Robinson Helicopter is expected to announce factory-authorized dealers for the new turbine R66 this month. Robinson vice president Kurt Robinson said he does not expect all dealers of the company’s existing piston-engine R22 and R44 helicopters to become R66 dealers, in part due to a new Robinson-mandated requirement that R66 dealers hold a valid FAA Part 145 repair station certificate. Robinson said the company was giving dealers interested in becoming sales and service centers for the R66 time to obtain their Part 145 approvals if they did not already hold the certificate. “The process takes a while,” he said.
Robinson said the company then planned to announce the R66 dealer appointments in geographic blocks so as not to give one dealer advantage over another.
Currently, the company anticipates six dealers in the U.S. and five in Canada, but that number could grow. Formal dealer approval letters have not been issued. Robinson said the company had received orders for 40 R66s to date, but he expects that number to increase once dealers are announced.
Robinson said that he expected FAA certification approval for the R66 in July and that customer deliveries should begin the following month, barring any unforeseen complications. He said certain items such as the helicopter’s seats, took longer to pass certification tests than the company originally estimated. He also said that the company planned to have factory air conditioning available in the R66 at certification.
The company plans an initial production rate of two R66s per week and therefore adopted a shorter work week on its piston helicopter assembly line, where demand is down from record 2008 production levels, earlier this year so that employees there, who would be needed to make the R66 later this year, would escape layoffs. Robinson also is in the process of finalizing its maintenance and training curriculum for the R66.