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Above: Frank Robinson stands in front of an R-22 in 1982. Photo: Courtesy of the Robinson Helicopter Company


Depression. In 1939, then nine year


old Frank Robinson saw an article in a Seattle newspaper about Igor Sikorsky and the first North American helicop- ter, the VS-300. Robinson was intrigued with the capabilities of this new type of aircraft and its ability to hover motionless over a point on the ground. After reading the article, he decided that one day he would become a helicopter pilot (personal communica- tion, January 6, 2011).


Frank


Robinson found helicopter flying to be prohibitively expensive and was unable to obtain a helicopter pilot’s license. From this experience Robinson devel- oped a lifelong determination to make a simple helicopter that was more afford- able than anything else available. He


ROTORCRAFTPROFESSIONAL


decided that in order to pursue heli- copter design he would need a back- ground in engineering. Robinson was interested in mechanical things so he enrolled at the University of Washington to study mechanical engi- neering. While still an undergraduate engineering student Frank Robinson bought a small airplane and traded time with a local airline pilot to get his pri- vate pilot’s license. Robinson finished his mechanical engineering degree in 1957. In order to round out his engi- neering education and acquire the aeronautical skills he knew he would need to design a helicopter, Robinson did graduate work at the University of Wichita in aeronautical engineering. Frank Robinson began his career in


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the helicopter industry with the Cessna Aircraft Company in 1957. At the time, Cessna was developing a four seat heli- copter known as the CH-1 Skyhook. Frank Robinson quickly immersed himself in the CH-1, learning a tremendous amount about designing and building a helicopter. However, the helicopter division at Cessna was not successful financially. The manage- ment at Cessna felt that because the hel- icopter division was not making any money no raises could be given to the division’s employees. After nearly four years at Cessna, Frank Robinson left to pursue other opportunities (personal communication, January 6, 2011). Robinson went to work for the Umbaugh Aircraft Corporation, work-


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