HAI Convention News

Robinson Getting the Lead Out, Goes Glass

 - March 6, 2013, 2:25 PM
Kurt Robinson, CEO, Robinson Helicopter

Robinson Helicopter announced Tuesday at Heli-Expo that it is working with Lycoming and the FAA to have unleaded fuels approved for use in piston engines installed in its R22 and R44 models.

CEO Kurt Robinson said the FAA had issued the company a project code for the effort and made it a priority. He said he hoped to have all the necessary approvals from engine maker Lycoming in the first half of this year. “It’s environmentally the right thing to do and it bothers me that it hasn’t been done,” Robinson said.

The company also is continuing to work with Garmin and Aspen Avionics for approvals for optional installations of glass-panel avionics in all Robinson models. This will include the Garmin GTN series touchscreens and the G500H system in the turbine-powered R66 and R44 and Aspen installations in the R44 and R22 to replace the traditional “six pack” of steam gage instruments. Robinson said he hoped for all the necessary approvals in the second half of this year.

International R66 Certification Efforts

Robinson said the company continues to pursue certification approval for the R66 in Canada, Russia and Europe and that the sticking point is the company’s demonstration of an equivalent level of safety (ELOS) due to the lack of redundant hydraulic systems in the aircraft. The FAA certified the R66 and R44 with hydraulic controls with an exception to that requirement, and Robinson said that recent testing has shown that pilots can operate the R66 safely in the event of hydraulic failure. “We had to show what would happen if we jammed the hydraulics,” he explained, “so we intentionally did so with the largest metal chip we could fit in the system. It was very easy for the pilot to break through the chip and maintain maneuverability of the aircraft.”

Robinson said certification authorities in Canada, Europe and Russia have been notified of the test results and that “the ball is in their court” with regard to certification. He said the company is committed to gaining certification in those markets and would provide any other additional data required.

In other initiatives related to the R66, Robinson has completed in-house float testing and expects the FAA to do so this spring. The company is continuing to develop a cargo hook package for the R66 that will enable the aircraft to be flown from either pilot position. “People have told me that Canadian certification is useless unless I can provide a cargo hook for the R66 at the same time,” Robinson said, noting the popularity of sling-loading there. Robinson continues cargo hook testing using Canadian pilots.

The R66 police package was certified last year as was a five-point shoulder harness and an optional 25-amp battery in place of the standard 19-amp model. Robinson noted, “Not everyone flies in Southern California and there are conditions when you really want that extra amperage.”

Last year R66 production increased to 191and now stands at six per week. Robinson said that he was encouraged that R66 sales had not slowed demand for the R44, which saw 286 deliveries last year. “The R66 is not cannibalizing sales for the R44. The people who are buying R66s, that’s a different market. The people who are using R44s still love them and that’s great. Our goal is to grow the market and not take market share from someone else, particularly our own,” Robinson said.

By mid-year Robinson will begin installing as standard equipment in R22s fuel bladders that will decrease that model’s endurance by 15 minutes, but not add any weight. “I believe the additional security is worth the loss of endurance,” Robinson said, noting that the bladders will hold slightly less fuel than the aircraft’s current fuel system.

On a personal note, Robinson said that his father, company founder Frank Robinson, no longer comes to the office. “This is the industry that he loves and it kills him not to be here.”