Frank Robinson: President and CEO



Company Information
State-of-the-Art Manufacturing
Company Fact Sheet
Frank Robinson Biography
Company History

Frank Robinson was born in Washington State , the youngest of four children. He grew up in a small town during the Depression and worked his way through college. He aimed his education specifically at helicopter design, receiving his BSME degree from the University of Washington in 1957, with graduate work in aeronautical engineering at the University of Wichita .

Robinson began his career in 1957 at Cessna Aircraft Company working on the CH-1 Skyhook four-place helicopter. After 31/2 years at Cessna, he spent one year at Umbaugh on the certification of its gyroplane and 41/2 years at McCulloch Motor Company doing design studies on inexpensive rotorcraft. Robinson then worked at Kaman Aircraft for one year on gyrodyne-type rotorcraft, followed by two years in R&D at Bell Helicopter where he earned a reputation as a “tail rotor expert.” In 1969, he moved to Hughes Helicopter Company to work on a variety of R&D projects, including a new tail rotor for the Hughes 500 helicopter and work on the “quiet helicopter” program.  

Unable to interest any of his employers in his own concept for a small, low-cost helicopter, Robinson resigned from Hughes in 1973 and founded Robinson Helicopter Company (RHC). RHC’s first business address was Robinson’s home where the two-seat R22 helicopter was designed. The first R22 prototype was built in a tin hanger at the Torrance Airport , and Robinson himself flew it on its first flight in August 1975. After 31/2 years of testing and technical analysis, the R22 received its FAA Type Certificate in 1979. The first production R22 was delivered in late 1979, and the R22 soon became the world’s top selling civil helicopter. In addition, the R22 holds most world records in its weight class including speed and altitude.  

In the mid-1980s, Robinson and his staff of engineers began development of the four-seat R44 helicopter, which he flew on its first flight in March of 1990. FAA certification was received in late 1992, and production deliveries began in 1993. By early 2007, more than 3,000 R44 helicopters had been delivered to over 70 countries, with the R44 becoming even more popular than the two-seat R22. Since 1987, RHC has produced more civil helicopters than any other manufacturer. As President and Chairman of RHC, Robinson oversees a staff of approximately 1,200 production and management employees. Engineering , design, and development remain Robinson’s primary interests, although other management responsibilities consume much of his time.  

Robinson is an experienced helicopter pilot and flies the R22 and R44 helicopters regularly for personal and business purposes, including experimental test flying. He is a full member of the Society of Experimental Test Pilots and a Fellow of the American Helicopter Society.  His accomplishments have been recognized with numerous, prestigious awards and honors presented to him by a variety of different organizations (award details on following page).    

Having achieved some success, Robinson donated $1 million to the University of Washington for an endowed tuition scholarship fund based on financial need for students graduating from South Whidbey High School , where he grew up, and another $1 million for students majoring in engineering. He also donated $1 million to the Smithsonian Air & Space Museum and another million to the American Helicopter Museum in Westchester , Pennsylvania .  

Robinson remains active in his company and continues to refine the R22 and R44 to enhance performance and reduce maintenance requirements. Recent improvements include the powerful, fuel-injected R44 Raven II. Today, Robinson directs the company’s development of its first turbine helicopter, the five-place R66. The R66 made its first flight in August 2007, and is undergoing flight testing and FAA certification. Robinson regularly flies the company’s aircraft and, on January 18, 2008, Robinson piloted the R66 on a test flight.

Awards, Honors, and Memberships


1990    Igor I. Sikorsky International Trophy    American Helicopter Society
& 91    “presented to the designer or builder of a pure helicopter establishing an official world record during the preceding year in the official Class E-1 categories prescribed by the Federation Aeronautique Internationale for maximum speed, altitude, distance, or payload, speed over a closed-circuit distance, and/or around-the-world speed.”

1991    Distinguished Alumni Award    University of Washington
        School of Engineering
    “for notable achievement in the field of engineering.”

1992    Laurels Award    Aviation Week & Space Technology
   “for having made significant contributions to the global field of aerospace.”

1993    Dr. Alexander Klemin Award    American Helicopter Society
    “for notable achievement in the advancement of rotary wing aeronautics.”

1997    The Doolittle Award    Society of Experimental Test Pilots
    “for outstanding professional accomplishment in Aerospace Technical Management and Engineering.”

1998    Entrepreneur of the Year    Ernst & Young, et. al.
    Western Region, Manufacturing
    to recognize “excellence and entrepreneurial accomplishment.”

2000    Laurels Hall of Fame “Legend”    Aviation Week & Space Technology
   Inductees are chosen from past Laurels winners meriting exceptional recognition for “significant contributions to the global field of aerospace.”

2001    Paul Tissandier Diploma    Federation Aeronautique Internationale
    for “his years of contributions to the field of rotorcraft aviation.”
    (Awarded to those who have served the cause of general aviation by their work, initiative, devotion, or in other ways.)

2004    Godfrey L. Cabot Award    Aero Club of New England
    Awarded for “unique, significant and unparalleled contributions to advance and foster aviation flight.”

2004    Howard Hughes Memorial Award    Southern California Aeronautic Association
    Awarded to an “aerospace leader whose accomplishments over a long career have contributed significantly to the advancement of aviation or space technology.”

Honorary Memberships

Full Member
Society of Experimental Test Pilots

American Helicopter Society