As we step into the world of rotor flying, Robinson is the name not to be missed. Robinson R44 helicopter is an iconic flying machine produced by Robinson Helicopter Company, featuring four seats and hydraulically assisted flight controls. First flown on 31 March 1990, there’s no turning back for this light helicopter. It is the best-selling general aviation helicopter all over the world known for its famous sightseeing flights, light utility space, and commercial and private services, along with training purposes.
The 4-seater R-44 helicopter is a heavy hitter with more than 6331+ numbers built (through 2019). Robinson 22 is the precursor to R44, designed in 1973 by Frank D. Robinson. Robinson R44 helicopter is based on a two-seat, single-engine, light utility R22 featuring some of its groundbreaking features, yet also has some improvements. This light utility R44 helicopter gives the flexibility to carry three passengers and one ‘Pilot in Command.’ It is bigger, faster, and more comfortable than its predecessor providing a stable ride with its hydraulic assist and extra weight.
R44 helicopter is powered by a single-engine possessing semi-rigid two-bladed main rotors, two-bladed tail rotor, skid longing gear, T-bar cyclic, streamlined instrument panels, etc., and can fly on the sky at cruising speed of 202km/hour with maximum gross weight. R44 helicopter was introduced to rotor world with its first delivery in January 1993, after receiving its FAA Type Certificate in December 1992. Since 1999, the R44 helicopter outshone the general aviation helicopter industry by reaching the pinnacle of international success, producing most helicopters worldwide.
R44 helicopter’s salient features
- Great stability
Robinson R44 is a reliable flying machine. Its heavyweight (1134 kg at maximum load) is designed to perform solidly through air turbulence and get less affected by wind.
Offering an enclosed cabin with two rows of side-by-side seating for four people and passenger weight in between 300 kg’s between 3 passengers along with fuel optimization, R44 demonstrates a great degree of versatility.
- Piston engine power
With enough horsepower capacity, the R44 helicopter presents the right power source and burns half as much fuel as a small turbine-powered helicopter. In the event of engine failure, pilots get more time to make corrections induced by slow RPM decay, which is possible through higher blade inertia. Piston engine can change power spontaneously during a go-around without spool-up time of turbine.
- Hydraulically assisted flight controls
To make flying more relaxing and stable, R44’s hydraulic assist handles air situations and enables precise hovering, and reduces pilot fatigue.
- Impressive range
The Robinson R44 helicopter can fly far into the sky with a maximum travel range of 550km. If the fuel tank is full, you can enjoy 2 hours 10 minutes of flight time with a sensible reserve.
- Time-between-overhaul (TBO)
The engine and airframe of the Robinson R44 helicopter have an approved service life of 2200 hours or 12 hours if properly maintained.
- High quality
Quality manufacturing is the vision of Robinson as it manufactures, assembles, inspects, and flight tests all of the R44 helicopters in state of a art factory using CNC machining centers, EDM, CMM, laser cutting machine, etc.
- Automatic Clutch Engagement
This feature simplifies start-up procedure minimizing Overspeed possibility.
- Simple maintenance and overhaul
The problem of maintenance is simplified for the R44 helicopter requiring no other charges between 100 hours inspection aside oil changes. Maintenance-free flexible couplings, push-pull tubes, and bell cranks, Teflon-lined bearing features ensure the maximum time of R44 helicopter in the air and overhauling of all components on time.
- Worldwide service
Being the best-selling civilian helicopter and favorite of flight schools, Robinson R44 service is worldwide and readily available at more than 400 Robinson-approved service centers.
Safety features of Robinson R44 helicopter
Robinson R44 helicopter is the most popular helicopter model that has shaken the aviation industry with its reliable, multi-purpose, and altitude performance. Some of its safety features include:
- Modern glass instrument panel Garmin G500H,
- Stability in gusty wind and near obstacles, high inertia in the rotor system
- Autopilot option in the event of inadvertent IMC
- Rotor brake to enable pilots to stop the rotor quickly, minimizing the shutdown time
- Fri-Hinge Main Rotor hub to resist erosion, avoid lag hinges, dampers, hydraulic struts and prevent excessive main rotor teetering by droop
Different variants of R-44 helicopters include:
- R44 Raven I/ Clipper I
R44 Raven I and Clipper I helicopters are high-performance, responsive handling helicopters ideal for private, commercial, and utility applications equipped with Lycoming 0-540 carbureted engine with carburetor heat assist that offer benefits of maximizing safety and reducing the workload of pilots. These helicopters have a maximum gross weight of 2400lb and cruise at speed up to more than 100kts.
