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The monthly news publication for aviation professionals.

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Robinson Helicopter Company
Aircraft

Robinson R66

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Robinson sees strong growth and continues product development
Robinson Helicopter Company reports strong growth and continued product development in 2023, and welcomes former Bell Flight leader David Smith as president and CEO as Kurt Robinson retires.
Kurt Robinson (right) steps into advisory role as David Smith is named president and CEO.

Robinson Helicopter Company (RHC) has highlighted a strong year marked by increased deliveries, product advancements and workforce expansion.

"Despite ongoing supply chain challenges, we are pleased to report a significant increase in total aircraft deliveries, from 258 in 2022 to 296 in 2023," says president and CEO Kurt Robinson. "This strong performance reflects the sustained demand for our reliable and accessible helicopters, both domestically and internationally."

Key highlights for 2023 include:

- Increased deliveries: Total aircraft deliveries grew by 15 per cent, with all three Robinson models (R66, R44 and R22) experiencing delivery increases. Notably, R66 deliveries reached 118 units, solidifying the model's position as a popular choice for private, commercial and law enforcement operators.

- Global reach: 64 per cent of deliveries occurred outside the US, illustrating Robinson's strong global presence. Leading export markets included Brazil, Australia, Canada and Mexico.

- Commitment to quality and reliability: With over 13,800 aircraft delivered worldwide and the R66 surpassing 1.8 million flight hours without a single engine failure, Robinson continues to emphasise its commitment to building high-quality, reliable helicopters.

- Growing team: Recognising the increased demand, Robinson expanded its workforce from 1,000 employees at the beginning of 2023 to over 1,100 at the start of 2024.

- Enhanced product support: The company saw a substantial increase in spare parts and components deliveries, actively working to reduce lead times and meet current demand.

- Product advancements: The year saw the introduction of the FAA-approved symmetrical stabiliser standard on both the R66 and R44 models, improving handling characteristics in high-speed flight and turbulence. The new symmetrical stabiliser is now available on all new R44s and R66s. Retrofit kit options are available for existing models.

- Focus on unleaded aviation fuel: Robinson remains committed to finding an unleaded replacement for 100LL Avgas. While current R22, R44 Raven I and R44 Cadet models can operate on 91UL or 94UL, work continues with Lycoming and fuel manufacturers to develop a solution for the R44 Raven II.

- Workhorse of future aviation innovation: Robinson Helicopter Company serves as a workhorse platform for the advancement of future aviation technologies through collaborations with innovative companies like Rotor Technologies, Skyryse and Tier 1. This includes projects exploring electric and hybrid propulsion, advanced rotorcraft designs and autonomous flight systems.

Robinson is to transition to an advisory role and remain on the board of directors, effective immediately. Concurrently, David Smith, formerly vice president of operations, has been named the new president and CEO. This leadership transition marks a new chapter in the company's 50 year history. The last leadership transition occurred in 2010 when founder Frank Robinson retired and Kurt Robinson was elected president and CEO by the board of directors. Smith becomes only the third to lead the civil aviation company in 50 years.

"Watching and helping our company grow from our living room to become a global leader in the helicopter industry is a fantastic lifetime achievement, and I am incredibly proud of my 40 year career with the company," says Robinson. "Moving forward, RHC requires a committed, strong leader who shares our company values, and we've found that leader in David Smith. With his strategic experience and passion for our industry, David is well poised to lead Robinson Helicopter Company into an exciting future marked by continued innovation, success and global leadership."

Smith is committed to maintaining Robinson's reputation for safety, reliability and building on the company's legacy of innovation and growth. With his experience and fresh perspective, he plans to continue the culture of excellence and collaboration, driving the company forward with new product development initiatives, enhanced business systems and expanded manufacturing capabilities. Smith recognises the importance of staying at the forefront of technological advancements in the rotorcraft industry and ensuring that Robinson helicopters remain the benchmark for efficiency and performance. Additionally, he aims to strengthen relationships with customers, suppliers and partners worldwide, positioning RHC as the preferred choice for civilian rotorcraft solutions.

"Leading Robinson Helicopter Company is an extraordinary privilege. With a 50 year legacy of success, I am honoured to lead the company into the next 50 years of vertical flight," says Smith. "I look forward to working with the more than 400 service centres and dealers and the more than 1,100 employees of RHC as we pursue new products, markets, partnerships and technologies."

Smith joined Robinson in early 2023 as vice president of operations and has nearly two decades of experience in aviation and rotorcraft. The majority of his career was spent at Bell Flight in multiple leadership roles across engineering, serving as programme director for critical product developments as well as the vice president of operations modernisation, leading organisational growth and profitability. Smith also led TRU Simulation + Training, an affiliate of Textron Aviation, delivering pilot training solutions, including full-flight simulators and flight training devices for business aviation, rotorcraft, commercial air transport and military markets.

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