Kurt Robinson was generally upbeat about the prospects for his family’s iconic helicopter company, during yesterday’s Heli-Expo press conference. Last year the company delivered its 11,000th helicopter and it will soon deliver its 500th R66 single-engine turbine ship. Production currently stands at two to three R66s, five R44s and one R22 per week.
And that is before the company announced its optional new line of glass-panel avionics offerings earlier this month for all its helicopters. The new avionics feature Aspen and Garmin equipment, as well as the addition of a new electrical system, avionics master switch and full throttle caution light. Robinson called the availability of Garmin 600 and 700 series touchscreen GPS units in his helicopters a “great step forward” for pilot situational awareness and convenience.
Robinson said the company continues to expand its worldwide service network, from 433 last year to 461 so far in 2014 and that the number of R66 approved service centers had grown to 98 and would expand more this year. The company is currently working on certifying float and cargo hook options for the turbine R66.
Over the past year, Robinson continued to add to the number of certification authorities that have approved the R66, including Canada and Russia, even as the company continues to await final certification from the European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) for the helicopter. This has proven to be a lengthy and, according to Robinson, extraordinarily expensive process. The latest impediment appears to be a controversy over how to assure fasteners used on the R66 and other helicopters are not subject to hydrogen embrittlement, Robinson said. He said he was hopeful that final certification approval would be received soon and that he “expected to see a surge in sales at that point.”
Robinson said that the re-entry of Bell into the light single market with its new 505 model announced here Tuesday, far from being predatory competition, would be good for the industry as a whole and the light single market in particular. “For the last five to ten years we haven’t seen any R&D, except for Robinson, in this whole category. It’s really nice to see. This is a great category. If you can bring on another helicopter that expands the market, that is good for the entire industry.”