Robinson Helicopter Company Shows the Growth of Both Innovation and Family
Frank Robinson has had many roles over the course of his life. He’s been a CEO, innovative engineer and Chairman Emeritus. Though he’s perhaps best understood as a family man. It’s impossible to really separate the development of his family with that of his business. As it is now Robinson Helicopter Company is a family-owned business. And it’s also something that began with a dream.
It was clear to Frank Robinson that the 1970s were changing the nature of aviation. Interest in helicopters was rising at a rapid pace. Likewise, industries related to helicopter engineering were also seeing some major improvements. But Frank noticed that the actual implementation of those ideas wasn’t living up to the industry’s true potential. He created Robinson Helicopter company in 1973 to leverage the technological and sociological advances and create something truly innovative. This dream was fully realized in 1979 with the commercial availability of his first helicopter model.
The R22 instantly changed the face of the industry. It was easier to maintain than standard helicopters. And the R22 also had a lower price tag. This model went hand in hand with the growing interest in helicopter aviation. The R22 line would grow over time. And eventually, the R44 would incorporate a larger O-540 engine from Lycoming. This led to even better overall performance. But Frank also built up a strong relationship with Lycoming thanks to the R44. The two companies would eventually work in full collaboration to create the IO-540 engine.
Frank had seen just what he could accomplish when working with engine manufacturers. So it’s little surprise that he eagerly joined up with Rolls Royce when the opportunity presented itself. This led to the creation of the RR300 turbine engine for the R66 helicopter. The company’s innovations would continue over time. Two of the most noteworthy new features are helicopter specific autopilot systems and glass avionics. In total, the company has supplied over 13,000 helicopters to the public.
But once again, none of this can be separated from Frank’s role as head of a growing family. The company’s named Robinson Helicopter Company. But that’s not specific to just Frank Robinson. As his family grew so did the nature of the company. Kurt Robinson entered the company alongside Frank in 1987. And with Frank’s retirement, he now serves as the company’s president and chairman. But from those early days until the modern era the company has always had a Robinson at the helm.