EASA has issued a “Major Change Approval” document dated 20th October 2015, approving pop-out floats for the Robinson R66 Turbine. This model is known at Robinson Helicopter Co (RHC) as the R66 Turbine Marine, and was approved by the FAA on November 15, 2014.
The R66 pop-out float option is similar to the R44 Clipper pop-out float option – in fact, the same float tubes are used. The float option adds approximately 65 pounds to the helicopter’s empty weight. When not in use, the float tubes stow in low-profile protective covers along the landing gear skids minimizing drag and allowing easy cabin entry and exit. The floats are activated by a lever on the pilot’s collective and inflate within 2 to 3 seconds allowing the pilot to make an immediate water landing if necessary. Pressurized helium from a tank mounted beneath the right rear seat provides the rapid inflation.
When RHC announced the FAA approval, they specifically included the words “Primarily used in emergencies…” but that is not the case with EASA, who noted the following
Floats not certified for Ditching or as Emergency Flotation Equipment
So, we have a bizarre situation. Pop-out floats are for emergencies (as they have to be packed away by a suitably-qualified engineer after use), and anyone needing floats full-time would have fixed floats, which are different due to their full-time aerodynamic impact. The FAA says you can use R66 pop-out floats in emergencies, and EASA says you cannot. Is this EASA approval worth the paper it is written on?
Perhaps this is this just another example of apparent EASA dislike of the R66? Many HeliHub.com contacts across Europe are of the strong belief that Airbus Helicopters has exerted influence on EASA for many years to try and block the R66 certification (they did not certify the type for four years after the FAA approved it). A one point EASA were requiring RHC to demonstrate that a hydraulic servo had a failure rate of less than one every Billion (yes, Billion, not Million) flight hours.
Less than two weeks ago, we noted that the production total of the R66 has now passed that of the H120 in just 27% of the time it took the French-built aircraft to reach its current total.
Jeremy Parkin – HeliHub.com
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