- 22 Jun 2021
- Tony Kioussis
- Aviation Podcasts
Robinson Helicopter Company has been a major operator in the commercial helicopter domain for almost 50 years, particularly in light helicopters. The California-based manufacturer has carved out a significant share of the market over the decades, and continues to upgrade and innovate today.
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A 2021-model Robinson R66 costs $940k, according to Aircraft Bluebook’s summer 2021 data. Older models display lower average retail prices for buyers willing to shop in the pre-owned market, including, for example, $650k for a 2016 model and $500k for a 2011 model. Individual models could sell for above or below the average retail price for their model year, depening on several model-specific factors, including maintenance condition, time on the airframe and engine, damage history, and more.
In April 2021, JETNET reported there were 877 Robinson R66 turbine helicopters flying worldwide. At the time of writing, there had been 39 R66 retirements from a total 1,050 units built (134 of those were in various stages of production).
Robinson R66 turbine helicopters offer a maximum range of 265 nautical miles, according to Conklin & de Decker.
Targeting the entry level for the single-engine turbine helicopter market, Robinson’s R66 competes closely with the Bell 505.
Robinson Turbine Helicopter Overview
By Gerrard Cowan
Roots in Piston Helicopters
Robinson was founded in 1973 by Frank Robinson, and, as of 2021 had sold more than 13,000 helicopters around the world. The company introduced its first product in 1979; the two-seat, piston-powered Robinson R22. This easily operated and maintained helicopter was relatively inexpensive, proving popular in flight schools and among private operators.
There have been various different updates to the R22 over the years, such as the R22 Beta, which was introduced in 1985 and brought a higher-powered Lycoming O-320-B2C engine to the platform, along with a redesigned instrument panel and a number of other enhancements.
The R22 Beta II, meanwhile, was introduced in 1995, and brought more power again through a de-rated Lycoming O-360 engine, along with a range of other upgrades.
Then, in 1992, the company introduced its four-seat Robinson R44, later known as the R44 Raven I. This aircraft shares the same design philosophy as the R22, according to Robinson, though it has a more powerful Lycoming IO-540 engine.
It was succeeded by the R44 Raven II in 2002, which now had a fuel-injected Lycoming IO-540 engine and 28-volt electrical system, enhancing the platform’s ability to perform in ‘high and hot conditions’. By 2003, R44 sales double those of the R22.
Turbine Helicopter Expansion
At about this time, the manufacturer began developing plans for a turbine-powered helicopter, and secured an agreement with Rolls-Royce for an RR300 engine, derived from the RR250. This was used as the basis of what became the Robinson R66 turbine helicopter, a five-seat rotorcraft that was certified in 2010.
The R66 has been a significant success story for Robinson over its decade in production, with more than 1,000 units – which have accumulated over 1.3 million flight hours – delivered to a wide range of customers. While the aircraft resembles the R44 piston model, it has a wider cabin, accommodating a pilot and four passengers.
The aircraft features a three-place rear bench and an externally-accessed baggage compartment. It has a maximum range of about 350nm. The aircraft has a two-bladed rotor system, energy-absorbing seats, crash-worthy bladder fuel tanks, and a range of other features.
The manufacturer has continually updated and upgraded the R66 over the years. For example, the aircraft was upgraded to offer the Garmin G500H Avionics Display System and the Genesys Aerosystems HeliSAS autopilot.
Today, the R66 and the R44 are Robinson’s major sellers, and a recent addition to the production line is the R44 Cadet, aimed at the training market.
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Read the latest Robinson Turbine Helicopter Comparisons by Mike Chase