The Robinson R-22 is a two seat, twin-blade light utility helicopter. It was designed by Frank Robinson and flown for the first time in 1975. Four years later it was certified for use by the FAA and is still in production today. Several variants were produced over the years including the R-22HP (10 more horsepower), R-22 Alpha (modified landing gear struts), R-22 Beta (extra fuel tank, relocated battery), and R-22 Beta II (more powerful engine) along with marine and police versions. Passenger capacity is very limited. With a full 30 gallons of gas, the available load is only 310lbs for both seats and baggage.
The R-22 gained a reputation early on for being accident prone. There were several reasons for this. First, the early models’ main rotor blades were delaminating. The FAA certificate was revoked in 1981 until the issue could be resolved with manufacturing and all the blades replaced. Second, the R-22 has a very low inertia “teetering” rotor system and the controls are very sensitive. In some cases the main rotor would actually break off, striking the tail and breaking that off causing a complete loss of control and a fatal crash. This makes the R-22 a bad choice for flight training but they were used extensively due to the low operating cost. Robinson had to develop its own safety course for flight instructors transitioning from other helicopters and this dramatically reduced the accident rate. Another area of concern was the use of drive belts to transfer power from the engine to the rotor as the belts tended to overstress and break. They corrected this by replacing the belt system with a gear system.
The engines used in the R-22 proved to be problematic for inexperienced pilots. This helicopter uses the Lycoming 0-320 air-cooled piston engine, the same engine used in many single engine airplanes. On the R-22, fuel is controlled by a carburetor. Icing is possible in certain weather conditions and could cause total engine shutdown. In the event of engine failure the pilot only has less than 2 seconds to lower the pitch to keep the blades spinning. With other helicopters there could be as many as 6 seconds. The later models of the R-22 are equipped with carb heat to help prevent icing.
|Robinson R-22 Specifications|
|First Flight||August 28, 1975|
|Number Built||4,620+ (2015)|
|Rotor Diameter||25ft 2in|
|Maximum Takeoff Weight||1,370lbs|
|Powerplant||1x Lycoming 0-320 4 cylinder carbureted engine (124hp)|
|Maximum Cruising Speed||96kts|