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Frank Robinson completing a test flight of the R-44 in the early 1990s. The R-44 was certified in 1992 and over 5,000 R-44s have been built since. Photo: Courtesy of the Robinson Helicopter Company

RPM:: When you left Hughes to start your own company, you were leaving behind a pretty good job at an established helicopter company. What made you so sure that you could build a small, inexpensive heli- copter on your own? FR:: By that time I had quite a bit of experience. I had spent a lot

of time on self-education, on helicopters and what it would take to build something small, lightweight, and inexpensive and that sort of thing. I had a lot of self-confidence at that point. I was so devoted to helicopters that I really felt like I had learned or taught myself everything that I needed to know to build a small helicopter that would fly well. the R-22.

That of course was

RPM:: It took you a few years after starting Robinson Helicopter before you sold your first R-22. How much did you struggle to get by initially after starting out on your own in 1973 and how worried were you that you might fail? FR: At the time I was married with three kids and I had to put

everything I had on the line, including my house. I had a terrible time raising money and I didn’t have any money of my own. It was tough and


I wondered where I would get the money to meet the payroll on Friday. Those were the dark years, financially. Granted I was able to put it togeth- er, complete the design of the R-22 and build some prototypes. Pretty much, it was all done in my garage.

test flew the first R-22 in 1975. Then we finally got it certified in 1979.

RPM:: Six years after making the decision to go all in on the R-22 and start your own company you received the Type Certificate from the FAA. How did you feel when you finally accomplished that? FR: I was very elated.

That was a big day.

RPM:: Did you have any idea when you got the Type Certificate for the R-22 in 1979 or even when you left Hughes to start your own company, how successful the R-22 and your company would ultimately be?

FR: No, I had no idea. I had confidence that it was a good design and was something that was needed.

to be used as trainers or anything, so the market was there. There weren’t any small helicopters

I started the company in 1973 and

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