features Dollars and Sense

Dollars and SenseAt this years Heli-Expo, the R66 Turbines introductory price of $770,000 US was announced with the caveat that it might not last long (see p.26, Vertical, Apr-May 2010). It didnt. On Aug. 1, the official price sheet was published a
By Vertical Mag | September 29, 2010

Estimated reading time 4 minutes, 18 seconds.

A sharp eye will spot the R66 differences from the R44 more uniform and pleasing sweep to the windows, and air intakes below the mast and forward tail boom. Guy R. Maher Photo

At this year’s Heli-Expo, the R66 Turbine’s introductory price of $770,000 US was announced with the caveat that it might not last long (see p.26, Vertical, Apr-May 2010). It didn’t. On Aug. 1, the official price sheet was published and the MSRP was increased to, a still attractive, $790,000.

So, what are some of the other important numbers new owners and dealers will have to contend with?
First, once upgrades like a Garmin GNC 420, air conditioning and gyros are included, it can be figured a nicely equipped R66 will run around $835,000.

The requirements for R66 dealers will be a bit stiffer than for piston dealers. They are required to have a United States Federal Aviation Regulation (FAR) Part 145 repair station designation (or its equivalent outside the U.S.) – surely in recognition of the added technical aspects of maintaining the turbine engine. They also must send at least one airframe and powerplant mechanic to both the Robinson R66 maintenance course and the Roll-Royce RR300 engine maintenance course.

There’s no doubt the maintenance cost of the R66 will be a key attraction for those customers wanting a turbine helicopter. Robinsons have a solid reputation of going from 100-hour inspection to 100-hour inspection with minimal maintenance required. The proven airframe and drivetrain design is known for reliability and low-cost maintenance. So, the only difference is the RR300… and its C20 heritage should give buyers confidence.

The R66 will carry a factory warranty of two years or 2,000 hours. The airframe and engine overhaul requirements are classic Robinson – every 12 years or 2,000 hours (rather than the traditional 2,200 hours), whichever comes first. There is also one additional engine overhaul target and that’s if it reaches 3,000 start cycles. Direct operating cost is projected to be under $300 an hour, and that should be pretty accurate.

The Robinson Helicopter Co. (RHC) also recognizes that pilot training will be a more significant component for R66 customers. To that end, prior to the delivery of a dealership’s first R66, it must send at least one flight instructor to the RHC safety course, and complete an R66 pilot checkout course conducted or approved by RHC. (I went through this process, receiving my pilot-in-command [PIC] and instructor signoffs, and can attest that it’s very thorough.) RHC recognizes it will initially be doing a considerable amount of R66 training and familiarization flights until the dealerships get up to speed on the training aspect.

Interestingly, in RHC’s R66 purchase agreement addendum, the only R66-specific training requirement is for the pilot checkout stated above – along with attending the safety course. The PIC must have at least 200 hours total and 20 in an R44 or R66 to carry passengers. Certified flight instructors teaching in the R66 must have at least 500 hours total time and 50 hours in either an R44 or R66, or in combination. (In other words, it appears that R44 time can satisfy all of these hour requirements, except for the R66 flight time necessary for the basic pilot or instructor checkout.)

At press time, the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration still had not decided whether the Special FAR that is in place for the R22 and R44 would be required for the R66. Hopefully it won’t, because it is (like with the R44, in my opinion), unnecessary.

Insurance is the final component of the key numbers for the R66. For those using the RHC influenced Pathfinder program, a sample quote reveals that a 200-hour pilot with 40 hours in the R66 will spend about $20,000 annually for coverage. Of course, there are so many different situations (and who’s going to have 40 R66 hours right off?) that the rates will vary some, for sure. I’m guessing R44 time will go a long way to helping out the new R66 driver.

Caitlyn Jones-Henry of Sutton James Inc., a U.S. based insurance broker specializing in Robinsons, indicated that, “The carriers are definitely interested in the R66. Right now the concerns are to quote it either like a 206, or as a new market that has to prove itself.” She then added, “All underwriters will look at everyone – even the low-timers. Training and experience will certainly be a factor for determining rates, and the lesser-experienced pilots may have to get some additional instruction or mentoring when they get their ships. But, for sure we’ve had calls, and the standard turbine markets are looking at this.”

Does it make sense to spend nearly twice that of an R44 Raven II to get an R66? Well, nearly 90 customers have already determined the R66 is a more cost-effective turbine helicopter than existing used or new options. And that’s just what RHC had in mind when it pulled the trigger on its R66 development program. Guy R. Maher

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