March 20, 2013
Credit: Alan Barclay
Robinson Helicopter is set to deliver as many as 40 turbine-powered R66s to Russia before the end of the year following receipt of long-delayed type certification from Russian authorities.
Type approval follows the U.S. FAA’s recent clearance of the R66’s hydraulic control system to an equivalent level of safety (ELOS), and could clear the way for similar recognition from Canada and the European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA).
All these agencies refused to accept the FAA’s original exemption over the helicopter’s single-string hydraulics, thereby preventing certification of the R66 in several countries which have proved to be successful markets for Robinson’s piston-powered R22 and R44 models.
Although seven R66 demonstrators had been delivered to Russia prior to certification, a further 22 have been built and await delivery, says the Torrance, Calif.-based company, which describes the breakthrough as “a cause for celebration.” A further 18 R66s are also in production for Russian customers and are scheduled for delivery later this year.
The FAA granted the R66 an exemption from a regulation requiring that hydraulic control systems be designed with an alternate or redundant system in case of failure. Robinson says that “in early February 2013, after witnessing tests that demonstrated a pilot could easily break through a hydraulic control jam and maintain control of the aircraft, the FAA approved the ELOS.”
Following the FAA’s approval of ELOS, the Russian airworthiness agency IAC returned to Robinson’s factory in Torrance to finalize the R66 certification. Commenting earlier this month at Heli-Expo in Las Vegas prior to the Russian breakthrough, company President Kurt Robinson said wider international certification could signal a further increase in production beyond the 500-plus units already envisaged for 2013.
Production in 2012 included 286 R44s, 191 R66s and 40 R22s. The company currently builds 13 helicopters per week including six R44s – four Raven IIs and two Raven Is – six R66s and a single R22.