Robinson Helicopter experienced increased annual sales figures in 2015, owing primarily to a spike in international customers and to strong utilization of the R44 and R66.
Kurt Robinson, president and CEO, said Tuesday at Heli-Expo that roughly 60 to 65% of airframe sales were to customers in Australia, China, South Africa and Europe, though there also was a slight increase in U.S. sales.
The company sold a total of 347 airframes in 2015 compared to 329 the previous year. Broken down by model, annual sales included 196 of its R44, 117 of its R66 and 34 of its R22 helicopters. Robinson said also that according to 2015 figures by the General Aviation Manufacturing Assn., the R44 remained the No. 1-selling helicopter in the world, and the R66 took its place as the No. 1-selling civil turbine helicopter in the world.
Robinson said that the R66 already has seen heavy utilization in the industry. Data from Rolls-Royce—which monitored aircraft flight hours through its EMU—showed that the R66 had logged a total of 150,000 hr in 2015, adding to a total accumulation of 450,000 hr since its introduction.
The company recently achieved certification of an optional fuel tank for the R66 that adds 2 hr of flight time for a total of 5 hr, which the company said opens new possibilities for missions that require an operator to “fly out for 1.5 hr, do a job, and then fly back,” especially in remote areas where fuel is hard to come by. Future projects for that aircraft include an ENG variant that Robinson hopes to have ready in time for next year's Heli-Expo, and a cargo hook that the company has been planning for years and now said is “once again front and center” in Robinson's priorities.
For the R44, Robinson is planning to add the Garmin 500 package with autopilot as it already has done for the R66.
The company spoke also about its recently introduced R44 Cadet, which it has marketed for training. Robinson said that despite an initial lukewarm reaction to the model—sitting between the R22 and R44 in terms of weight and passenger capacity—potential customers now are enthusiastic. Robinson said that in designing the Cadet, it reduced the R44 Raven's gross weight by 200 lb, slightly reduced the VNE and max continuous power. As a tradeoff, the Cadet benefits from better altitude performance, a higher TBO (from 2,200 hr in the Raven to 2,400 hr in the Cadet), a higher max weight per seat and a reduced purchase price.
The Cadet also incorporates a noise-abatement feature in the form of a new muffler the company said it also plans to install in all R44 Ravens that return to the factory for maintenance. Robinson said the muffler reduces noise by roughly 3 db in a 500-ft flyover.
Robinson said it hopes to approve the Garmin 500 and autopilot package for the Cadet by the second quarter of this year, paving its way for use as an affordable instrument trainer—something the company said customers frequently have been requesting.
Certification of the Cadet is, according to Robinson, about a month away, but the company already has received advance orders.