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), 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.
Robinson also produces the Robinson Helipad, a modular helipad designed for light helicopters.
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 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.
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