This page contains a Flash digital edition of a book.
The original Robinson R-22 is shown in 1975.

After being certified in 1979, over 4,000 R-22s have been built. Photo: Courtesy of the Robinson Helicopter Company

Rotorcraft Profesional Magazine: What was your first exposure to aviation? Frank Robinson:

when I was about nine or ten years old.

It was around 1939 I saw

a picture in a Seattle newspaper of Igor Sikorsky flying a helicopter.

The caption described what

he could do with that machine and it really intrigued me.

So right then and there, I thought

that’s what I want to do. Later I realized that in order to be a helicopter pilot I needed to figure out a way to make helicopters a hell of a lot cheaper and more practical.


RPM:: What was your first flight experi- FR: When I was in college getting my

engineering degree I wanted to learn to fly. So I bought an airplane, just a little Aeronca Champion, and traded time with an airline pilot for flying lessons. That’s how I learned to fly airplanes and then I later got my commercial license. What I really wanted to do was fly hel- icopters, but they were just way, way too expen-


sive at that time.

That really didn’t change of course until we came out with the R-22.

RPM: When you went to college for engineering at the University of Washington what were you intending to do after you grad- uated?

FR: I wanted to work in helicopters. I had

always been interested in mechanical things so that fit well with engineering. I wanted to get the aeronautical engineering background as well so I did that for my graduate studies.

RPM: How did you get your first job working for Cessna on their helicopter program? FR: When I got ready to graduate the

only companies that I applied to work at were ones that were

Cessna was one of those companies; at that time they had a small helicopter, the CH-1.

building a small helicopter. It was a

very favorable situation for me. A lot of people were being laid off at that time, but they took a gamble on me.

I learned more during my three 22

and a half years at Cessna than I did at any other company that I’ve worked for.

RPM: It sounds like while at Cessna you were doing what you had intended to do, why did you leave? FR: It was mostly a money decision. After

I had been there for a few years I had a wife and three kids. The pay was not at all gener- ous. The management believed that the heli- copter department wasn’t making any money for the company so they couldn’t give us any rais- es. Several of us left Cessna at that same time.

RPM: Even before you started your own company you had an impressive resume working for some of the biggest helicopter companies in the country. In addition to Cessna, you also spent time working at Umbaugh, McCulloch Motor, Kaman, Bell and Hughes. What kinds of things were you working on at these companies? FR: After Cessna I went to Umbaugh, which was an Autogyro or Gyroplane company.

Page 1  |  Page 2  |  Page 3  |  Page 4  |  Page 5  |  Page 6  |  Page 7  |  Page 8  |  Page 9  |  Page 10  |  Page 11  |  Page 12  |  Page 13  |  Page 14  |  Page 15  |  Page 16  |  Page 17  |  Page 18  |  Page 19  |  Page 20  |  Page 21  |  Page 22  |  Page 23  |  Page 24  |  Page 25  |  Page 26  |  Page 27  |  Page 28  |  Page 29  |  Page 30  |  Page 31  |  Page 32  |  Page 33  |  Page 34  |  Page 35  |  Page 36  |  Page 37  |  Page 38  |  Page 39  |  Page 40  |  Page 41  |  Page 42  |  Page 43  |  Page 44  |  Page 45  |  Page 46  |  Page 47  |  Page 48  |  Page 49  |  Page 50  |  Page 51  |  Page 52