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This 2010 photograph shows the 617,000 square foot Robinson Helicopter Factory located at Zamperini Field in Torrance, CA. Photo: Courtesy of the Robinson Helicopter Company

that hasn’t helped. That’s been a negative and things have gotten a lot more expensive.

In the future, I’m afraid that it’s going to get bigger, heavier and

much more complicated. That’s my biggest fear and one of the main reasons I wanted to retire. I don’t want to work on more complicated helicopters. I like keeping the design as simple as possible. That just isn’t going to happen in the future, helicopters are going to get more and more complicated.


won’t fly any better; they’re just going to get more complicated to do pretty much the same thing.

RPM:: Unlike most of the other helicopter companies, Robinson does- n’t have any government contracts. How has that shaped your company and what challenges has that posed for you? FR: We’re the only helicopter company that isn’t financed by the gov-

ernment. All the other companies are supported by their government con- tracts and that has made a big difference for us. Not having any government contracts has forced us to be a lot more austere and efficient in the way that we spend money. But overall, that’s been a good thing, not a bad one.

RPM:: You’ve been particularly popular in several sub-markets within the helicopter market such as news broadcasting and police work. How do you think you’ve been able to help these or other sub-markets by providing a low-cost option? FR: It’s been satisfying because we have been able to produce helicop-


ters that could be flown and operated for a much lower cost than the big hel- icopters.

I think that has had a favorable influence in a lot of different areas.

RPM:: What do you think the R-22 especially has meant to the flight training section of the helicopter industry? There are undoubtedly many pilots, who if not for the low purchase and operating costs of the R-22 and R-44, would not have been able to learn to fly a helicopter. FR: Yes, very much so and that is brought up to me time and time again.

So many pilots out there tell me that if it hadn’t been for the R-22 and its operating costs, they never would have been able to learn to fly helicopters.

RPM:: You set out over 50 years ago to accomplish that very thing because of your own personal experiences in trying to get helicopter train- ing and finding it to be prohibitively expensive. You put a lot of time into developing your own skills, working for several companies and having to move around. Then you ventured out on your own and struggled financial- ly. Now you frequently get reminded about how much what you have accomplished has meant to other pilots. That must be pretty satisfying. FR: That is satisfying. The only real regret I have is that we didn’t

always find the right answer the first time. Sometimes we had to cover the same ground several times, particularly with preventing accidents and that sort of thing.


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