Could it be the first sign of a broader industry turnaround? The blossoming of a single flower signaling the end of long, hard economic winter? It’s hard to say, but the news is encouraging: Robinson Helicopter Co. just reported it more than doubled its production in 2011, building 356 helicopters last year versus 162 in 2010.
The brightest spot on Robinson’s sales ledger by far was the four-seat R44, a healthy 212 of which were produced last year. The tally also included 88 of the new turbine-powered R66 model and 56 R22s, Robinson basic two-seater.
“While the R44 remains Robinson’s top selling helicopter, the response to our latest model, the R66 Turbine, has been very strong,” the company said in a statement. The R66 was FAA certified in October 2010. As of Dec. 31, 2011, total orders received for the model have surpassed 360.
Robinson enters 2012 with a backlog of more than 400 aircraft orders, making production “a top priority,” the company said. Not surprisingly, Robinson is laying plans to expand its manufacturing space and increase its workforce. Other priorities for this year, the company noted, include foreign validation of the R66 and FAA certification of new options for the R66 including floats and a police version.