The lightweight and robust airframe of this helicopter variant is made up of aluminum monocoque and powder-coated steel tubes and offers fuel-efficiency along with airspeed optimization. R44 helicopter takes the limelight in terms of design, personal ownership, and solid ride through wind gusts and turbulences. It has installed hydraulically boosted controls for responsive handling and resultant 0 cyclic and collective feedback forces. Robinson R44 Raven, I brought a new affordable face balancing its performance in the market.
- Robinson R-44 Raven II
Introduced in July 2002, Robinson R-44 Raven II is a single-engine light utility trainer helicopter that blends high performance and power equipping fuel-injected, angle-valve, tuned-induction Lycoming I0-540 engine. Its standard 28-volt electric system allows good start-up procedure in various weather conditions and extra power for optional materials. R44 Raven II has very good performance over high altitudes and a running life of over 2100 hours. It can fly at a cruise speed of up to 116 kts at maximum gross weight and equips modern avionics like WAAS Enabled Garmin 530, Garmin GNS530 AW w/GI 106A, Popout floats, Dual Comm Selections, IFR trainer, etc.
- R44 Clipper II
Robinson R44 Clipper II is stable on the water as it is equipped with popout floats. The six-chamber float is designed to offer safety for over-water travel, inflating within 2-3 seconds of activation. Clipper II has a streamlined and low-profile design to reduce drag force and permit easy entry and exit of the cabin.
- Robinson R44 Cadet
Introduced in November 2015, Robinson R44 Cadet is a two-seat helicopter reconfigured for cargo, powered by Lycoming O-540, a six-cylinder engine. It has low weight and derated power without sacrificing its performance in the sky. Featuring the latest streamlined instrument panels and crash-worthy bladder fuel tanks, Cadet is the ideal helicopter for flight schools and those wanting the economy of a small helicopter. Cadet with utility floats provides an extra layer of safety for over-water operation, although it reduces the cruise speed by about 10 knots.
Derivative of R44- Robinson R66
Robinson R66 helicopter is the derivative of R44 helicopter having five seats, a separate cargo compartment, and designed to be the company’s first turbine-powered product, featuring Rolls-Royce RR300 turboshaft engine. It is faster than R44 as it is able to reach a speed of 140 knots and is a bit more grunt than its predecessor.
Optional Upgrades in the R44 helicopter
The optional upgrades in the R44 helicopter include an air conditioning system to circulate cool air throughout the cabin, pilot’s avionics console, Bendix/King and Garmin avionics upgrade, leather seats, and Bose A20 Aviation Headsets.
Cost of Robinson R44 helicopter
Robinson R-44 is one of the best helicopters in terms of the price range. Different variants of R44, such as Raven or Raven II, vary in their price ranges too. A base list price of $400000-$420000 is allocated for R44 Raven I, while the total hourly cost ranges around $400 dollars. This is not the exact snapshot of R44’s market price, as price varies depending on numerous factors. In 2021, Robinson R44 Raven II can cost around USD 525000 depending on variables.
Operators of an R44 helicopter
Versatile R44 helicopter is operated by civilian operators such as individuals, companies, and flying clubs, and military and government operators like Bolivian Air Force, Dominican Republic Army, Estonian Air Force, Royal Jordanian Air Force, etc.
Criticism and controversies over R44 Robinsons
R44 helicopters are no stranger to accidents and controversies as they have a long history of deadly crashes. The lightweight version of the two-bladed main rotor teetering on the hub atop the mast is said to be catastrophic during a sudden and prolonged or severe low-G condition. The unique design of the Robinson helicopter rotor head is often questioned for mast bumping crashes in Robinsons. Although labeled ‘exceptionally deadly’ in the past, citing its involvement in 42 fatal crashes in the US from 2002 to 2016, Robinson is reliable when flown with its operating limit. Instead of criticizing unexplained in-flight break-ups, the most important thing to do is to fix problems, gather required evidence, and optimize air safety.
About Robinson Helicopter Company
Robinson is a helicopter manufacturing company founded in 1973 by Frank D. Robinson. Headquartered in Torrance, California, the US, the aerospace company produces Robinson R22, Robinson R44, and Robinson R66 helicopters along with Helipad designed for light helicopters.