In Torrance, California, Robinson Helicopter Company was started in 1973 by Frank Robinson. Robinson was the youngest of his four siblings born at the peak of the great depression in the 1930s. By 1957, he had begun his career working at Cessna Aircraft Company. That would be later followed by stints at other helicopter manufacturing companies, including McCulloch Motor Company, where he pursued designing cheap rotorcrafts, Bell Helicopters, where he earned his reputation as an expert for tail rotors, and later Hughes Helicopter Company.
In all the companies Robinson worked, he was frustrated that none of them was interested in producing light and cheap rotorcrafts. Frustrated, he resigned from his workplace and founded his own company, Robinson Helicopter Company, which would rise to become one of the largest family-owned helicopter manufacturing companies.
Robinson got into action, and by 1975, the company’s R22 Model prototype flew for the first time. The R22 prototype was a two-seat, light, and easy-to-maintain rotorcraft. The Model was a success, and soon, it was adopted by many flight schools and private individuals. After over three years of rigorous testing and technical analysis, R22 was certified by the FAA. In addition, the company made several advancements to the Model, including the R22HP, which increased engine pwer and flight attitude, and endurance.
The success of the R22Model prompted the company to focus on the next generation of rotorcraft. The R44 Model was announced in the mid-1980s and was set to be more advanced than its predecessor, R22. R44 increased the seating capacity to four, used a more powerful engine, and increased flight hours and endurance. In 1992, Robinson Helicopter Company announced that the base price for the R44 would be $235,000. By 1997, the R44 Model was already being used by the police and received FAA certification the same year. R44 would go on to become the bestselling rotorcraft from the company.
In 2001, the design for a five-seat turbine helicopter began. The designs were followed by an agreement with Roll Royce to develop an RR300 turbine engine for the helicopter that would become the R66. The R66 would then be approved in 2010. As of April 2021, the company had delivered 13000 helicopters since its establishment in 1973, making it one of the world’s leading helicopter manufacturers.