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  • R66

    Robinson Questions Fundamentally Unfair EASA Certification Fees

    Robinson Helicopter has failed in an appeal against what it labelled “fundamentally unfair” charges from the European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) related to its ongoing certification process for the Robinson R66.

    The case, lodged with the EASA Board of Appeal, concerned the latest of a series of EASA invoices for its certification efforts on the R66. Robinson applied for EASA type approval for the R66 in May 2010, and had paid a total of €462,053 (US$627,682) over two invoices, covering the cost of certification up to Dec. 31, 2011. In November 2012, it then received another invoice from EASA for €290,183 (US$394,185) — and it was at this point that Robinson lodged its complaint. It requested the third invoice be rescinded, that “an appropriate and fair flat type acceptance fee” be determined, and said this fee shouldn’t exceed the amount it had already paid to EASA.

    Robinson said EASA’s fees regulations state that the fees it charges for certification must be set in a fair and uniform manner — and alleged that the fees were neither. The company pointed to the amounts charged by EASA for type certification of the Robinson R44 and the Bell 429. “It is reasonable to expect that the certification fee may be related to design complexity, since the amount of work required to become familiar with a product and the issues involved may be related to its complexity,” said Robinson in its appeal. “The price of a helicopter is considered the best measure for this parameter.”

    It compared the ratio of certification fee charged by EASA to unit price for the R44 II, Bell 429, and the R66 — with the fee and unit price of the R44 II used as the baseline ratio of 1.00. Compared to this ratio, the Bell 429 was 1.06, while the Robinson R66 was already 6.63.

    “By any measure, the R66 has more in common with the R44 II than the Bell 429, and yet the flat fees for the R66 and Bell 429 helicopters are identical, and larger than the R44 II by an order of magnitude,” said Robinson. “By creating such coarse division between certification categories based on the number of seats, the fees cannot be uniform or fair.”

    It then compared the cost of type design approval in other countries around the world, and drew particular comparison to Canada, where it said the validation team size, and depth of review of the FAA certification was “very similar” to that of EASA. There, Transport Canada levied a total fee of CAD$90,000 (US$80,000). “The billed amount is therefore estimated to be well over ten times what would be necessary to recover costs,” said Robinson.

    “There is a conflict of interest between regulation and revenue generation,” the manufacturer surmised. “It is . . . to the financial benefit of EASA to minimize resources applied to a type acceptance program and to maximize the depth of review and generation of certification review items. In all other countries where aircraft certification cost recovery is implemented, there is a recognition of this conflict, and in the interest of fairness a limit is set on the amount recoverable or the fee is independent of the time taken to complete acceptance. The concept of paying more to receive less is the opposite of normal economic principles. This makes the fee structure fundamentally unfair.”

    However, the Board of Appeal dismissed Robinson’s appeal, finding that EASA had adhered to its fees regulation. “To the Board it appears that . . . the appellant [Robinson] questions the legality of the fees regulation,” the Board of Appeal said in its findings. “The Board shall therefore first remark that it is not empowered to question the legality of provisions of an act such as fees regulation. . . . The Board cannot question the ‘prices’ set by the Union legislator even if it were established that they amount to abuse of the monopolistic position that the agency holds in providing the certification tasks that the basic regulation confers upon it. If the appellant wants to question the provisions of the fees regulation, it appears to the Board that the appellant must take the present matter further to Union Judicature, i.e. the Union’s Courts in Luxembourg.”

    Robinson has two months to appeal the decision with the General Court of the European Union.

  • #2
    Robinson Upbeat

    Things certainly aren’t perfect, but overall Robinson Helicopter are fairing well. The company delivered 523 helicopters in 2013, surpassing 11,000 over its history.

    Company CEO Kurt Robinson said simply, “We remain upbeat.” As they should. Robinson is currently producing serial number 500 of its new R66 turbine helicopter. Of those 70 percent are exported, and the global market continues to grow.

