Helicopter pioneer Frank Robinson passed away
He was 92 years old
On November 12, 2022 Robinson Helicopter Company bid a final farewell to its founder, Frank Robinson. 92 years old, he passed away at his Rolling Hills, California home.
One of the most recognizable names in the helicopter industry, he was a pioneer, a man not driven by reward or accolades but by a vision that redefined the industry and forever changed general aviation.
He will be remembered for the design and manufacture of the R-22, R-44, and R-66 model helicopters.
His fascination with helicopters began in 1939, at age nine, when he saw a picture in the "Seattle Post-Intelligencer" of Igor Sikorsky hovering his VS-300 helicopter, an image that captivated him and set the course for his life’s work.
He earned a BSME degree from the University of Washington, later attending Wichita State University’s graduate aeronautical engineering school. His career began in the late ‘50s with Cessna and continued through the ‘60s working for many leading aerospace companies, including Bell and Hughes. In 1973, at age forty-three, unable to interest any of his employers in the idea for a simple, personal helicopter, he resigned from his job at Hughes and founded Robinson Helicopter Company in his Palos Verdes, California home. Six years later, defying critics and overcoming enormous obstacles, Robinson was granted FAA (Federal Aviation Administration) certification for his two-place, piston powered R-22 helicopter. The unknown helicopter company delivered its first production R-22 in October 1979. By 1989, this model had gained a foothold in general aviation, opening a previously untapped market for private helicopter ownership.
In the early ‘90s, realizing the potential for a light mid-size helicopter, Robinson introduced the four-place piston powered R-44. Orders for it quickly piled-up and the company became a recognized player in the aviation industry. In 2010, Robinson once again expanded his line with the five-place, turbine powered R-66.
His relentless determination earned him the respect of both colleagues and competitors. Affectionately called a rock star in certain aviation circles, he retired in 2010 at age 80.
The list of awards and honors bestowed on Robinson is long. Most notable:
2013 Daniel Guggenheim Medal – AHS International
2011 Lifetime Aviation Engineering Award – Living Legends of Aviation
2010 Cierve Lecturer – Royal Aeronautical Society
2011 Inducted into the US National Academy of Engineering
2004 Howard Hughes Memorial Award – So. California Aeronautic Association
2000 Named Laurels Hall of Fame Legend - Aviation Week & Space Technology
1997 The Doolittle Award - Society of Experimental Test Pilots
1992 Laurels Award – Aviation Week & Space Technology
1991&1990 Igor I. Sikorsky International Trophy – American Helicopter Society.
Today, the company continues under the leadership of his son, Kurt Robinson and, to date, has delivered over 13,000 aircraft worldwide.
AVIONEWS - World Aeronautical Press Agency