Canadian and European regulators have held up certification of the five-seat Robinson R66 helicopter and requested more tests on the hydraulic system, said company president Kurt Robinson.
Transport Canada (TC) and the European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) have asked the company to prove the pilot's ability to control the helicopter will not be compromised if a small particle or chip jams a control valve that causes the hydraulic system to fail, Robinson said. The US Federal Aviation Administration granted Robinson's company an exemption from the rule and awarded the R66 an airworthiness certificate in October 2010.
However, TC and EASA officials want the California-based airframer to complete a second round of testing to prove that the R66 is controllable without a back-up hydraulics system, Robinson said.
The R66 completed a first round of testing in the third quarter of last year, but the results did not prompt EASA and TC to approve certification. The company submitted a proposal for a second round of tests to the FAA in November, but so far the agency has not decided which tests to include in the next round, Robinson said.
"We're waiting for feedback from the FAA," Robinson said.
The Rolls-Royce RR300-powered R66, meanwhile, has attracted hundreds of orders in its short operational history. The airframer plans to double output to six R66s a week, then perhaps raise the rate again to eight or 10 five-seaters a week, Robinson said.
"We're very pleased with what's going on around the world," Robinson said. The airframer will soon introduce new versions of the R66 dedicated to law enforcement and news gathering, he said.
The former is considered a gateway to offering the R66 for military roles. The helicopter could be offered to the US Army in several years to replace the Bell TH-67, a variant of the 206 that serves as a basic helicopter trainer, Robinson said.
"I would think that would be a good idea," he added.