That's the father of the Robinson Helicopter line... Frank Robinson. He literally built the first R22 in his living room, choosing and maybe modifying every nut, bolt, washer, and flange on the machine. If you compare an R22 today to that first machine, although there have been lots of changes, it's been an "evolution" rather than "revolution" as the helicopter has matured. Most would have difficulty telling the difference between the newest and oldest R22. Frank got it right, straight outta the box.
Folks who know the Robinson line will notice the strange oval hole in the flat back-plate of the machine in the picture above. That's the exhaust for the RR300 turbine in the new R66. The RR300 is an upgrade of the tried-and-true Allison 250, so it will be a reliable power source from the start. It will burn less fuel while providing more horses than the JetRanger powerplant, and since the R44 is already faster than the JetRanger, I suspect the numbers across the ground for the R66 will be very attractive to those looking for a replacement for that bird. Stay tuned.
The school was 3-1/2 days long. Monday and Tuesday were spent in the classroom reviewing history, weather, accidents, systems and limitations, emergency procedures, and performance. We had a great tour of the factory on Monday.
Wednesday morning was devoted to maintenance issues...
What breaks. How it breaks. Why it breaks. How to maintain and use the machine in the safest, most efficient manner.
Wednesday afternoon we fly. You get to climb into the bird you chose when you signed up for the school, either the R22 or R44, and go out with an instructor that most likely is a factory test pilot flying these birds every day. I've been flying Robinsons since 1983 and consider myself proficient in both machines, but these guys make my skills look like chopped liver...
They "put the helicopter on" like you or I put on an old pair of slippers. Got questions about a maneuver? This is the place to be. Ask, and you'll get your question answered, most likely with a practical demonstration.
Our flight lasted an hour and since I was renewing my flight instructor certificate I got to demonstrate "settling with power", hover,
straight-in, and 180 degree autorotations, and a demonstration of an auto starting from an out-of-ground-effect hover. During the flight we talked about zero-G pushovers and why they're to be avoided.
Friday morning, back in the classroom, was spent in review. There was some confusion about starting and shutdown procedures, so the company's chief mechanic was called in to discuss those issues. All questions satisfactorily answered, we took the end of course exam, graded those tests, and got our certificates of completion. (Mine indicates this course is an FAA approved "Flight Instructor Renewal Course" and is the document I'll need to take to my local FAA office next week to get a new CFI certificate headed my way.)
I cannot remember... is this my ninth, or tenth time attending this course? I was asked several times by other students... "Why are you here?" The answer is simple...
I want to stay on top of changes to this machine. If someone has come up with a better way of doing something, I want to know about it. If there are changes happening in the industry, this is one of the first places you'll learn about it. My 3+ days spent here were well worth the effort.
Today? There is a museum over at Falcon Field here in Mesa that I've been threatening to go have a look at since Big Bubba moved here.
I think I'll get that ticket punched, and if I see anything of real interest I'll try to get pictures to show ya later.
So stay tuned.