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During the recently concluded Heli-Expo 2023 industry event, Robinson Helicopter Company used the event to mark the golden anniversary of its founding. RHC had two R44s and one R66 on display in their main booth, where RHC President Kurt Robinson could be seen talking with Robinson customers and prospects throughout the event while handing out some RHC-branded chocolate bars.

Rotorcorp Presents Kurt Robinson with 50th Anniversary Challenge Coin

We were honored to host Mr. Robinson for a chat with Rotorcorp President Sena Casey, VP of Operations Tracy Jensen, and VP of Strategic Growth Mike Gomez at the Rotorcorp booth at Heli-Expo.

Together, the group discussed the long-standing partnership between the Robinson Helicopter Company and Rotorcorp. Since our founding in 2011, Rotorcorp’s single focus has been to deliver discounted Robinson parts with a global reach that allows us to serve as the virtual parts department to customers worldwide.

Our close working relationship with Robinson’s team allows us to provide exceptional customer service and support before and after a sale, while our buying power allows us to maintain the largest in-stock inventory of the parts outside of the factory.

Kurt Robinson Press Conference

During Heli-Expo, Robinson Helicopter Company held a scheduled press conference. There Mr. Robinson delivered remarks and took questions from the assembled media. Despite the challenges stemming from COVID, he said that Robinson delivered nearly twice as many helicopters in 2022 than they did in 2019.

In total, RHC produced 258 helicopters in 2022, 14 more than they delivered in 2021. While there was a drop in R22 Beta II sales from 33 in 2021 to 15 in 2022, the three versions of the R44 series – the Cadet, Raven I, and Raven II – saw a 14% increase in sales, growing from 125 in 2021 to 142 in 2022.

Watch the Kurt Robinson Press Conference

Also in 2022, RHC delivered 101 R66 helicopters, up from 86 in 2021. Since its introduction just over a decade ago, over 1200 R66 helicopters have been produced. Mr. Robinson stated that they have orders for more than 130, and he expects to get all of those out this coming year.

With orders for more than 350 helicopters, Mr. Robinson acknowledged that RHC is “sold out for the year”.

Holding close to its export average, Mr. Robinson stated that in 2022, 67% of its sales – 173 aircraft – were outside of the United States. He added that the leading export markets were Australia, Brazil, Canada, and Europe.

State of Parts and Support

Mr. Robinson addressed the long lead times and delays in getting the parts needed to maintain the existing fleet. He pinned much of the blame on the vendors that supply RHC falling behind on their order fulfillment. However, he emphasized that Robinson Helicopter Company is staffed “back to pre-pandemic levels”, and that they are working with their vendors to get the materials needed for production.

He said that he can “see the light at the end of the tunnel”, and he emphasized that Robinson owner/operators and maintainers can “…expect spares availability to increase, and delivery times this year substantially decrease.”

Mr. Robinson said RHC knows that many customers use their helicopters for commercial applications and that people can’t have grounded aircraft. Robinson takes that responsibility to its customers seriously.

Looking Forward

Mr. Robinson spent a few minutes covering upgrades shipping with new production helicopters, as well as retrofit and upgradable for legacy helicopters. The Electronic Ignition System (EIS) for the R22 and the R44 is now in full production. He expects that a service letter will soon be issued covering how to retrofit existing aircraft.

Other technology improvements included a Night Vision Goggle (NVG) and Laser Eliminator cockpit designed in-house and delivered to the Polk County (Florida) Sheriff’s department. The NVG technology is now integrated into their production for police and government applications.

He added that the reaction to the new cockpit camera has been very well received. Thanks to its “amazing depth of field”, Mr. Robinson said that it’s able to capture both the instruments and the amazing views outside the aircraft, all in 4K. It ships standard on the R44 and the R66 and is available as a retrofit.

While he looked back at the 50 years and the 13,500 aircraft produced since the then-teenaged Kurt witnessed the development of the first R22 by his father Frank Robinson in 1973, Kurt Robinson was looking to the future when he emphasized the need for the industry to push for the distribution of 91UL or 94UL aviation fuels.

“The R22, the R44 Raven I, and the Cadet, which operate on the O-540—a parallel-valve engine—are all approved to fly on 91UL or 94UL…. (but) at the current time, there is not an unleaded 100 octane aviation fuel currently being distributed,” Mr. Robinson said.

Bill Sengstacken

Bill Sengstacken is VP of Marketing at Rotorcorp.