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Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Frank Robinson Retires; Kurt Takes Control

By Andrew Parker, Managing Editor

Robinson Helicopter Co. founder Frank Robinson retired as president and chairman on August 10, following 37 years at the helm of the Torrance, Calif.-based manufacturer. His son, Kurt Robinson, has assumed both leadership roles. He says that the ongoing progression of the R66 is the company’s top task in the short term.

Kurt Robinson (left) is looking to follow the footsteps of his father and Robinson Helicopter founder, Frank Robinson, in approaching how the company is run. Robinson Helicopter Co.
“Given that we’re about a month away from the certification of the R66, our foreseeable goals for the next three to five years are just to get the R66 into circulation, into use. It’s basically getting it into production, getting it out there, so right now our focus is on execution,” Kurt Robinson told Rotor & Wing. “We have four or five R66s on the line, going through and getting the production paperwork and procedures all nailed down and established. Our goal here is to go to two R66s a week as quick as we reasonably can. We may start out at one, and then from two we’ll keep expanding. Right now, the last time I checked the order book, we have 80 orders, so we’re fairly well-stocked for a while.”

According to Robinson, much of the initial interest for the R66 has come from existing R44 operators who want to move up, and operators who currently fly older turbine helicopters while looking to upgrade. He hopes that similar to the R22 and R44, “people will develop new uses for it. That’s what we’re always after.” Kurt Robinson—who started working for the company in 1987—stressed that the timing of his father’s departure worked out well. Frank wanted to retire in January 2010 in tandem with his 80th birthday, but remained in charge a few extra months to help move the R66 through the FAA certification process.

“Frank’s leaving us at a really good time period as we transition over, so we don’t have to have that ‘big vision’ thing. All we have to do is get things done. And for the next three to five years, that will be pretty easy. That’s what we need to focus on,” Robinson said, adding that the rest of the company’s management has been in place for two decades. Employees “really won’t see much of a change. All of the key managers and top people here—we’ve all been here over 20 years. We’ve all been taught in the ways of Frank, and we understand this company and how it runs.”

Robinson Helicopter will continue to blaze its unique path in the industry: “Look at all the other major helicopter manufacturers—they produce for the military or government, and then they look for commercial applications,” Kurt Robinson said. “Frank had the thought to go the opposite route, and look for commercial applications, and then develop a helicopter for those markets, and make certain that price and reliability were our strong points. And we will continue to do that.” (From September 2010 Rotorcraft Report)

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