Yes, I’m still here. This forum is too entertaining to walk away from for any length of time. (BTW, the removal of DCS and IL2 has been a godsend. Geopolitics aside, I was mostly spinning my wheels with both games and am thoroughly enjoying this break.) Yesterday, I nearly collided with a Warrior. We missed by maybe 75 feet. It was by far my closest shave in my 35 years of flying. I won’t get into the specifics, but it was entirely the other guy’s fault (of course! ). To avoid the collision, at the instant I saw the Warrior (who was overtaking, climbing and crossing from the right), I had to dump collective; nearly all of it. A few months ago my instinct might have been forward cyclic–and that would quite possibly have been fatal. Fortunately, I am well-read and decently trained and my reptilian brain had the wherewithal to resort to a helicopter impulse instead of an airplane one.
That fatal cyclic push is probably the Achilles Heel of the Robinson. But it isn’t unique to the brand. Any helicopter that incorporates a two-bladed, semi-rigid rotorhead is subject to mast-bumping at low g. The designers of the original Huey and the ubiquitous Jet Ranger all stuck with this concept despite the drawbacks. Bell recently introduced a follow-on to the discontinued Jet Ranger called the Bell 505. It is a very nifty little machine incorporating a slew of advancements and improvements. The one thing that is totally unchanged from 40 years of Jetrangers is the most important part: The rotor system. This shows how proven and economical the design is. Frank Robinson adopted this concept in the '70s when he decided that there just might be a market for a lightweight, economical helicopter for the small businessman with some disposable income. The R22 wasn’t designed as a trainer. It was designed to give the gentleman an alternative to his car to get him to his business, dealership or jobsite and capture some money-value of time. Frank was a genius. His rotorhead differed from Bell’s by incorporating a 3-way hinge. This hinge allows the rotor to cone as well as teeter. By having the hinge take on the coning function so that the cone forces aren’t totally applied at the blades, Robinson could use a lighter, simpler blade.
Anyway, with 40 hours in helicopters, I am in no place to dispute the article. There is no question in my mind that the 300CBi is a better machine. But it is also more expensive to maintain. The -300’s rotorhead makes for a safer, more stable, helicopter. But it is complicated and is constructed with a host of life-limited parts. Bearings are $9000…Apiece! Robinson designed their machine to be replaced all at once at 2200 hours. This is why you can go on Barnstormers and find R22’s with 2150 TTAF for $40k. Because they were designed to be worthless once overhaul time has arrived. Which approach is better? I don’t know. But the market says “Robinson”.
The R44 suffers from being the machine of choice for, frankly, people like me. (Well, not really me but maybe “me” plus a million or two in the bank.) People like me who “think” they are helicopter pilots because they’ve finally managed to hover within half a football field but who have no concept of how little they know. The internet is filled with some fairly funny (non-fatal) R44 crashes where pilot-after-pilot fails to realize that a sudden stop with a tailwind is not going to end well. There is nothing unique to the 44 that makes it susceptible to this sort of accident; but there is something uniquely amateurish about 44 owners. There is another Robinson called the R66. It is almost entirely identical to the R44 except for the engine, which is now a turbine. Even with the amazing new Bell 505 now in the market, the R66 still sells. Why? I don’t know. The Robinson is a touch south of $Million where the Bell is a touch north. Maybe it is just price. But I think there is more to it. Maybe it’s that Robinsons are simple, proven and easy to maintain.
I had not heard of, and cannot dispute, the part about the fuel tanks and mast “chug”. I do know that all new R22’s have bladders inside the aluminum tank shell. And all older helicopters have been retrofitted at overhaul. It must have been a big deal, or we would still have some aluminum tanks out there. The mast chug thing sounds scary as @#&t. So, yeah, it seems to be an imperfect machine that somehow still enjoys market success despite the availability newer competition.
Here is a hint that might partly explain the continued success of Robie versus Enstrom, Sweizer and Guimbal: