Robinson Ties Its Future to the R66

 - February 23, 2009, 4:51 AM

The second Robinson R66 made its first flight on February 18, marking an important milestone for a company dealing with the affects of the economic downturn. Weekly output at Robinson has fallen from 17 to 12 helicopters, with the number expected to go lower still. In January the company began laying off workers at a rate of 50 per month, the maximum allowed by law without having to give 60-days’ notice. “The only thing that we can count on to save this company is to get that R66 on the market as soon as possible,” said company president and founder Frank Robinson. That is likely to happen later this year as the turbine-powered R66 closes in on certification, but full-rate production probably won’t start until 2011. Although the effects of the bad economy are taking their toll on Robinson, the Torrance, Calif. company is gaining market share in police and news markets with its piston-powered R44 as local municipalities and TV stations seek to cut costs.