March 3, 2014
By Ian J. Twombly
Things certainly aren’t perfect, but overall it’s a good time to be Robinson Helicopter. The company delivered 523 helicopters in 2013, surpassing 11,000 over its history.
Company CEO Kurt Robinson said simply, “We remain upbeat.” As they should. Robinson is currently producing serial number 500 of its new R66 turbine helicopter. Of those 70 percent are exported, and the global market continues to grow.
All Robinsons helicopters now have new glass panels as options, with the Aspen Avionics primary and multifunction displays and Garmin touch-screen navigators being the biggest changes. As part of that instrument panel upgrade a new indicator light was added that indicates when the pilot is pulling full engine power, a condition that causes a decrease in rotor rpm. Now instead of waiting for the horn that indicates low rotor speed, the light should go off to warn the pilot he has hit a limit.
The company is not without its challenges. Chief among them is certifying the R66 in Europe, a notable frustration for Kurt Robinson. He said that the European certification agency European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) has all the necessary paperwork and is generally satisfied, but is holding off because of a larger issue dealing with cracks in fasteners that is impacting all makes and models. Meanwhile Robinson and others are forced to wait until EASA and the FAA decide how to handle the issue.
AOPA Pilot and Flight Training Editor Ian J. Twombly joined AOPA in 2003 and is an instrument flight instructor.
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