Robinson Helicopter Company
|Founder||Frank D. Robinson|
|Kurt Robinson, President and Chairman|
Number of employees
The Robinson Helicopter Company, based at Zamperini Field in Torrance, California, is a manufacturer of civil helicopters. Robinson produces three models – the two-seat R22, the four-seat R44, both of which use Lycoming piston engines, and the five-seat R66, which uses a turbine engine.
The company was founded in 1973 by Frank Robinson, a former employee of Bell Helicopter and Hughes Helicopters. Since delivering its first helicopter in 1979, Robinson Helicopter has produced over 12,000 aircraft.
Plans for production of the Robinson R66 were announced in March 2007. It is a five-seat helicopter of similar configuration to the R44, but with the addition of a luggage compartment, wider cabin (by 8 inches (20 cm)), and powered by a Rolls-Royce RR300 gas turbine engine.
In 2013, Robinson was the global market leader, selling 523 light helicopters, a 1% increase from 2012. However the production in 2014 was 329 aircraft. In 2015, Robinson produces one R22, 4-5 R44 and 1-2 R66 per week, and has contracted with Rolls Royce to supply 100 RR300 turbines per year for 10 years for the R66. The factory can produce up to 1,000 helicopters per year.
Mast bumping controversy
Mast bumping is a dangerous condition helicopters can encounter when load on the helicopter's rotor assembly is temporarily reduced during flight (for example, during a low-g maneuver or turbulent weather). The reduction of load triggers excessive flapping in the helicopter's rotor blades, which can cause the entire rotor assembly to shear off the aircraft.
Robinson helicopters use a patented design for their main rotor, with a tri-hinged rotor assembly 'teetering' atop an extended mast. A number of Robinson helicopters have been destroyed in incidents where mast bumping was determined to have occurred. A May 2018 article in the Los Angeles Times reported Robinson helicopters seemed to have increased susceptibility to mast bumping incidents. It noted Robinson R44s were involved in 42 fatal crashes in the U.S. from 2006 to 2016, more so than any other civilian helicopter.
In 2016, the New Zealand Transport Accident Investigation Commission (TAIC) released a report summarizing 14 mast bumping accidents or incidents involving Robinson helicopters in New Zealand, in which 18 people died.  The TAIC report noted "Helicopters with semi-rigid two-bladed main rotor systems, as used on Robinson helicopters, are particularly susceptible to mast bumping in ‘low-G’ conditions".
In 2018, a U.S. lawsuit accused the Robinson Helicopter Company of defective manufacturing after a mast-bumping event caused the in-flight breakup of a R66 helicopter.
A 2018 Los Angeles Times investigation found that the Robinson R44s were involved in 42 deadly crashes between 2006 and 2016, more than any other commercial helicopter. And the R66 has also been involved in several fatal crashes that have produced lawsuits. Crashes of Robinson helicopters have killed 176 people to date.
- "Robinson Produces 10,000th Helicopter" (Press release). November 14, 2011. Retrieved August 25, 2018.
- Lobb, Charles. Torrance Airport, pp. 13–14, Arcadia Publishing, Charleston, SC, 2006. ISBN 978-0-7385-4662-9.
- Russian Helicopter magazine p. 13
- Huber, Mark (March 3, 2015). "Robinson Boosts Production as Sales Surge, Strikes Deal for 1,000 Rolls-Royce Turboshafts". Aviation International News. Retrieved March 5, 2015.
- Robinson Helipads Archived December 16, 2009, at the Wayback Machine. Robinson Helicopter Company. Accessed May 12, 2010.
- "Robinson Tri-Hinge Rotor Head R22 Helicopter". Redback Aviation. February 23, 2018. Retrieved June 16, 2019.
- "Final Report, Aviation Inquiry AO-2014-006, Robinson R44 II, ZK-HBQ, mast-bump and in-flight break-up, Kahurangi National Park, 7 October 2014" (PDF). Transport Accident Investigation Commission.
- "TAIC publishes interim report on July 2018 fatal Robinson R44 helicopter accident over Lake Wanaka". taic.org.nz. Retrieved June 16, 2019.
- Christensen, Kim; Welsh, Ben. "Danger spins from the sky: The Robinson R44, the world's best-selling civilian helicopter, has a long history of deadly crashes". www.latimes.com. Retrieved July 10, 2019.
- "Robinson helicopters: mast bumping accidents in NZ" (PDF). Transport Accident Investigation Commission.
- "Lawsuit Claims Robinson Defects Caused Fatal 2016 Crash in Arizona". Rotor & Wing International. June 28, 2018. Retrieved June 16, 2019.
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