Flying the R66 – Our Experience

Aerial Recon has been a Robinson dealer since 1985. We sold out our flying operations and all we do is sell/lease Robinsons now.

We have been working with the Robinson factory for over 30 years and have been instrumental in many changes to the R44 to help make it a safer, more reliable helicopter.  Some of the first serial numbers 006, 007, 010, 0012 were delivered to Aerial Recon and over the years the changes we made were adopted by the factory continuing to make each subsequent aircraft a better product.

We found the factory and especially Frank Robinson to be very open to improvements, and in most cases Frank would make our suggestions even better when applied to the aircraft.  Frank took difficult problems and made simple solutions that have led to the most reliable and cost effective helicopters on the market.  We have the same working relationship with Kurt Robinson who is now the President of the Robinson Helicopter Co.

We were excited that in February 2011 the Robinson factory chose Aerial Recon to assist in the winter testing of the R66. We helped to complete the winter testing for Canadian certification/approval of the R66.  Our input on the R66 was sought by the factory over the past 3 years on several areas of design.

Flying this light helicopter in a working environment is both a pleasure and a mind opening experience.  Prior to selling our charter company Airborne Energy in 2005 we had in excess of 60 aircraft, mostly helicopters of many different types, including ten Bell 206’s and ten Hughes 500 D’s, B3’s, B407’s, and B205’s.  When we completed our testing on the R66, especially our 10,000 foot gross weight work, I was amazed by the performance.  I have over 15 000 hours of flying experience, and nothing I had flown in the light turbine helicopter area came close to the performance of what we were getting from flying the R66.  THIS IS QUITE SIMPLY AN AIRCRAFT YOU MUST FLY TO APPRECIATE.

If you have a Bell 206 in your fleet and are looking for a more cost effective way of getting the job done I invite you to try the R66.  I have flown many hours in a Bell 206, and it is a good work horse, but most of the money we made during the summer we poured back into the machine on the annuals.

The Robinson aircraft has earned my trust over these past 30 years; its safety record is second to none.  The R66 has many similarities to the R44, for example, its ease to operate and simplistic systems.  It also has many differences: the Rolls Royce turbine engine, a wider cabin, and a faster, smoother ride.  The RR300 is really just a C-20 that we are all familiar with, but it is more efficient and has a few less parts.  The RR300 has done away with the C20’s complex six-stage axial compressor and moved to a single-stage centrifugal compressor.

We had the R66 at gross weight at 5000 feet ASL.  With 100% torque we were going vertical at 700 feet/minute and the MGT was 680 degrees.  We also took it to 10,000 feet ASL out of ground effect hovering and were doing 360 pedal turns… YOU NEED TO TRY IT!!!

The Hook system now in the works for approval will place a 300 pound increase for an external load.

The R66 Cabin is 4 inches wider up front than the Bell 206 also (more shoulder space).

Anyone who has done sling work with a 206 knows what they can move!  I can guarantee you that in my career I never moved 1200 pounds on a 206 hook, but we have lifted 1200 lbs during the R66 testing with Robinson.  The Dart hook that we did the fight testing with will be certified for 1000 lbs until the external gross weight of the R66 is increased.

It also has great cabin heat.  We found it as good or better than our 206’s with a bleed air and a Casey heater.  We have asked the factory for a couple of other devices they are trying to get approved just to make it a little more comfortable for both the pilot and the passengers.

You won’t believe me until you try it.  If you’re a commercial operator currently using a Bell 206 you need to load this R66 up to max gross and see the true performance yourself.  We would be happy to arrange a test flight so you can see for yourself (based on availability of the aircraft).