Robinson has won US approval of the customised hydraulic flight control system for its four-seat R44 - nearly a decade after the concept was touted.

The Torrance, California-based manufacturer predicts a sales boost for the $290,000 hydraulically controlled light piston-engined helicopter, which costs $13,000 more than the standard model. "We expect R44 sales to rise by as much as 30% once customers realise how pleasurable the aircraft is to fly," says company president Frank Robinson.

The system, which is designed to improve the pilot's comfort by reducing vibration from the rotorhead to the controls, will be sold initially as an option to the existing manual controls, but Robinson is considering offering hydraulics as standard "once we have gauged what the reaction is".

Robinson, which also builds the two-seat R22, first considered installing hydraulics on the R44 in the late 1980s when it was being developed. However, the company deferred the idea to concentrate on certificating the helicopter.

The first hydraulic-equipped R44 is due for delivery this month. "We expect to deliver over 150 R44s this year," says Robinson.

Source: Flight International