|Role||Light utility and trainer helicopter|
|Manufacturer||Robinson Helicopter Company|
|Designer||Frank D. Robinson|
|First flight||31 March 1990|
|Number built||6,331+ (through 2019)|
|Developed from||Robinson R22|
|Developed into||Robinson R66|
The Robinson R44 is a four-seat light helicopter produced by Robinson Helicopter Company since 1992. Based on the company's two-seat Robinson R22, the R44 features hydraulically assisted flight controls. It was first flown on 31 March 1990 and received FAA certification in December 1992, with the first delivery in February 1993.
The R44 has been the world's best-selling general aviation (GA) helicopter every year since 1999. It is one of the most-produced GA aircraft of the 21st century, with 5,941 deliveries from 2001–2020.
The R44 is a single-engined helicopter with a semi-rigid two-bladed main rotor, a two-bladed tail rotor and a skid landing gear. It has an enclosed cabin with two rows of side-by-side seating for a pilot and three passengers. Tail rotor direction of rotation on the R44 is reversed compared to the R22 for improved yaw control authority. On the R44 the advancing blade is on the bottom.
Designed during the 1980s by Frank Robinson and his staff of engineers, the R44 first flew on 31 March 1990. The R44 Astro was awarded an FAA Type Certificate in December 1992, with the first deliveries taking place in January 1993. The first R44 Newscopter featuring onboard electronic news gathering equipment was delivered in 1998. In January 2000, Robinson introduced the Raven with hydraulically assisted controls and adjustable pedals. In July 2002, Robinson introduced the Raven II featuring a more powerful, fuel-injected engine and wider blades, allowing a higher gross weight and improved altitude performance.
During November 2015 Robinson announced the Cadet, a Raven I with a cargo area instead of the two back seats, a slightly less powerful engine and a more efficient muffler.
Robinson has carried out ground run testing with an aircraft diesel engine that could replace its Lycoming IO-540 avgas engine. The diesel could provide better altitude performance, a fuel burn reduced from 16 to 12 US gal (61 to 45 L) per hour and better fuel availability.
In 1997, a Robinson R44 was piloted by Jennifer Murray for the first helicopter circumnavigation of the world by a woman, covering a distance of 36,000 miles in 97 days. As of 2014[update], an R44 holds the piston speed record of 227 km/h.
The aircraft is operated by many private individuals, companies and flying clubs. It is also a popular choice for law enforcement agencies.
Military and Government operators
Accidents and incidents
The R44 was found to be prone to post-accident fires due to damage to the aluminum fuel tanks, allowing fuel to leak out. In 2009, the company began installing bladder-type fuel tanks in all new R44 helicopters. It also issued Service Bulletin SB-78 on 20 December 2010, requiring R44 helicopters with all-aluminum fuel tanks to be retrofitted with bladder-type tanks to "improve the R44's fuel system's resistance to a post-accident fuel leak." The company recommended that the change should be done as soon as practical, but no later than 31 December 2014. The compliance date was later moved to 30 April 2013.
An accident investigation by the Australian Transport Safety Bureau (ATSB) in March 2013 found, after analyzing historical data, that a significantly higher proportion of R44 aircraft (12%) caught fire after crashing, compared to accidents involving other types of piston-engine helicopters (7%).:7 Preliminary analysis by the ATSB of the NTSB's accident database found a similar statistic, with 15% of accidents in the US involving R44 helicopters having post-crash fires.:7
Although the data did not consider which type of fuel tanks were fitted, the report mentioned four fatal accidents to the R44 fitted with bladder-type tanks, but as far as they knew, did not involve a post-accident fire. The ATSB recommended that the Australian Civil Aviation Safety Authority (CASA) take further action to urge R44 owners to fit bladder-type tanks.:12 The FAA, the governing body in the country of manufacture whose directives would normally be followed in other countries like Australia, had not mandated the retrofit; CASA therefore issued Australian-specific airworthiness directive AD/R44/23, grounding R44 aircraft on 30 April 2013 that had not yet been upgraded.
On 19 February 2015, the New Zealand Civil Aviation Authority issued an Airworthiness Directive grounding 80 of the country's R44 helicopters after two people were killed in an accident traced to a particular type of main rotor blade, the P/N C016-7 or Dash 7, which a preliminary investigation determined had failed in flight. It was the second failure or partial failure in two months. This was the largest-scale grounding of any aircraft in New Zealand's history. The CAA determined through laboratory tests that the rotor blade had failed due to overload during the crash and was not the cause of the accident and the fleet was ungrounded on 24 February 2015. The CAA left the Airworthiness Directive requiring repetitive inspections in place, however. Director of Civil Aviation Graeme Harris stated, "we don’t want to see any complacency amongst operators as there is still a concern with these blades and we are waiting on test results from the USA before we review the Airworthiness notice." Following the grounding in New Zealand, Australia's Civil Aviation Safety Authority (CASA) also grounded R44 helicopters with the same rotor blades.
