Original Posted on Helihub
As the April 30th deadline looms for compliance with Service Bulletin 78 for its R44 line Robinson Helicopter Co have this week advised all of their distributors that new R22 helicopters from serial number 4622 will be fitted with a bladder fuel tank and not an aluminum one as before. The new bladder’s useable capacity is decreased by 3.8 gallons or approximately 25 minutes of flight time – a significant amount. In turn this means the aircraft’s useful load with full fuel increases, and the R22’s current 20 lb limitation for optional equipment has been increased to 23 lbs. At the same time, the company has moved the adjusted base price of an R22 up to $276,000 and the latest price list and estimated operating cost pages on their website reflects this.
HeliHub.com expects that this move is just the first stage in getting the whole R22 fleet fitted with bladder fuel tanks. Owners and operators would be wise to expect a Service Bulletin to follow soon from the manufacturer. Bladder fuel tanks make a notable contribution to reducing the chance of a fuel leak (and thus fire) in the event of an accident – in short, they have the agility to change shape without breaking open and spilling its flammable content.
The move to bladder tanks follows the same process for their larger R44 model, currently subject to their Service Bulletin SB-78B, which requires the tank retrofit to be completed by 30th April 2013, less than two weeks from today. The kit to achieve this is priced at $6,800, to which you need to add the labor cost of implementing it and some paint work to make good the external look of the helicopter. The Service Bulletin was originally issued as SB-78 on 20 December 2010 with a compliance deadline of 31 December 2014. On 21 February 2012 the document was revised as SB-78A to bring the date forward by one year, and then the SB-78B version brought it forward another 8 months.
The Service Bulletin was issued “To improve the R44 fuel system’s resistance to a post accident fuel leak, this retrofit must be performed as soon as possible.”
As a way of trying to encourage take-up, Robinson even offer a $1000 discount on the kit (subject to some conditions), bringing the price down to $5,800. However, the take-up of this has not been as good as expected by R44 owners, which has led New Zealand’s CAA to issue a draft Airworthiness Directive to force the issue. Other countries may follow suit.
There is no word yet if Robinson will make the bladder tanks available as a field installable kit.
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