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R66 Turbine Receives FAA Type Certificate

On October 25- three years and eight months after Robinson Helicopter publicly announced plans to develop a five-place turbine helicopter- the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) presented Frank Robinson with Type Certificate No. R00015LA for the much-anticipated R66.

The FAA also presented Robinson with an amended Production Certificate that now includes the R66- allowing Robinson to begin deliveries. Preliminary design of the R66 began in 2001 but engineering began in earnest in 2005 when Robinson reached an agreement with Rolls-Royce to develop the RR300 turbine engine. Frank Robinson had considered other power plant options- but ultimately collaborated with Rolls-Royce on the RR300- a derivative of the Rolls-Royce model 250 series.


The R66 Experience
by Sean Brown – Heli Air’s Managing Director

To the casual observer the new turbine Robinson Helicopters R66 just looks like the R44 and in fact I have been known to describe the R66 as an R44 on steroids; I cannot believe how wrong I was.

On the 8th of November 2010 I was lucky enough to be only the 5th pilot in the world and the first Englishman to be checked out on the R66 at Robinson- Torrance- USA. I was met at the Robinson Pilot training centre by chief test pilot Doug Tompkins- after a brief chat we walked out to the helicopter and started the pre flight inspection.

Two things struck me as we walked around and inspected the various components;

1) How big the helicopter is.
2) How easy it was to inspect all the components of the helicopter.

The cockpit check was simple- check that the enunciator panel lights all light up and that the EMU light wasn’t flashing (yes folks the first sensible spy in the cab - more on that later) and check the fuel loading. A walk down the right side of the helicopter and all the items- such as the impending bypass indicator on the oil filter- are easily visible through the large inspection hatches.

The tail empennage is very similar to the R44 except the additional horizontal stabiliser and that the tail rotor gear box oil is red instead of the blue we normally see on the R44. Walking up the left side of the R66 and again there are sizable hatches to access oil levels etc. A very nice feature is the built in steps to enable you to climb up and look at the rotor head. The walk-around complete and it’s time to mount the beast!

My first thought as I settled in to the well padded large seat was the amount of room in the cockpit. No more polite body shuffles as I allow my passenger to fit his seat harness first (I am quite a big chap so in the R44 it’s difficult if both occupants try to fit the seat belts at the same time); there is plenty of room. Following the Robinson ergonomics Doug ensured the checklist on the R66 flows just as it does on the R44. So doors shut- seat belts on- fuel cut off in- and the flow continues through the center consol and eventually sweeps up to the rotor brake.

Okay- so now I have done the pre flight checks and already I am starting to feel at home and can find all the switches mentioned in the check list. This is quite a significant statement as of the 32 types of machines I have on my licence the instructors often say “don’t worry after a few hours you will soon get used to it” referring to how poor the ergonomics are in most cockpits.

Next lift and we flew a circuit ending in a long final for an autorotation to a power recovery. In the whole flight this was the first time Doug came on the controls and showed me that it was necessary to close the throttle before lowering the lever to contain the N2. Down we glided almost in slow motion- I found I had time to fully control the helicopter and the real scary bit of opening the throttle and rejoining the needles was a breeze- in the flare!

Eventually Doug decided it was time for engine failure in the hover manoeuvres over by the aerials and let me set up the first one. So like all good cheats I hovered at about the height I would perform this in an R22. Rolling off the throttle we just sank gently to the ground and landed normally with a slight raise of the collective and no massive left swing- a total non event. The next engine off in the hover was started at the highest I would have been comfortable doing on in an R44. Again still a non event so we went higher- way above the height I would do one in an R44 or a JetRanger. This time a slight lowering of the collective initially- then raising the lever to cushion the landing still with lever to spare. Finally the worst part of the whole flight- I had to taxi back to parking and shut down!

In conclusion wow! what a machine- I have over 15-000 hours flying everything from an R22 to a 747 and this beats them all!



More information visit – www.heliair.com

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