Robinson Sets R66 Price At $770,000

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Robinson Helicopters has set the price for its new R66 turbine-powered helicopter at $770,000 and founder Frank Robinson told Rotorhub.com he expects the aircraft's introduction to help the company recover from a tough year. Speaking at Heli-Expo 2010 in Houston, Robinson said the turbine version of his popular design is "a little bit smoother, a little bit quieter and a little bit faster than the [piston] R44." He said certification is imminent and an early production rate of two helicopters a week is planned. Robinson, never one to mince words, placed blame for the industry's troubles directly on the banking industry. "The problem was those damn bankers rather than provide loans to people like they were supposed to, they used the $700 billion bail-out money to make acquisitions, to buy other companies, and give themselves bonuses," he said. Although they chose less colorful language, other top helicopter executives mentioned the availability of capital as critical to the recovery of the industry and there were some signs that the market is starting to loosen.

American Eurocopter announced about 20 new orders and Agusta Westland added a dozen to its order book during the show. Bell Helicopters showed off its new 429 model and Sikorsky announced a 50-percent uptick in business this year over last. As far as the show was concerned, there were marginally fewer attendees (about 17,000) but the number of exhibitors was up slightly at 595. Heli-Expo wrapped up in Houston on Tuesday.