Frank D. Robinson

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For other people named Frank Robinson, see Frank Robinson (disambiguation).
Franklin Davis Robinson
Frank Robinson 2010.jpg
Frank Robinson in 2010
Born (1930-01-14)14 January 1930
Carbonado, Washington, U.S.
Occupation Entrepreneur, Engineer
Known for Founder of the Robinson Helicopter Company
Children Jami, Kurt, Terry, Lincoln, Mark, & Cindy

Franklin D. "Frank" Robinson (born 1930) is an engineer and the founder of Robinson Helicopter Company in Torrance, California. He served as president, Chief Executive Officer and chairman of the company for many years. In the early 1970s, he designed the Robinson R22 helicopter, a popular, light, two-place civilian aircraft, which later developed into the R44, one of the most successful civil helicopters in history.


Robinson was born in Carbonado[1] in Washington State and received his BSME degree from the University of Washington in 1957, with graduate work in aeronautical engineering at the University of Wichita.

He started his engineering career in 1957 at Cessna Aircraft Company working on the Cessna CH-1 Skyhook four-place helicopter. After 3 12 years at Cessna, he spent one year working on the certification of the Umbaugh U-17 and 4 12 years at McCulloch Aircraft Corporation performing design studies on inexpensive rotorcraft. Robinson worked one year at Kaman Aircraft on gyrodyne-type rotorcraft. After this he spent two years at Bell Helicopter where he earned a reputation as a "tail rotor expert". In 1969, he moved to Hughes Helicopters to work on a variety of research and development projects, including a new tail rotor for the Hughes 500 helicopter and work on the "The Quiet One" program.[2]

Robinson resigned from Hughes in 1973 and founded Robinson Helicopter Company (RHC). RHC’s first business address was Robinson’s home where the two-seat R22 helicopter was designed. The first R22 prototype was built in a hangar at the Torrance Airport, and Robinson personally flew it on its first flight in August 1975.

Robinson is a recipient of the Howard Hughes Memorial Award from the Southern California Aeronautic Association given "to an aerospace leader whose accomplishments over a long career have contributed significantly to the advancement of aviation or space technology" [3] and the 2013 Daniel Guggenheim Medal for his "conception, design and manufacture of a family of quiet, affordable, reliable and versatile helicopters." [4]

A Frank Robinson design, the R44 Raven II

On August 10, 2010, Frank Robinson announced his resignation as President and Chairman of Robinson Helicopter Company. Robinson had intended to retire on his 80th birthday in January 2010, but elected to postpone his retirement until the design of the Robinson R66 Turbine was complete. With R66 production underway and FAA certification imminent, Robinson decided to make his retirement official. His son Kurt Robinson was elected by the Board of Directors to assume the positions of President and Chairman on August 10, 2010.[5]


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