|Robinson R66 at Sywell in Northamptonshire|
For anyone who does not know, the Robinson R66 is a brand new design from the Robinson factory. Of course, while it is brand new it is also Robinson family, and therefore looks and feels like a Robinson.
It was fun.
I learnt to fly on the R22, I later graduated to the R44, and although I now fly the Hughes 300 and the JetRanger and Hughes 500 far more than the Robinson machines, I am nonetheless a Robinson family member. So, it is not a surprise that I like the machine.
There are things about the R66 that are different from the other designs. One is the starting system. As the R66 is a turbine, with a newly designed engine from Rolls Royce, the RR300, it has a turbine starting system. However, Frank Robinson has put his own Robinson touch on this, which makes it a much simpler start. That, after all, is the Robinson philosophy: keep it simple and cheap. This system, while not completely fool proof, does its best to be so.
As with the other Robinsons you use the key to start. In this case you turn the key to ENABLE, you then press a little black button on the collective, just once. However, should you inadvertently press the button twice or even hold it in like a JetRanger pilot, it does not matter - it will not hurt the turbine (and consequently your pocket!) at all. The turbine spools itself up to 15%, where the pilot applies the fuel through the normal 'mixture' control of the Robinson family. The turbine then takes itself up to 58% and self-sustaining speed. One minute warm up, wind up to flying speed and you are done. You can even put the generator on immediately without hurting the machine. Nice, and not alarming.
|ENABLE start on the key|
|start-up button on the collective|
Flying the machine felt like a R44 with rather more power. Given that the price is roughly twice that of the R44, (the R44 is around 400,000 US dollars, the R66 around 800,000 US dollars) the question was asked: why would someone who is perfectly happy with a cheaper model go for the more expensive turbine?
The answer of course is yet to be discovered, but our conclusion after some discussion was that the R66 will probably start a completely new market. There will be some helicopter pilots who would like to have a turbine, but would not able to afford either the initial outlay or the running costs of the JetRanger, EC120, Gazelle, Enstrom models and yet will be able to afford the R66. May be true. These next couple of years will no doubt surprise us in many ways.
For more information on the R66, see the Summer edition of Helicopter Life magazine.
|R66 crashworthy seats|
Small differences in overall design:
a. far more luggage space
b. crashworthy seats, but no room under the seats to carry baggage
c. annunciator panel, instead of 'push to test' defects panel
d. bigger blades both main and tail rotor
e. mast has a hydraulic bay above the engine which makes it look shorter, though in reality it is not
f. aerodynamic plate on the tail
g. still has same fuel drain, but it is now on the right hand side.