The Need for Simplicity in Helicopter Design

Added on 09 December 2010 by Royal Aeronautical Society

Frank Robinson discusses the importance of simplicity in rotorcraft design and how simplicity of design and technology is critical to all aspects of aviation. 

Robinson also provides a brief history and overview of his engineering approach with regards to the r22, R44 and R66 helicopters as well as his thoughts on how helicopters should evolve in the future.

2010 Cierva lecture

Recorded: Tuesday 5th October 2010

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About the speaker:

Frank Robinson

President & Chief Executive, Robinson Helicopter Company

Frank Robinson aimed his education specifically at helicopter design, receiving his BSME degree from the University of Washington in 1957, with graduate work in aeronautical engineering at the University of Wichita.

Robinson began his career in 1957 at Cessna Aircraft Company working on the cH-1 Skyhook four-place helicopter. After 3 1/2 years at Cessna, he spent one year at Umbaugh and 4 1/2 years at McCulloch Motor Company doing design studies on in expensive rotorcraft. Robinson then worked at Kaman Aircraft for 1 year on gyrodyne-type rotorcraft, followed by 2 years in R&D at Bell Helicopter where he earned a reputation as a “tail rotor expert.” In 1969, he moved to Hughes Helicopter Company.

Unable to interest any of his employers in his own concept for a small, low-cost helicopter, Robinson resigned from Hughes in 1973 and founded Robinson Helicopter Company (RHC). RHC’s first business address was Robinson’s home where the two-seat R22 helicopter was designed. The first R22 prototype was built at the Torrance Airport, and Robinson himself flew it on its first flight in august 1975. After 31/2 years of testing and technical analysis, the R22 received its FAA Type Certificate in 1979. The first production R22 was delivered in 1979, and the R22 son became the world’s top selling civil helicopter.

In the mid-1980s, Robinson and his staff of engineers began development of the four-seat R44 helicopter, which he flew on its first flight in March of 1990. FAA certification was received in 1992, and production deliveries began in 1993.

Robinson is an experienced helicopter pilot and flies the r22 and R44 helicopters regularly for personal and business purposes, including experimental test flying. His accomplishments have been recognised with numerous, prestigious awards and honours presented by a variety of different organizations.

Robinson remains active in his company and continues to refine the R22 and R44 to enhance performance and reduce maintenance requirements. Recent improvements include the powerful, fuel-injected R44 Raven i. Today, Robinson directs the company’s development of its first turbine helicopter, the five-place R66. The R66 made its first flight in August 2007, and is undergoing flight testing and FAA certification.

This Lecture event was sponsored by:

Lecture Recorded: Oct 2010

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