    All Robinsons helicopters now have new glass panels as options, with the Aspen Avionics primary and multifunction displays and Garmin touch-screen navigators being the biggest changes. As part of that instrument panel upgrade a new indicator light was added that indicates when the pilot is pulling full engine power, a condition that causes a decrease in rotor rpm. Now instead of waiting for the horn that indicates low rotor speed, the light should go off to warn the pilot he has hit a limit.

    The company is not without its challenges. Chief among them is certifying the R66 in Europe, a notable frustration for Kurt Robinson. He said that the European certification agency European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) has all the necessary paperwork and is generally satisfied, but is holding off because of a larger issue dealing with cracks in fasteners that is impacting all makes and models. Meanwhile Robinson and others are forced to wait until EASA and the FAA decide how to handle the issue.


    • #3
      Robinson delivers 500th R66 to Russia

      R66 Turbine S/N 500 rolled off Robinson’s production line on March 14, 2014, three and half years since the 5-place helicopter was initially certificated in October 2010.

      Robinson R66 (File photo)

      The helicopter was delivered to Aviamarket, one of three R66 dealers in Russia, and will be on display at this year’s Heli-Russia Exhibition in Moscow, May 22-24. Aviamarket successfully tested the aircraft’s capabilities last year, first in April when Aviamarket pilots landed R66 S/N 0040 at the North Pole and again in September when the company organized a six week Around-the-World Expedition using two R66 helicopters.

      To meet expanding market demands, over one-hundred R66 service centers and sixty-eight R66 dealers have been established worldwide. Glass and touch-screen avionics were recently added to the R66’s options list and Robinson-engineered floats and cargo hook are currently undergoing final testing.


      • #4
        R66 Emergency Flotation System Receives Transport Canada Approval

        Dart Aerospace is pleased to announce that, as part of a bilateral agreement between the U.S. and Canada, Transport Canada has confirmed that DART’s R66 Emergency Float System can now be installed in Canada.

        The new float system designed and manufactured by DART, is the only emergency float system currently available on the market that allows R66 operators to safely perform over-water operations. The system can be easily retrofitted on in-service R66 aircraft and the float bags can be removed in just a few minutes for missions that do not require floats.

        Dart additionally expects the system to receive Brazilian certification soon.​


        • #5
          At Last! EASA Finally Certifies Robinson's R66

          Robinson Helicopter Company has announced that, four years after initial Federal Aviation Administration certification, the European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) has issued its type certificate for the Robinson R66 Turbine helicopter.

          Robinson Helicopter Company president Kurt Robinson had said on May 1 that Robinson had not yet received EASA certification for the R66. However, the type certificate was apparently signed on April 30, 2014. In a follow-up email, Robinson stated, “Yesterday, May 1, 2014 was a European holiday and EASA was closed and unable to complete the final process until today.”

          Robinson's R66, finally certified by EASA

          The certification adds EASA member states to the now over 50 countries (including Australia, Brazil, Canada, Japan, Russia, South Africa, and the U.S.) that have certified the R66, and marks an important milestone for Robinson, as two-thirds of the company’s sales have historically come from foreign customers.

          The four-year EASA certification process was a long and contentious one, with the company challenging EASA certification fees it described as “fundamentally unfair.”

          Earlier this year, Robinson failed in a case lodged with the EASA Board of Appeal, in which it asked EASA to determine an “appropriate and fair flat type acceptance fee” for the R66. Robinson claimed that EASA’s fees were disproportionately high given the R66’s price point and relative simplicity of design. It noted at the time that EASA was charging more than 10 times what Transport Canada had charged for a similar process of certification.

          The Board of Appeal, however, found that EASA had adhered to its fees regulation, and dismissed Robinson’s appeal.

          With certification finally in place, Robinson can deliver its current backlog of European orders and focus on strengthening its presence in the European market, the company said in a press release. There are presently 16 R66 service centers approved in Europe, of which 13 are dealers.

          Currently priced at US$839,000, Robinson designed the five-place R66 to be a mid-size, low-maintenance turbine helicopter "that would perform as well or better than its competitors, but at a lower cost." To date, Robinson has delivered over 500 R66s and estimates total fleet hours at over 160,000. In response to customer feedback, glass and touch-screen avionics were recently added to the R66’s options list.