by blade cracks.
Finally Robinson said that work was continuing on a fuel bladder for the R66 that would add another two hours of flight time. Drop tests have been conducted but the development is continuing.
At the end, Robinson Jnr said that he had recently seen his father, Frank Robinson, one of the industry’s pioneers. He said at each one of their meetings Frank wants to know how his company is faring first, then his son. He did wish all those attending Heli-Expo a happy and successful show, said son Kurt.
Andrew Drwiega – HeliHub.com
Photos copyright Andrew Drwiega
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