INTERVIEW BY STEVE GOLDSWORTHY
ROTORCRAFT PROFESSIONAL’S STEVE GOLDSWORTH RECENTLY VISITED THE ROBINSON HELICOPTER FACILITY IN TORRANCE, CALIFORNIA AND SPOKE TO MR. KURT ROBINSON, VICE PRESIDENT OF ROBINSON HELICOPTERS ABOUT THEIR NEW R66 TURBINE.
Rotorcraft Pro: Kurt I have to start
by asking the obvious first question. Where is the R66 in the certification process? Kurt: The FAA is currently flying two
ships. Next week we will start the F&R process. Function and Reliability, and then they will be flying a ship up in Big Bear (editors note: Big Bear field elevation is 6752’ and known for it’s high DA, over 10,000 feet in the hot summers). We expect that work to finish up around the end of August and then around two weeks after that, it’s a certified helicopter.
Rotorcraft Pro: So right now the
schedule would be around September 15th, 2010? Kurt: That’s about right.
Rotorcraft Pro: Back on the first
day of accepting R66 orders at the Heli- Expo you had around 14 orders for the aircraft. Any official estimate of R66 orders to date? Kurt: We have about 60 orders to
date and that builds as we get 2 or 3 each week. I expect that number to jump once the ship is certified.
Rotorcraft Pro: How many R66s
are there currently? Kurt: We have the original experi-
mental R66, the two that the FAA are now flying, plus another 5 in assembly. We will be shipping aircraft as soon as we get the certification.
PHOTO: ROBINSON HELICOPTER 13 ROTORCRAFTPRO.COM
Rotorcraft Pro: Were there any par-
ticular challenges that you had to over- come during the design or build of the 66?
Kurt: Yes, the seat crashworthiness
standards took us longer than expected. The rules have changed, and we had to develop new seats and then some new ways of testing those seats to meet the (new) standards. Rotorcraft Pro: What about the have
SFAR 73? Does Robinson opinion of whether that rule
apply to the R66? Kurt: We
don’t think the an
should apply. The R66 is a turbine, it’s an entirely different helicopter. The SFAR got applied to the R44 because of some con- cerns from the R22. We don’t feel the SFAR for the R44 is necessary, let alone the R66. But in the end, it’s up to the FAA.
Rotorcraft Pro: I know you flew the
R66 out to Heli Expo in Houston this past year with Doug Tompkins. What’s it like to fly the R66? Kurt: After 5 minutes you forget you
are in the R66, you feel just like you are flying an R44. Except the gauges are differ- ent, and you’re flying faster, and of course, you have more power.
sion the market for the R66 is? Kurt: Well we
around the world currently, so there will be some of those owners that will want
Rotorcraft Pro: What do you envi- have 9000 aircraft to
upgrade. We have a lot of older Bell 206 aircraft out there, so the R66 may replace those ships as they age. But our goal is to create new markets and not just steal from existing ones. We proved that in Australia with the R44; they initially thought owners only wanted the R22 for cattle rustling and would not be
interested in the R44.
However the R44 has proven to be extremely popular in Australia.
Rotorcraft Pro: Well when you
change the economics as drastically as Robinson Helicopters has done, you open up new markets, new operations that no one thought practical before. Kurt: Exactly, new uses, new markets,
that’s where our focus has always been. Rotorcraft
Pro: So when Bell
announced the last sale of the 206 Jet Ranger a few years back, that had to be encouraging for you. Kurt: Well, it sure told us we were
heading in the right direction. It was an affirmation for us, it kept us focused on (completing) the R66 project.
started taking orders started getting some
I know when you for the R66, you customers who
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