The year 2008 may have looked like a recession in the U.S., but not for Robinson Helicopters. The Torrance, Calif.-based manufacturer produced 893 civil helicopters last year. That tops Robinson’s prior record of 823, which was achieved in 2007. Driving sales was the four-seat Raven II, the more powerful version of the original R44. The Raven II now accounts for 60 percent of the company’s total aircraft sales.
And while 2009 is not looking as rosy, Kurt Robinson, Robinson’s VP of product support, is not worried. "There’s no question that new orders are coming in at a much slower rate [compared to last year]," he told Rotor & Wing. Since two-thirds of Robinson’s aircraft are sold as exports, the sales slowdown isn’t just a U.S. phenomenon. "It’s really worldwide," said Robinson. Faced with tight budgets, potential customers "don’t want to make a bad decision. So, they’re making no decision at all."
Still, Robinson’s R22 and R44 production lines are humming, thanks to the company’s helicopters being back-ordered into July. As for Robinson’s recession sales strategy, "We’re hoping, like everybody else, that the banks and the other financial institutions get their acts together and loosen up on lending so that people can go back to buying," said Robinson.