The Robinson Helicopter Company of Torrance, California is the largest manufacturer of civil helicopters in the world. It was founded in 1973 by Frank Robinson, an ex-employee of Bell Helicopter and The Hughes Helicopter Company. Since delivering its first helicopter in 1979, Robinson Helicopter has produced over 8,000 aircraft. (The number was hit by an R44.) Robinson currently produces two models — the two-seat R22, and the four-seat R44, both of which use Lycoming piston engines virtually identical to those found in fixed-wing general aviation aircraft, such as the Cessna 172.
Robinson R22 Helicopter
In March 2007, Robinson announced plans for production of the Robinson R66, a 5-seat helicopter of similar configuration to the R44, but with the addition of a luggage compartment, wider cabin (by 8 inches), and powered by a Rolls Royce gas turbine engine.
In December 2007, Robinson delivered its 800th helicopter for the year, a production record. The company was the highest rated helicopter manufacturer in Rotor and Wing magazine’s survey of operators.
Though originally designed primarily as a small two-seat helicopter for personal use, the Robinson R22 is a popular pilot training helicopter, due to its low price and low maintenance and operating costs. Its primary competitor, the Schweizer 300C, has a similar configuration, but is more limited production.
R44 Raven II
The Robinson R44 has become an increasingly strong competitor to the ubiquitous Bell 206, and is arguably surpassing the Bell in many areas. Though the Bell has a larger cabin with more seats (four passengers plus pilot in the Bell vs. three passengers plus pilot in the R44) and carrying capacity, the dramatically higher cost of purchasing and maintaining a turbine-powered helicopter makes the Robinson a viable option for many prospective buyers.
The R44 is available in several different configurations, including versions for news gathering and law enforcement. The Clipper version is equipped with floats to enable water landings in the event of an emergency.
The Robinson R66 is a new five seat turbine powered helicopter. The R66 is intended to be somewhere between Robinson’s four seat piston powered R-44 Raven 2 and a Bell 206 JetRanger in terms of performance. A Rolls-Royce RR300 turboshaft will power the new helicopter. The R66 is expected to reach the market sometime between 2011 and 2013.