Robinson Helicopter is working to improve the high-altitude performance of its fast-selling R44 piston single and is evaluating a new engine.


The Torrance, California-based company's goal is to give the four-seat R44 the same altitude performance as the two-seat R22 Beta II, at their respective gross weights.

The company has been working with engine supplier Textron Lycoming to test more powerful versions of the R44's current O-540 powerplant, both normally aspirated and turbocharged.

"We've tested a twin-turbocharged engine, but we do not want to go that way," says president Frank Robinson. He concedes: "Turbocharging carries a few liabilities, such as complexity, higher fuel consumption and shorter time between overhauls."

Robinson hopes to stay with a normally aspirated powerplant, and Lycoming is building an experimental engine which the helicopter manufacturer plans to flight test in March. This will use existing components to produce increased displacement and power.

The company delivered 264 R44s last year, up 76% on 1999, mainly as a result of demand for the helicopter with hydraulic controls, introduced as standard last year. Robinson plans to build six R44s and four R22s a week this year.

Source: Flight International