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Above: Frank Robinson conducting a test flight of the R-22 in 1982. Photo: Courtesy of the Robinson Helicopter Company


needed to design a small helicopter. His industry experience provided him with the practical knowledge needed to refine such a design and produce it. In 1973, Frank Robinson started the Robinson Helicopter Company and set out to do what no other company was doing at the time and that was make hel- icopter flight more affordable to the general public. The company began in Frank Robinson’s garage with equip- ment that he had acquired starting when he was in college. The initial design work was done at Robinson’s kitchen table. Money was tight. In order to get by Robinson had to mortgage his house and put all of his savings into the new company. There were many weeks when Robinson did not know if he would have the money to pay his few employees on Friday (personal communication, January 6, 2011). Two years after the company was founded the first two-seat, piston powered R-22 was completed


ROTORCRAFTPROFESSIONAL


and flight testing began. Frank Robinson himself flew the early test flights in the helicopter. From his years of experience working for several heli- copter companies, Robinson knew the value of being both an engineer and test pilot. Robinson’s ability to translate what was happening in the aircraft to the design modifications and engineering work played a key role in the helicopter development process. Another four years of testing and redesigning would go by until the helicopter was ready. Finally in March of 1979, the FAA awarded Robinson Helicopter the type certificate for the R-22. The first pro- duction R-22 was sold in October of the same year. At the time, Robinson Helicopter had orders for 587 more helicopters at a base price of $40,000 (Timeline, n.d.).


Less than two years


after FAA certification, in January of 1981, the 100th R-22 was delivered. In March of the same year, the FAA issued


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a production certificate to Robinson Helicopter, allowing the company to do its own testing and inspections. The R- 22 quickly became the world’s top sell- ing civil helicopter. By July of 1985, 500 R-22s had been delivered.


Less


than four years later, in 1989, the num- ber of R-22s delivered had risen to 1000. Several variants of the original R-22 have since been developed to include a police version, a marine ver- sion for offshore work and an IFR trainer. The R-22 holds several speed, distance and altitude class records. Spurred on by the success of the R-


22, Frank Robinson and his team set to work on a larger four seat version of the R-22 in 1985. This model would be known as the R-44. Like the R-22 it would be powered by a piston engine. The R-44 began test flights with Frank Robinson at the controls in March of 1990. Once again Frank Robinson was able to bridge the gap between test flying


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