Frank Robinson’s love for helicopters began at the age of nine. It was at this time that he saw a photograph of Igor Sikorsky hovering his VS-300 helicopter. At the time, Robinson decided he was going to have a career in helicopter construction and design.
Robinson continued to immerse himself into helicopter design and received a degree in medical engineering. After graduation, Robinson continued his education and did graduate work in aeronautical engineering. Learning how to fly a helicopter was out of Robinson’s budget. While in college, he learned how to fly a plane. He bought a few lightweight planes while still in school. During this time, he continued to create designs of a low-cost, lightweight helicopter.
After school, Robinson began searching for a career, and he excepted a job from Cessna. At that time, Cessna was working on a version of the CH-1 Skyhook. After leaving Cessna, Robinson worked at a few rotary wing manufacturers. After several failed attempts to convince his employers that non-military helicopters would sell, he knew it was time to start his own company.
In 1973, the Robinson Helicopter Company was born. During the company’s first two years, Robinson worked on creating the R22 prototype. Robinson made the prototype in his kitchen. After successful flight tests and FAA certification, Robinson began selling the R22 to a customer base waiting to take to the skies. The helicopter was soon the top-selling non-military aircraft worldwide.
More models followed the R22, including the R44 and the R66. The R44 and R66 are the top-selling models, and as of the spring of 2021, Robinson Helicopter has sold 13,000 copters. Robinson is now retired, and his son Kurt is now head of the family business.