Robinson Shares in Latin America’s Helicopter Boom

 - August 13, 2013, 6:00 PM
Rising sales of Robinson Helicopters in Brazil by distributors Audi Helicópteros and Power Helicópteros are evidence of the growing popularity of rotorcraft in this part of the world. (Photo: David McIntosh)

The Robinson Helicopter fleet in service in Brazil is the largest of any country in Latin America, according to the manufacturer’s Brazilian distributor, Audi Helicópteros. Audi is at LABACE 2013 (Chalet 6102) well positioned to take advantage of the growing popularity of rotorcraft in this part of the world.

With a chalet immediately adjacent to the main entrance, Audi has one of each of Robinson’s most popular aircraft on prominent display: the five-seat, turbine-powered R66; the four-seat piston-powered R44; and the two-seat piston-powered R22.

Those aircraft, according to Robinson president Kurt Robinson, represent a significant portion of the total sales of 517 helicopters in 2012. Approximately 70 percent of those sales were to customers outside the North American markets, and “a significant portion” of those went to Latin America, which he described as an “engine of economic growth.”

The popularity of Robinson helicopters in Latin America has much to do with the fact that there is a lot of travel to and from the continent’s vast interior that can be made quickly and conveniently only by air, explained Robinson. It is also attributable to the low cost of ownership and fuel efficiency of the helicopters, he added.

Robinson’s R44 Raven 2 remains the company’s best seller, with a price tag in the $400,000 range. The R66 acquisition cost is in the $800,000 range. As to operating costs, Robinson noted that while the nearest competitor’s helicopter consumes approximately 26 gallons of fuel per hour, the R44 averages 14 gallons per hour.

Production at Robinson continues to climb. In 2012, the Torrance, California-based-company rolled out 40 R22s, 286 R44s and 191 R66s. Based on the backlog of new aircraft orders, Robinson anticipates 2013 production numbers to surpass those of 2012. The current production rate is set at 12 aircraft a week, and the company claims that, with a workforce of more than 1,300, it is “well positioned to increase production later this year.”

Robinson is also monitoring demand for upgrades, such as floats and a cargo hook, prompting a decision to make certifications of those options a top priority for 2013.