INTRODUCTION – Interview with Frank Robinson from Robinson Helicopters Company
Marcel Boutin : Hi Mr. Robinson. Thank you for this interview.

I had the pleasure of meeting you several times. I was there first for the introduction of the R44 helicopter, and now the R66. We have often talked about the performance of your helicopters, but this time I would like Canadian pilots to learn more about Frank Robinson the businessman and owner of Robinson Helicopters.

In the early 1970s, you left your job to focus on developing the R22 helicopter. In 1973, you founded Robinson Helicopters, and now, 37 years later, you have sold more than 8,000 helicopters around the world. When you started in the early seventies, did you think that your company would have become a major player in the industry?

Frank Robinson: Honestly, yes. I know it may sound a little pretentious, but I thought that if I could build reliable helicopters at an affordable price, many people would want to buy my products.

Marcel Boutin: What did you like the most in all these years?

Frank Robinson: My goal has never been to maximize profits to the detriment of everything else. We get the greatest joy of development and helicopter design, when we see hundreds of new pilots using the helicopter.

The fact that I have invested a lot in this new R66 project at my age (Mr. Robinson has just had 80) testifies to this. You get great satisfaction and a sense of accomplishment when you see your helicopters flying around the globe.

Marcel Boutin: You must have gone through difficult times too?

Frank Robinson: It was hard at first. I did not have money, so I had to borrow, and sometimes even beg. Due to problems in the financial sector, 2009 was a particularly difficult year for the company.

Fortunately, 2007 and 2008 had been exceptionally good years financially, otherwise we would have been even harder hit by the economic downturn.

I also remember the first few times that I had to go to an accident site after the crash of one of our helicopters. These are not pleasant moments.

Marcel Boutin: As a successful businessman, what would you say to young people looking to start a business?

Frank Robinson: Today, the corporate world is controlled by finance and professional managers. Less than ever people are working because they are passionate about what they do. Success does not happen overnight. It takes time and you need to have a good understanding of your industry. In my case, I had the chance to work all my life in a big industry.

Therefore, I would tell them to choose a sector they are passionate about and be patient: the results will inevitably be.

It is also very important to closely monitor your business. For a long time, I insist on seeing the accounting records, the bank balance, and the payroll on a daily basis.

Marcel Boutin: How would you describe your management style?

Frank Robinson: Not authoritative. Self-sufficient. I am not the “official” rules for running a business. I trust my intuition for a lot of the decisions I make. The experience I gained working for six other organizations was also very helpful.

For example, if we had a board of directors, they would have recommended that I retire when I was 60 years old. This means that if I had listened to these “good managers”, we would never have developed the R44, since I was ready when I was over 60 to launch the new helicopter model. And of course, we would not even talk about the R66.

Marcel Boutin: What do you see for your company in the future?

Frank Robinson: You know Marcel, I think the next step will be without me. I have just turned 80, and I’m starting to think about taking more free time to please myself. I have not decided yet whether I will slow down or if I will stop completely. Do you have any advice for me?

Seriously, I worked with

Cruise Speed120 knots117 knots
Max Range325 NM/375 miles348 NM/400 miles
Hover ceiling IGEOver 10,000 ft8,950 ft
Hover ceiling OGEOver 10,000 ft4,500 ft
Rate of climbOver 1,000 fpmOver 1,000 fpm
Max operatingaltitude14,000 ft14,000 ft
Gross weight2,700 lbs2,500 lbs
Empty weight1280 lbs1506 lbs
Max fuel (73,6 gal)493 lbs294 lbs
Passengers & baggage927 lbs700 lbs