Specifications (R44 Raven II)
Data from Robinson R44 Raven II Pilot's Operating Handbook and FAA approved rotorcraft flight manual, dated 13 June 2005.
- Crew: 1/2
- Capacity: 3/2 / 748 lb (339 kg)
- Length: 38 ft 3 in (11.66 m)
- Height: 10 ft 9 in (3.28 m)
- Empty weight: 1,450 lb (658 kg)
- Gross weight: 2,500 lb (1,134 kg)
- Fuel capacity: Fuel: 100 Octane low lead (100LL) fuel or 100/130 Octane.
- Main tank capacity: 31.6 US gal (26 imp gal; 120 l)
- Main tank usable fuel: 30.6 US gal (25 imp gal; 116 l)
- Auxiliary tank capacity: 18.5 US gal (15 imp gal; 70 l)
- Auxiliary tank usable fuel: 18.3 US gal (15 imp gal; 69 l)
- Powerplant: 1 × Lycoming IO-540-AE1A5 6-cylinder air-cooled horizontally-opposed piston engine, 245 hp (183 kW)
- Main rotor diameter: 33 ft (10 m)
- Main rotor area: 855.4 sq ft (79.47 m2)
- Maximum speed: 130 kn (150 mph, 240 km/h)
- Cruise speed: 110 kn (130 mph, 200 km/h)
- Range: 300 nmi (350 mi, 560 km)
- Fuel consumption: 15 gallons per hour (12 imp gal/h; 57 l/h)
- Altitude restrictions: 14,000 ft (4,300 m) density altitude or 9,000 ft (2,700 m) above ground level in order to be able to reach ground within 5 minutes in case of fire.
Aircraft of comparable role, configuration, and era
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- World Air Forces 2017 (Report). Flightglobal. 2017. Retrieved 5 June 2017.
- Krause, Adriana (22 December 2005). "Lebanese Army Takes Delivery of Two More Robinsons" (PDF) (Press release). Torrance, CA: Robinson Helicopter Company. Archived from the original (PDF) on 20 January 2013. Retrieved 8 January 2013.
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- "South Africa Combats Crime with R44 Raven II Police Helicopters" (PDF). Robinson News. Vol. 14 no. 2. Robinson Helicopter Company. 15 August 2008. pp. 1, 4. Retrieved 5 June 2017.
- Shedlock, Jerzy (31 May 2013). "Down one search-and-rescue helicopter, Alaska State Troopers reorganize". Alaska Dispatch News. Retrieved 6 December 2015.
- "Uruguay suma helicópteros estadounidenses a la policía para reforzar la vigilancia" [Uruguay adds US helicopters to police to reinforce surveillance] (in Spanish). Montevideo: EFE. 28 December 2016. Retrieved 16 January 2017.
- R44 Service Bulletin (PDF) (Report). Rev B. Torrance, CA: Robinson Helicopter Company. 28 September 2012. SB-78B. Retrieved 25 April 2013.
- Collision with terrain involving Robinson R44 helicopter, VH-HWQ, Preliminary (PDF) (Report). Australian Transport Safety Bureau. 5 April 2013. AO-2013-055. Retrieved 18 September 2013.
- Ward, Nicholas (29 April 2013). R44 Bladder Fuel Tank Retrofit (PDF) (Report). Civil Aviation Safety Authority. AD/R44/23. Archived from the original (PDF) on 27 September 2013. Retrieved 25 September 2013.
- Kenny, Katie; Mann, Brittany (21 February 2015). "Chopper ban after deaths unprecedented". Stuff.co.nz. Fairfax New Zealand. Retrieved 21 February 2015.
- Ward, Nicholas (21 February 2015). Prohibition of Flight—C016-7 Main Rotor Blades (PDF) (Report). Civil Aviation Safety Authority. AD/R44/24. Archived from the original (PDF) on 22 February 2015. Retrieved 23 February 2015.
- Niles, Russ (21 February 2015). "Australia, New Zealand Ground Some R-44s". AVweb. Retrieved 23 February 2015.
- Richards, Mike (24 February 2015). "CAA lifts flight ban on Helicopters" (PDF) (Press release). Civil Aviation Authority of New Zealand. Retrieved 2 June 2015.
- Larson, George C. (1 March 2011). "Robinson: Ready for the Rebound". Aviation Week. Retrieved 2 September 2014.
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